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Chugging along with Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

10:30 PM on 11.20.2009 // Ben Perlee

I have to indulge in a little narcissism right: not only did I get farther along in the second dungeon of Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks than any other journalist who previewed the game, I had all of Nintendo congratulate me on the achievement. I then proceeded to destroy them in the freshly announced multiplayer mode (except one round where I lost horribly, but we don't talk about that.)

All in all, I came away as the best Zelda player in the universe, proving once and for all a college education is really going to change your life.

While I'm sure some of you are utterly fascinated with this information, I bet even more of you are interested in Spirit Tracks itself. After all, it is a freaking Zelda game, and it is coming out in less than three weeks. Any other year, and we'd all be crapping ourselves to get a hold of this game. After spending sometime with this little choo-choo that could, I think there's going to be a whole lot to look forward with this game. Hit the jump to see our latest preview on Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks.

Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (DS)
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
To be released: December 7, 2009

If you don't know by now, Spirit Tracks takes place hundreds of years after Phantom Hourglass and Wind Waker. At the end of Phantom Hourglass, that Link and Tetra had left the waterworld of those games and set out to find a new continent to rule. And one they did find, a place they proceeded to rename Hyrule, never mind there is a whole new race of people called the Locomos, with their own culture and history..

Reminiscent of the ethnocentric colonialism of Western Culture, the actions of white skinned overlords of new Hyrule (descendents of Link and Tetra) are anything but, as they seem to have meshed with the Locomos culture pretty well. So far, Ganon seems to be AWOL, and the true villian is some dude named Mallaedus and his minion Chancellor Cole. The Locomos in olden times had locked away this jerk in the Tower of Spirits with chains across the land. These chains turned out to be the train tracks Link and Zelda will be traveling along. The short of it is Zelda gets split from her body, she teams up with Link, and they are sealing tracks back on the land to lock this guy away.

The important elements of this game is that Zelda has been made a disembodied specter, and you'll be able to team up with her to control Phantoms to fight along with Link. You'll control her with the stylus, much like the boomerang of Phantom Hourglass, only much slower. Link is still controlled with stylus control, and while some people hate it, it does get the job done.

Since I was playing an ice dungeon, the second in the game, I only had access to two separate items. The first was a new fan, a whirlwind device that players blow through the mic in the DS to activate. The boomerang was just like in Phantom Hourglass. While we've seen both tool types in Zelda games before, it's guaranteed Nintendo has some neat stuff lined up for the dungeons. For example, the boomerang, when thrown through an ice flame, will freeze water to create temporary platforms for the non-swimming link. Or use the whirlwind device to blow Link across water. Like I said, it doesn't seem to be radical Zelda stuff, but it should hopefully be a tight experience for those looking for traditional Zelda.

There's even an instrument you have to use to impact the world. Nintendo has gone back to the woodwinds, as the instrument is you'll be using is a Hyrulian Spirit Flute. It's a Pan Flute you'll have to blow into the mic to activate, and it seems like a fun take on typical Zelda instrumentation.

I didn't get a chance to play the train portion of the game, although I did watch Bill Trinen guide me through. It looks to be a lot like the boat elements of Phantom Hourglass, just on rails. You'll be shooting stuff with a cannon as you chug by, and you'll have different speeds to blast through. Trinen promised that there will be a lot to do in this over world area, and considering the overworld elements of other Zelda games, there will be a lot of secrets here to uncover.

Finally, the most interesting and new elements of the game is the multiplayer. While local only, Spirit Tracks supports full single cart play, so you don't need four people to own the game to get going. Fans of the Four Swords multiplayer Zelda games will like this multiplayer mode a lot, however, it is a bit different than that Gamecube game. There is nothing in the way of cooperation, so you will only be against each other. While, yes, you will be collecting Force Gems to come out on top, the actual versus mode feels really different. Link doesn't even wield a sword in this mode. Rather, up to four Links will run around and throw bombs at each other to knock Force Gems out of each other. Complicating things are the Phantoms that will hunt you down to smack you, trap doors to throw out from under your opponents, and random power up that can really change the tide of battle.

For example, I was doing pretty poorly in one of the lava versus levels. With six to choose from, and each with different rules (expect invisibility, traps, lava, ice, etc.), things can get pretty hectic. Anyway, this level saw me falling into traps, tripping into lava, beaten by Phantoms, catching a face full of bomb, and rolling off ledges. I had almost no gems. Then, with 19 seconds, I grabbed a power up, became invincible, and proceeded to destroy the other players who happened to be grouped around. All in all, the multiplayer feels like the intense hectic fun of Mario Kart (think come-from-behind wins and power ups), Bomberman (throwing bombs in an arena and general ass-hattery) and Legend of Zelda: Four Swords (screwing over your buddies) all mashed up in one game. It's all sorts of fun.

Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks went from being a game I just didn't care about to a game I want to play more. Sure, it's almost a guaranteed thing, a Zelda game being good, but I haven't wanted to keep playing a game during a demo session in a while. If you have nothing going on with your DS right now, keep an eye out for Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks December 7. It's almost certainly to be worth your time.

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