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GAME JUDGEMENT!! - Zelda: Phantom Hourglass


Hey guys. I'm Ark. This is my blog. No introductions, no life story. Let's make like Viewtiful Joe and just go for it.


I have a much different idea of reviews than others, so I'm going to try and write reviews that I, as a gamer, would enjoy reading. How exactly will my reviews be different, you ask? Well, they're not "reviews", they're "judgments", because "judgment" is a fucking awesome word. Here's my review criteria:

Is it fun?
Is it challenging?
Is it innovative?
Is it cool?

With that in mind, let's checkity-check out the breakity-breakdown.


In short, Phantom Hourglass disappoints hardcore fans, but will delight casual fans.

Let me get something out of the way first. The Legend of Zelda is hands-down my favorite game series of all time. It's unimaginably fun. It taps deep into the archetype of the hero mythos and creates a modern myth in an age with no more heroes. (No More Heroes get it LOL) You truly feel like a young boy who really is in the pastoral storybook world of Hyrule, and you really do have to save the most beautiful girl in the world from the most horrible man to ever exist. It's evocative, powerful, and a towering achievement in interactive entertainment.

So how can Phantom Hourglass disappoint, you say?

Is it fun? Yes, absolutely. The idea of a "learning curve" doesn't exist. You control Link entirely with the touchscreen, and it's absolutely perfectly suited to the 2D Zelda style. Items are incredibly intuitive and fun to use.. Combat is simple, yet deeply satisfying. Puzzles are well-designed and just as engaging. Two parts of the game really stand out as dramatic examples of perfect gameplay. One is the Temple of the Ocean King, a twenty-floor megadungeon guarded by Phantoms and covered in a mist that drains your life unless you have the eponymous Phantom Hourglass and its Sand of Hours. The more sand you have, the longer you can stay in the Temple, and that means being quick, stealthy, and silent if you want to avoid the Phantoms. The other part is the fantastic boss battles, which all do something unique with the DS's two screens and are insanely fun. And multiplayer is a blast. If you've never cursed at a Zelda game, this might be your chance!

Is it challenging? With all that said, what can possibly go wrong? Well, a lot, apparently. The best way to describe it is, everything in Phantom Hourglass feels like the beginnings of a much deeper Zelda game. You know that first floor in a dungeon that gets you acquainted with the enemies you'll face and the dungeon mechanics? Or that first easy puzzle that demonstrates the concept behind future puzzles? Yeah, that's how EVERYTHING feels in this game. You'll probably die a maximum of two times. Dungeons are incredibly easy and never put up much of a fight. I finished the Wind Temple dungeon half-asleep at 6 in the morning during a car trip, and didn't die once. There's only one big side-quest, and you'll probably finish it before you even realize there was a side-quest to finish. I'm glad Nintendo is ripping apart the conventional gamer demographic and expanding games to everyone, but it feels like they forgot to include any sort of challenge for Zelda series veterans. Which is a damn shame. It's also over way too soon, and there's little to no replay value aside from the strangely addicting multiplayer.

Is it innovative? The controls are innovative, of course, and the Temple and the bosses are all inventive and fresh additions to the series. But for being the direct sequel to The Wind Waker, one of the most distinctive Zelda games ever, Phantom Hourglass seems to have forgotten its roots. Sometimes, it pushes the boundaries of a Zelda game and challenges series conventions with the distinctive style of its predecessor. But other times, it just feels like a really average Zelda game. And the map, while fun to draw on, ends up being depended on for almost every puzzle. In fact, although the game uses practically every feature of the DS hardware, it seems to use some of them in really gimmicky ways, like blowing into the microphone to blow out candles (which you'll do maybe twice in the entire game), or the absurd "map-imprinting" trick you'll have to do for the third crest. Trust me, it's pretty retarded. And the vast majority of the new characters aren't very interesting, except for Linebeck, your pirate companion, and Oshus, the mysterious old man who ends up being a lot cooler than he sounds.

Is it cool? As in, does it have style and stimulate the senses? (That sounds dirty :D) The Wind Waker's beautiful cel-shaded graphics and distinct visual/musical style were fantastic. Phantom Hourglass seems to have lost some of that. The graphics are good, but sometimes it seems like the cel-shaded style is being forced on a system that really can't handle it. A little harder to explain is the difference in the game's world itself, but the best example is this. In Wind Waker, the Zora have evolved into the Rito, and Gorons are nonexistent except for three strangely articulate individuals. (Yes, there are Gorons in Wind Waker, but nobody ever looked hard enough!) In Phantom Hourglass, however, this unique world is thrown out the window. The Gorons are all alive and well (and stupid) on Goron Island, and Zora treasures are frequently found across the many islands. That might just be a nitpick, but a little more consistency with Wind Waker would have been nice. The throwbacks to its predecessor are cool, though, especially the returning characters like Salvatore and the Ho-Ho Brothers, along with a strangely familiar boat...


So yeah, I ripped on the game's simplicity and lack of challenge. But it's definitely not a bad game, it's just not for hardcore Zelda fans. It's still a lot of fun, and there are some really great moments, but a lot of the game is designed for non-gamers or inexperienced players. The multiplayer is awesome, but that's the only replay value the game has. Oh, and the ending sucks. Ah well, can't have everything in life.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass - 7/10

NOTE: I know this is like the third time posting this, but I wasn't happy with the original review. I kept the score, though. Actually, I was bought out by CNet. DAMN YOU, EIDOS INTERACTIVE!
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About arkone of us since 6:33 AM on 11.16.2007

I love video games! I have a Wii, DS, and PS2. I like anything weird, creative, inventive, different, and fun.

Contact me at [email protected] or robotark on AIM!