The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass

Because the boomerang’s flight path is drawn by hand, the developers were free to create intricate puzzles.

One of the first innovations comes early on in the game, where the player is encouraged to use the touch screen of the DS to make notes to themselves. These notes could range from directions to a hidden treasure to solving a complex puzzle for which the Zelda series is known for, and anything in between. But, taking down notes is just the tip of the iceberg. From there, the game design steadily forces players  to think outside the box. You enter a fortune teller’s residence, but she is down in her basement and  in order to get her attention you need to yell into the DS’ microphone “Hello!” Later on, you come across windmills that need to be turning but there is no wind. The solution…blow into the microphone, of course. Farther along your travels, you come across an uncharted island, and in order to discover its secret you have to trace your path around the peripheral of the island on the touch screen, thus creating a map.

Even familiar elements to the series seem new thanks to the way they are overhauled for the unique DS system. The boomerang and bombachus, for example, now go along whatever path the player sketches out for them. This leads to some very challenging and clever puzzle sequences. The boss battles are among the greatest and most memorable of any game I’ve played, hands down. The one that stands out the most, however, is the fight against a giant sandcrab with a thick outer shell and tough pincers. There is a tiny opening for the creature to see through that is just big enough for an arrow to pierce. It would be very hard to hit that looking from Link’s perspective, so instead the boss fight takes place through the creature’s eyes, but you are still in control of Link’s movements. You have to position Link so he can fire an arrow directly at yourself, which is highly unusual.

The final element I have to discuss is the art style. Instead of going for a realistic look to the world and characters, the designers made everything exaggerated and cartoonish. But this was the better route because the DS isn’t as powerful as the home console systems, and so making everything realistic would have made the game appear very muddy and undefined. The bright and vivid colors, and the art style in general, match the whimsical, playful and humorous tone of the game very well.

The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass changed the way I thought of video games and immersed me in the gaming experience unlike any game before it. Whether it was the art director, the level designer, or the script writer, everyone involved in the game’s production used their imagination to create an adventure that had never been explored before, and for that The Phantom Hourglass deserves to be called nothing less than a wonderful work of art.

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