Shows the direction Nintendo is taking...
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass was released in 2007 for the Nintendo DS and is a direct sequel to 2003's The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker which sees the return of the flooded Hyrule. This game is the first direct sequel in the series since The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask which was released back in 2000. The game boasts the DS' touch-screen capabilities which changes the game a fair bit, but were these changes good?
Phantom Hourglass starts off with a recap of the events of The Wind Waker, using funny-shaped cut-outs to illustrate. This isn't completely necessary to the plot of Phantom Hourglass but it helps to understand what's happening directly after this recap during the game's first actual cutscene. Link is now sailing the seas with Tetra and her band of pirates searching for treasure, which was pointed out at the end of The Wind Waker. They begin to talk about the mysterious 'Ghost Ship' that haunts the surrounding waters and the possibility of treasure on board. The Ghost Ship appears and Tetra, who is seeking the treasure and has clearly no common-sense, jumps on board and disappears. After a scream is heard by the crew, Link jumps towards the Ghost Ship and slips, causing him to tumble into the waters below.
Afterwards, Link wakes up on a foreign shore when he is greeted by a fairy by the name of Ciela. The fairy introduces Link to an old man named Oshus. He agrees to help Link rescue Tetra and says to go speak with a sailor named Linebeck. After you meet Linebeck, the game really begins.
As it mentions before, the game places an emphasis on the touch-screen of the DS. Everything is done with the touch screen whether it's for moving, attacking, using your items, etc. The movement is done by touching the direction you want to go. This movement feels natural and smooth. The attacking is done by tapping an enemy to attack it or by drawing a line in between Link and the enemy. The latter can't be easily performed and you'll probably end up tapping them until they fall down. The spin attack is back, because a Zelda game cannot exist without the spin attack, well, except for the first two. The spin attack is performed by drawing a circle around Link. This is also quite hard to do at first but eventually you will get the hang of it.
The items each have a specific touch-screen based control that requires you to tap or draw on the touch-screen. The items are simple to use and, in a lot of cases, feels easier to use compared to their button-controlled counterparts. Eg, the Bombchu was a bit hard to aim just right in Ocarina of Time whilst in this game, all you have to do is draw the path its going to take, and to make this easier, time freezes when you are doing this to stop enemies from attacking you.
The sailing makes a comeback from The Wind Waker but this time you don't have to care about the wind, or if you're going in the right direction. This time, all you have to do is draw the path it's going to take on the map. This aspect alone destroys any point in a sailing part and also destroys almost all interactivity you had with the boat from the previous installment. At least in The Wind Waker, it felt like you were accomplishing something. In this game, the boat is just following a track which could easily be replaced by a train (lol). Sometimes enemies pop up on the screen but, with the power of the cannon, they're easily defeated by just tapping on the screen a few times. It just feels like the sailing was just something to do to tide you over whilst you wait for the next dungeon.
The dungeons in this game are somewhat varied. You have the basic temples of wind, fire, ice, etc. The same basic rules from any Zelda game are applied here: here's a puzzle, solve it and the door will open, or a key will appear. The puzzles aren't difficult enough to keep you occupied most of the time but sometimes you get a puzzle that involves the DS' features, whether it be for blowing on the microphone, drawing on the touch-screen or closing the DS. But, as simple as these temples may be, there is one that could easily be called the hardest temple in the entire franchise: The Temple of the Ocean King.
There are a few reasons that this dungeon is different and harder from the rest of the dungeons in the series. Firstly, apparently the dungeon is cursed and sucks the life out of you and the only way to protect yourself is by using the Phantom Hourglass, an item you get early on into the game. This item only works for a limited time so the entire dungeon is on a time limit. Secondly, the temple is filled with unkillable enemies which can take you down in a single shot, taking away some of the time you had left in the hourglass. This produces a return of the stealth section, something we haven't seen since The Wind Waker and the Forsaken Fortress. The enemies are simple enough to get past and are easy to get away from if you are caught just by running to your nearest safe zone which are scattered around the temple. These safe zones also provide protection from the curse meaning you're time will not go down in these areas. Finally, you have to return to this temple multiple times during the game and each time you have to start from the beginning. A problem with this is that the dungeon is long, very long. Around 13 floors long. To start a 13 floor temple again and again filled with unkillable enemies on a timer is enough to make someone stop playing the game all together.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is an example of the direction Nintendo is taking towards the casual market by making this game as easy and kid-friendly as possible. Although, I don't think a little kid has the patience to finish The Temple of the Ocean King.