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Traveled on the Spirit Tracks. Rambling Ensues.

Oh boy. Another Zelda game down. TL;DR: I actually could not finish it and had to watch the ending on a YouTube video because the microphone blowing sucked HARD. But there was some good ideas and if you liked Phantom Hourglass, I can see you liking this one too. If not, AVOID!

I don't even know where to begin. It's a 100 years later after Phantom Hourglass. There's a new Hyrule. Everything is connected with special train tracks called the Spirit Tracks that were here before Wind Waker Link and Tetra discovered and founded the new Hyrule. You are another Link, but this time you are a train engineer, going to Hyrule Castle to graduating and become a full fledged train conductor. You arrive and see Zelda, who gives you a letter. You read the letter, sneak into her room at her request, and board a train to visit the Tower of Spirits. On the way, the tower breaks apart and pieces lift into the sky. You train is attacked and the Spirit Tracks disappear. Zelda's spirit is separated from her body and Zelda becomes a ghost. From that point on, you are meant to restore the Spirit Tracks, fix the tower, try to stop the resurrection of Malladus, and get Zelda back into her body before they use it to take over the world.

So, from the get go, you shown that the way to travel around is only through train. You control it's speed (forward and faster forward), when to break and when to reverse. When you come to a junction in the tracks, you can also switch tracks. Finally, you have a train horn and it's fun to pull on the cord and let it go. You use it at the beginning of the game, before you get the ability to blow stuff up, to ward away enemies from the tracks or from attacking you. I like the idea of the train in concept. Reminded me of an old MS-Dos game I used to play (and barely understood cause I was a child) and it mostly works well here. But there are some issues. Rate of fire of your cannon is pretty low, so if you get swarmed with enemies, there's a good chance you could take a hit. Also, whenever you take a curve and you try to hit something, for some reason the blast will move to the side of where you pressed. Also, moving the camera involves pressing the touchpad and it's pretty slow so if an enemy or object is behind the camera, it could take a while to turn it to react to whatever's happening. Died multiple times to issues related to the camera and it's kinda rough. BUT, the idea of transporting people and goods around to help out is pretty novel for Zelda. I liked what they were going for in that regard but it's still very awkward.

Outside of the train, it plays pretty much like Phantom Hourglass. Use the stylus to move Link. Instead of tapping enemies to attack them, the game wants to you use more swipe motions than before. If you double tap a spot, you'll roll in that direction. This is a half good and half bad change. It means it more consistent to roll now but if you're surrounded by enemies and are mashing the screen, you'll roll instead of attack. Sometimes you can accidentally roll off cliffs. You get bow and arrow, sword, boomerang (works just like in Phantom), bombs but a few items are new. You have this leaf blower object that makes you blow into the microphone to send out a gust of wind to stun enemies or move objects around. New item called the Sand Wand lets you solidify sand, raising them up in place for you (or others) to stand on. Whip works very similarly to the grapple hook. It can be used to stun or damage enemies, grab and throw objects, or swing from wooden grapple points but this time you can swing from grapple point to grapple point.

The twist this time around is, whenever you go into the Tower of Spirit and collect enough Spirit Tears on a given section, you are able to hit Phantoms in the back, allowing Zelda to take over the magical armor and is able to assist you in the Tower. This is actually pretty cool way to has an assist and give Zelda something to do. There are four types of Phantoms: regular, (sword and shield and can use the shield to carry Link and objects around), a regular Phantom but with a fire sword (used to light torches and make dark areas lighter around Zelda), a teleporting Phantom (can only teleport to phantom eyes), and a phantom that can become a massive ball that can damage weakened rock and enemies. To control Zelda, you can press an icon at her feet or call her to you and she'll follow. After you press the icon, you can create a path for her to follow or direct her to interact with other phantoms or objects. This is the first Zelda game where you really feel like you're getting help from your partner character and it's VERY WELCOME. Unfortunately, this is ONLY in the Tower of Spirits and does not happen in any other dungeon in the game. And that's a damn shame.

Dungeons are very much like Phantom Hourglass and are very novel and puzzle based. And this is probably the strongest point of the DS Zelda's. The puzzles and item usage are fantastic and makes me wish other Zeldas were like it in this regard. Nintendo really, REALLY knows how to use the DS right.

Music is the best part of this game. The fun tune as your riding in the train, the way the music starts of with one instrument then fills in as your ascend the Tower of Spirits, dungeons music,, boss music. All of it is fantastic and it was always, ALWAYS a treat listening to it. The use of the flute in the music is very welcome and nice change from just reusing music from wind waker like in Phantom Hourglass. Highly recommend the game just for the music.

Characters are all pretty wacky and fun, very similar to Wind Waker. Not much to say in this regard other than they're pretty good and fun to be around but don't have much going on. Having Zelda help out is really cool and it's nice to have a companion DO SOMETHING.

This is the part where I gripe about another new item. The Spirit Flute was originally Zelda's and is used to decent effect in the game, similar to the Ocarina of Time or Wind Waker... but there are problems that made me stop playing the game and just watch the ending on YouTube. To play the flute, you need to move it left and right on the touchpad and then blow on your microphone to make a note. In the world, you get five songs to play: Song of Awakening (used to wake up Gossip Stones), Song of healing (used to call a fairy to heal Link once per dungeon), Song of Discovery (used to find hidden treasure in the ground, replacing the shovel), Song of Light (used to find diamond shaped objects that shine light), and the Song of Birds (calls birds to link so he can grapple and fly to different parts of the map slowly). These songs worked regularly for me and I didn't have much of an issue here. BUT, there are other songs that need to be played in order to advance the story. These are the duet Lokomo songs and they CANNOT BE SKIPPED. These songs are used to open up more parts of the map pertaining to the dungeons you need to go to. Also, there is one last song during the final boss that you must play with Zelda. Every time these sequences happen, blowing on the mic became VERY inconsistent and it felt like a dice roll on whether or not I could complete it. And if I did, I didn't quite get how I did it. Still got through ALL of the songs until the end. The last song with Zelda made me tape a straw onto my Wii U gamepad's mic to consistently register blowing on it. And even when I played the song "right", I failed out of it and had no idea what to improve. There is just no indicator to show that you played notes right and the character teaching you the song just aren't that helpful either. After 20 tries or more, I gave up and resorted to watching the ending on a YouTube video. and it's DAMN SHAME cause the way the game leads up to the ending is very tense and gratifying to see. Too bad I didn't get to play the end.

Another issue I had with the final boss is the combat. You need to use your sword to swipe at rocks to protect Zelda as she's charging her energy. As stated before, this game wants you to swipe and slash instead of tapping to attack.... the problem, like with the bombs on the train, if link can only attack so quick. You do have a spin attack, but can only be used 3 times quickly before you get dizzy and are unable to do anything for a short time. And during these attacks on Zelda, if she gets hit ONCE, you have to restart the charging from the beginning. Precision and combat are the WEAKEST point of these DS games and to have the final boss be dependent on these two points is... very frustrating.

Overall, if you like Phantom Hourglass, you would probably like Spirit Tracks more and also less. The changes to transportation are very interesting and I would like Nintendo to maybe try their hand at something like this again in the future. But... there were many problems and I don't quite know what the issues stem from. Could it be the way the game was made or could it be the emulation on the eShop of Wii U or could it be a syncing issue with the Wii U gamepad? It's really hard to say so if you want to play Spirit Tracks, maybe try it in an emulator or on original hardward. The game is mostly alright, but the issues are glaring and unavoidable for me. Damn, damn shame.

Skyward Sword and motion controls are next. yay

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