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4.4 out of 5 stars
The Legend of Zelda:  Phantom Hourglass
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221 of 230 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2007
***Note: Some spoilers within***

It's been a while since I enjoyed a Zelda title on a handheld. This selection doesn't disappoint.

I'm only a few hours in and I'm hooked. The story line, graphics, music and the characters are all excellent. This title, like Wind Waker, uses the cartoonish/younger set of characters versus the young adult set from Twilight Princess.

For now, here is what I like and don't like. Of course, I'll update the review as I get deeper into the game.

Pros:

- Picks up where Wind Waker left off. A great story!
- Having the map on the second screen is brilliant. Being able to jot down notes on it is even better. This is by far the most useful tool in the game.
- You can save at any point in the game.
- Puzzle mix is pretty balanced. Nothing too simple and nothing aggravating to the point I want to put the game down. I really dig some of the creative elements they've added to the dungeons. That's all I'm saying; I don't want to give away any spoilers. :)
- The boomerang. I love drawing the path out on the screen. Not only is it used to complete certain actions/puzzles, it's a vital tool in fights. Tip #1: Go slow when drawing the path. If you hit walls or obstacles, the throw is not completed. Tip #2: You can hold down the left shoulder button to instantly switch to the boomerang. This is a great way to quickly arm it.

Cons:

- I feel like I'm always running out of "screen". This just boils down to the stylus control and limited real estate of the DS.
- Getting Link to "roll" is quite difficult for me. Others may have this move down. I'm still struggling.
- You can "fall" into water (you lose a heart piece) and off of cliffs. One stylus touch too far and Link can be sent flying off a cliff forcing you to start a map from where you landed. For me, that always seems to be the beginning. :)
- Other than accessing menus and flipping the screens, the direction pad is pretty much unused. In similar games, I prefer to use it for "moving" characters on screen. It was a little disappointing to see this left out. Not a deal-breaker, just nice to have.
- Using the microphone. I don't think you need to incorporate this into every game. It's great for its intended purpose, but frankly, I don't want to have to blow on my DS to make candles go out as part of a puzzle. Is there a button that will do the same? If there is, I haven't found it yet. I'm still blowing. Just a minor annoyance.

So far this game is a lot of fun; more to come soon, if I ever put this thing down.

***UPDATE 10/08/07***

The game continues to rock. The story is getting deeper and I've very into it. I also like how the ocean-going portion of the game is panning out. (E.g. Upgrading the ship, plotting courses, ocean battles, etc.) The addition of "treasure hunting" or "salvaging" is like a mini-game in itself.

The versatility of the items you acquire continues to impress.

Examples:

- The bombs (oh, how I love the bombs) can obviously be used to blow up enemies, but they are equally useful in blowing up crates and walls so you can gain access to new areas and treasure.
- The bow and arrow (my new favorite) is not only a fast and accurate weapon, but a vital tool fot activating dungeon "eyeball" switches.

***UPDATE 10/14/07***

More great items, more great adventure.

Here are some highlights from the last week (hopefully I don't spoil anything).

- Fishing is great. I found myself a fishing rod. Well, I was actually given it. It is little hard to control at first, but once getting the hang of it, provides a lot of fun and there is a nice surprise waiting for you if you "catch 'em all".
- I'm hooked on the Grappling Hook! Like the boomerang, it's a vital tool and is used for much more than just grappling. One great example, think "Human Slingshot."
- I finally died (fire and ice dragons were tough until I figured out what to do). It was nice that all I had to do was walk back through the blue portal and I was right back to the boss fight again. Thank goodness I didn't have to do the entire dungeon again.

***UPDATE 10/28/07***

I finished the game on a flight to LA this weekend.

- The storyline continued to develop and really kept me interested; all the way to the end.
- The new items (especially the hammer) were perfect additions to the already creative arsenal. (Hint: Be sure to hold down the stylus for a second or two and the hammer doubles in size and punch)
- A couple of the boss-fights were actually in 3D-mode versus top-down 3rd person. The graphics during these sequences looked great.
- There were even some really funny moments towards the end. When G'Pa snatched the hourglass from Link mid-spin, I cracked up.
- Lastly, the final boss fight was excellent. Not too hard, multi-leveled (literally) and actually really fun. No frustration.

Kudos to Nintendo for making one of the best games I've ever played on the DS. Thank you!
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54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
Let me say, that I'm a HUGE Final Fantasy fan, and have only played two other Zelda games EVER, and never to completion. So it is with some surprise that I say "The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass" stands the model upon which all future DS RPGs should be. It has replaced Final Fantasy III as my new favorite DS RPG and it was no contest.

The graphics are second-to-none for the system. I thought FFIII and Chocobo Tales were good, but this takes what the system can do to another level. It's colorful, bright, cute, and stylish. For a game on such a small screen, the detail is wonderful.

And while some may pass off the stylus-only gameplay as gimmicky, I felt that the tight integration gave me a feeling of being more involved with the game, as opposed to simple button-mashing. The ability to control Link's speed with your stylus is a very clever take, and I actually prefer it to the usual "Hold down B to run." I also like being able to plot the path of my boomerang with the stylus. A very nice touch that adds to the fun of the game.

I enjoy the puzzles and the "time limit" set by the Phantom Hourglass is a great way to keep players on their toes in dungeons. The puzzles, while not overly difficult, offer enough challenge to be fun and not frustrating. And if you can find the hints to solve the puzzles (which are usually scattered somewhere), almost no thought is needed at all.

The story is engaging (this is a sequel, tho' you don't need to have played "The Wind Waker" to understand what's going on) and the characters likable. I also found the music and sound effects to be pleasant and very good for a game that already packs so much into such a small cartridge.

There's so much to LoZ:PH, that I haven't even had a chance to try the multiplayer mode, though it seems to be a watered-down version of Four Swords. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Four Swords is universally considered the pinnacle of multiplayer Zelda, so if it's anything like that, PH is definitely headed in the right direction in that department.

This is a great game for players of any level. Hardcore gamers will appreciate the innovative gameplay and great graphics, and casual gamers will like the challenge and interesting story. Kids will like the bright, colorful graphics and slick fighting/boomerang moves, while adults will like the story and puzzle-solving. This is what a DS RPG should be. Heck, this is what ANY game should aspire to be!
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48 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2007
In this episode of Zelda (my first one ever) Link has to save Zelda after yet another unfortunate encounter with a villain. This time she is kidnapped by a Ghost ship, Link falls from his ship and washes up on the shore of Mercay island, where he meets his companion for this trip: the fairy Ciela. Together they have to defeat a whole array of increasingly scarier monsters before they can truely free Zelda.

I admit it: I'm 44 and new to gaming. This game is rated as 7+ in the Netherlands (even though there are very few 7 year olds than can already read English), so I was kind of anxious about the childishness of the game, but, boy, did I have fun! Yes, I agree with some reviewers that it is tedious to return to the Temple of the Ocean King all the time, but that is made more than made up for by shooting, stabbing, hooking and bombing all the very ingeniously invented monsters of the various temples and islands. But apart from that you can also fish, trade, dig up rupees, pimp up your boat, fly with chicken. And you have to solve some riddles that are difficult, but not impossible.

Some people claim that they went through this game in 12 hours. I have no idea how they did that: the final fight alone took me all in all almost 3 hours (and some less-than-polite language) to complete. And apart from the game proper there are a number of side-quests or you can just go treasure hunting or shoot seagulls, all according to your preferences. And their is a multi-player mode that I have not even explored yet...

The graphics are amazing for such a little screen and after a while you actually start to like Link, the little green fellow with the tight pants and the big eyes that is your alter ego in this game.
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Ok, let's face it. If you are a gamer of any sort, you should know that the Legend of Zelda series has undoubtedly been one of (if not the) most influential, innovative, and downright fun ever.

I bought this when I was stuck in St. Peter, MN over a weekend. Boy, was it fun. I rarely buy games right after they come out (yeah, I'm a cheapskate), but I paid the $40 up front two days after release. I loved the innovative uses of the DS. You know how Rayman Raving Rabbids used every possible function of the Wiimote? Well, Phantom Hourglass does the same thing with the DS. You'll blow on the mic, write on the map, and every movement and combat is used exclusively with the stylus. This is how the DS was meant to be used.

About five hours in, however, I discovered a major problem. After a level, I have to return to The Temple Of The Ocean King, and run through everything again...on a timer? That means all the enemies, puzzles, etc. It was ridiculous. The Temple is hard enough the first time around, but on a timer? And having to repeat everything is just mean. Honestly, it's one of the most annoying things I've ever had to do in a game. (And be forewarned, you will want to do the Temple when you're out of earshot of other people. Played this on a flight to Europe and the man next to me thought I was insane for yelling every time the timer ran out.)

It's a classic Zelda game with a great new control scheme, pure and simple. Highly reccommended, but slightly difficult.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2007
First off, this game utilizes the DS capabilities quite well. At the start the lack of ability to use the arrows was irksome, but I quickly got used to the touch screen. It allows lots of versatility so you can switch between weapons and items quickly.

The Phantom Hourglass is like much of its Zelda predecessors, especialy Windwaker. While it has boat sailing as the primary mode of transportation,it is not as time consuming as Windwaker's sailing voyages, and feels much more enjoyable. As in Windwaker there are warp points that you can discover later in the game, and also the ability to search for treasure on the ocean floor. Searching the ocean floor for treasure, or "Salvaging" as it is called is a fun little mini game were you drag a crane down through the water, avoiding mine like enemies. Usually you will find either ship parts(another new idea) or sand for your Phantom Hourglass. Besides salvaging there are several other mini games like the other Zelda games(such as archery practice, cannon accuracy practice, etc).

The main difference I found in Phantom Hourglass was a dungeon you enter several times throughout the coarse of the game called the Temple of the Ocean King. The Temple of the Ocean King is basically a dungeon in which you have a certain amount of time(the time in your Phantom Hourglass) to reach your goal(which gets progressivly lower in level). Inside there are safe spots, in which your hourglass does not lose time, and you cannot be attacked by the phantoms that patrol the corridors. Phantoms are armored knight like guys who are invincible until the end of the game(Accept in certain instances were you can lure them into traps or roll boulders onto them). You must sneak past phantoms or shoot them in the back with an arrow(which momentarily stuns them). Since phantoms will drain 30 seconds off your hourglass and send you to the start of the level, stealth is extremly important. Not only must you deal with the phantoms, but you must also find the way to go down to the next level(usually involving hitting a series of switches and collecting a key to open a locked door.). Over time, from defeating boss battles or finding sand in a sunken chest, you can venture deaper into the Ocean King's Temple.

There are numerous side quests in Phantom Hourglass, mainly the collection of ship parts(which can increase your ship's stamina.), the collection of spirit gems which provide buffs such as, damage reduction, extra sword damage, and the ability to shoot beams out of your sword. Then there is also the classic trading sequence that has been used in earlier Zelda games. You find X item which you trade to Y guy for Z item to trade to Another guy and so on and so on.

There is also a fun mini game you can play either with friends(who don't need a Phantom Hourglass game3 pack) or over wifi. The game is very simple, one player plays as Link, while the other plays as 3 phantoms. Link must run around grabbing Triforce triangles to carry back to his base, while the 3 phantoms are controlled by drawing lines that they will follow, and must stop Link(by running into him) getting the Triforce triangles. Once Link is caught, the sides switch and the other player tries to get Triforce triangles.

The main problems I had with Phantom Hourglass was the short life of the game. There are only 6 dungeons in the entire game, which are much shorter than most zelda games. This game cannot have taken me more than 20 hours to complete, and I found 15 of the 16 heart containers, and 41 of the 60 spirit gems. However, I feel that those 20 hours are well worth the money to buy this game.

Pros

- Same, fun, Zelda game we all expect
- Fun mini games
- Temple of the Ocean King provides a more fast passed stealth side to the game
- Well adapted to DS, with lots of inventive mini games and ways to solve puzzles
- No more long sailing trips like Windwaker
- Nice pleasing cell shaded graphics, the game has a good feel.
- Fun multiplayer(wifi and DS connect with just one game)
Cons

- No more heart pieces ;_; (just heart containers)
- Short (about 20 hours for an experienced Zelda player)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2007
Like a lot of franchises, the Legend of Zelda tends to add a couple of different gameplay mechanics to make it feel like a different game, but fundamentally you're still getting the same thing. But when you have the "if it ain't broke..." adage fitting perfectly, one can understand Nintendo's reluctance to completely overhaul the series. With Phantom Hourglass, it's kind of like Minish Cap-style presentation with some of the more unique controls found in Twilight Princess. Does it make it a great game? Well it certainly does have the classic gameplay but it might not have the classic status of Ocarina of Time or even an underrated one like the Oracle series.

Story: Taking place a couple months after Wind Waker, Link is onboard the pirate ship with Tetra when they come across a mysterious ghost ship. Mind on treasure, Tetra goes onboard only to disappear and Link thrown overboard. He arrives on an island and with the help of a ship captain, Linebeck and a fairy named Ciela, Link searches for the ship to save his friend.

Graphics: Some might find it similar to Final Fantasy III's DS remake but that doesn't mean the graphics are bad. In fact, this is probably some of the most detailed and lively graphics on the DS. It really does have that kind of "miniature Gamecube" feel in some of the scenes.

Sound/Music: Zelda at times had the best music when it stuck to the familiar themes. Not saying the music's bad here, of course not, but there's times where you like the music playing but there really isn't that distinctive theme until you go "hey wait, is that a remixed version of Zelda's Lullaby?" But maybe it's just me.

Gameplay: Last time it was changing into a wolf, now, um, well there is the titular hourglass. Beating bosses fills up the hourglass a bit which allows more time to complete the dungeon of the Ocean King. Getting more items allows further access into the dungeon. It's a nice idea but it would nice if we didn't feel like going through the floors again in order to get to the next section. There is a halfway point but it would be nice if you can "zap" to the next section.

Along with Twilight Princess, this is probably one of the most different in terms of controlling Link. Done entirely (let me repeat, ENTIRELY, no control pad here) with the stylus, Link at times even controls better. Instead of locking in, you just tap the enemy and Link lunges with his sword; do a swipe and he'll horizontal slash or draw a circle around Link and he'll spin dash. Even using items like boomerangs and bombs are funner to use thanks to user-controlled flight paths for the former or precise throwing for the latter.

It's moving Link around the field that feels unpolished. Have the stylus farther away from Link and he runs, closer and he's slower or draw circles on the outside of the screen and he'll roll. There are times where you fall off cliffs because you pushed too far away, causing a sprint rather than a walk and rolls can be a pain to pull off. There was also a couple times where you have bomb flowers and pointing to them has Link pick them and instead you sword swipe them, causing them to explode in your face.

The sailing's more easier now. You just draw a path on your map and take a breather while firing a cannon now and then at enemies. However, it's this streamlining that might bug players who don't like the decrease in difficulty. Gone are the days of Link to the Past and the Oracle series where you can get easily stomped if you're not careful, Minish and Hourglass have a more accessible difficulty where you're not cursing the game because of one frustrating dungeon - Water Temple, anyone? - but still, the game depends on your skill as a Zelda gamer. Newbies can easily grasp it eventually while veterans might find the lack of difficulty disturbing. (heh heh, Star Wars reference).

If you've beaten Twilight Princess, Phantom Hourglass will easily tide you over. It's fun, not challenging and probably not the best Zelda recently but it's Zelda and that means enjoyable gameplay.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2007
This game is fantastic, and quite possibly one of the best games that I've played on the DS so far.

The setting is a few months after Wind Waker, and it takes place in a brand new ocean, so you're not stuck with the same map that you had before. Basically, Tetra is kidnapped and it is up to you, Link, to save her. With a new fairy partner (that has the same voice clips as Navi from Ocarina of Time, I might add) named Celia and the somewhat-shady Captain Linebeck, you're off on your quest to rescue Tetra and revive the Ocean King. (But you'll learn about that later.)

The game controld fully utilize the DS's touch screen. It's fantastic. With your map constantly on the upper screen, game control is fully devoted to the bottom screen. The player uses the stylus to move Link about, swing his sword, throw the boomerang, and other things. Targeting a specific enemy has never been easier - just tap them - and by pressing 'B' or down on the D-pad, you can pull your map down to the touch screen, where you can scribble down notes and memos to yourself about the overworld (another very handy feature.)

The only big complaint that I have with this game is that whever you save and quit in a dungeon, or you need to leave for some reason, you need to everything all over again. It gets very tedious very fast, not to mention incredibly frustrating. However, that is the only thing that I would want to see changed.

Even with the DS' processing power, the overworld is vibrantly colored and fun to play in, and the music is very similar to the Wind Waker's score.

I am incredibly pleased with this game, and couldn't ask for anything more in a DS game so far.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2007
This game is one of the best games available for the Nintendo DS. It no doubt has the best graphics of any DS game, and is pushing New Super Mario Bros. as the best DS game to date. I am glad I was able to find a copy the day it came out, because this game is a lot of fun. The dungeons are a bit easy for experienced Zelda fans, but it doesn't detract from the fun. I do agree with other reviewers that the touch-screen and microphone use are a bit forced at times, but it is still an A+ game, and I highly recommend you pick up a copy! It may have Windwaker graphic but it stays true to the Zelda legacy, and is spectacular for a handheld!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I have a confession: I've never been much of a Zelda fan. I prefer my games with experience points and lots of dialog, and for some reason I had sort of pigeon-holed LoZ into a lame puzzle game. Now I'm gonna go back to the series and see what I've been missing.

Other reviewers here have already covered the graphics, plotline, and atmosphere of the game, so I'd like to focus on the gameplay itself. The touch-screen controls are nearly flawless on this. I love my DS but it really feels like the touch-screen is a useless accessory to most games. In Phantom Hourglass, though, they implemented it so well that I can't shut up about it. In a lot of other games it feels awkward letting go of the buttons and grabbing the stylus just to click a few things before putting it back. In this game, EVERYTHING you do is done using the stylus so there's no awkward transitions, and more importantly, it's done very well.

This game had me hooked within minutes of turning it on, based on the feel of the controls alone. Combat is fast paced and responsive, like it should be. The gameplay is so intuitive that the manual is pretty much unnecessary. Want to grab something? Click it. Want to talk to someone? Tap them. Aiming your bow? Just tap the target. Animal Crossing had similar controls but they always felt sluggish to me, whereas Phantom Hourglass has the sort of immersive controls that really put you inside the game.

The rest of the game feels balanced to me: the boss fights are tough until you figure out the trick, and the puzzles require just enough thought and strategy to make you really think but not so much that you become frustrated. I really like how the puzzles are so well-integrated into the world. It isn't like you reach a dead end in a dungeon and have to solve some brain-twister. It's more like the whole dungeon is one big gradual puzzle that you are unlocking.

Overall, this game is tons of fun. Real fun, not "a challenge" or "something to kill time," but the kind of game that will engage you and make you smile to yourself while playing it. Go pick it up now!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2009
Praise:
- Stylus driven controls are fun to use, and aren't just a novelty. Items can be used in ways that wouldn't be possible with the d-pad.
- Beautiful cel-shaded graphics with expressive characters, fluid animation, and epic boss fights using both screens.
- The sound effects and music are expertly crafted, fitting perfectly with the visuals.
- The usefulnes of area maps goes deeper than simple navigation. The game encourages taking notes and drawing pictures on the maps to uncover secrets.
- Fantastic dungeon design made up of clever puzzles and short encounters. New pathways are always being opened to minimize backtracking.
- Story and dialogue bring personality to the game world without getting overly wordy.
- Save anywhere.

Criticism:
- There are a few unfortunate uses of the microphone. Blowing and yelling at the DS makes me feel foolish.
- The overworld is a large boring ocean. Tedious sailing is compounded by bothersome ambushes while making your way from island A to island B.
- Hand holding: Too often the fairy that follows you around will immediately blurt out the solution to what could have been an interesting puzzle. The dungeons are also littered with stone tablets. Some of which absolutely must be read, and others are just puzzle spoilers with no way to tell the difference between them. An option to turn off hints could have been implemented, but wasn't.

Other thoughts:
- Novice players will likely enjoy a decent challenge without a lot of frustration. Long time gamers will find it almost entirely too easy. More than one selectable difficulty level could have pleased a wider range of players.
- The single-player game will take most people somewhere between 15-25 hours to beat. Beyond that, there's a lot of optional stuff to collect, and a few multi-player mini-games.
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