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Rambling thoughts – The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

Posted on April 14, 2009 by (@NE_Brian) in DS, Features

Nintendo fans keeping vigilant eyes on Satoru Iwata’s Game Developers Conference keynote were in for a surprise. A number of gamers were predicting that a new Zelda game would make its debut. Others meanwhile, were more specific and believed gamers would see Link return to the Nintendo Wii. This was not the case, though. Iwata did indeed choose to save his last announcement for a Zelda title. However, he announced The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for the Nintendo DS rather than for the Wii.

I will be perfectly honest: When I first heard word of Spirit Tracks, I thought what I was reading could have been a joke. And if it wasn’t a joke, I figured the game would be a spin off, primarily because – by the time Spirit Tracks arrives on store shelves – it will only have been two years since a Zelda game has been released on the DS. My initial assumptions were incorrect, however – this is a full-fledged Zelda adventure.

Those who know me understand that I’m a huge Zelda fan. In fact, the series mainly raised my interest in gaming in the first place. With that said, I am a little concerned about Spirit Tracks. Chances are, like I said previously, that it will be only two years since a Zelda game came out for the DS. Two years would set a record for the least amount of time taken for release in between original portable Zelda titles. Really, for me, it feels as though a handheld Zelda game was launched only a short while ago.

Based on the trailer alone – and I don’t want to make early judgments here – the game looks very similar to Phantom Hourglass. The style, some enemies (along with the same battle mechanics), and the general set up, appear to have returned. The question is will Spirit Tracks be a rehashed Phantom Hourglass? Moreover, will issues that plagued Phantom Hourglass be resolved? Will players be forced to enter a master dungeon more than a couple of times to complete the game?

I’ve noticed that some fans are bothered by the fact that Link wears a train outfit, but personally I don’t mind it at all. Plus, in the GDC trailer, you can see that he has his conventional green tunic when exploring dungeons. I am, however, a bit concerned about the train mechanic in general. It literally feels as though the developers are ripping the boat and ocean out of Phantom Hourglass in exchange for a train and landscape, albeit with some alternative paths to explore while riding the tracks.

I’m really hoping that Spirit Tracks will see an improved soundtrack from Phantom Hourglass. Even though Link’s last DS title featured some memorable tunes, I was largely dissatisfied with the soundtrack as a whole. It lacked a lot of the charm that previous soundtracks managed to capture. Much of the music repeated and felt very average as well, which seems odd to say for a Zelda game.

I don’t want to harp too much on my uneasiness though, as the trailer did show some great promise. Particularly, using the phantom to your advantage to thwart off enemies and solve puzzles in dungeons is a great new mechanic. Also, the game still looks gorgeous even though it looks similar to its predecessor. I admit that it will be rather interesting to see where Spirit Tracks falls in the Zelda timeline, as the water from Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass seems to have disappeared.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks could end up being another classic Zelda title. With any new game that is introduced, there are bound to be natural concerns that arise. Still, if the development team can build upon the foundation of Phantom Hourglass and carefully implement what’s looks to be an ingenious concept in the phantom’s usage in dungeons, then we may have another must-play Zelda title on our hands. We’ll have to wait and see, but perhaps not for long, as Spirit Tracks is set to release this year.

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