Zelda: PH Hands-On!

Japanese is a beautiful language!

Unfortunately we don’t have any Japanese speaking or reading staffers at THEBBPS.com so you might think that would pose a problem writing an article on the import version of Link’s latest adventure… but thankfully we’ve managed just fine!

We get some hands-on time with Link’s latest adventure, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass straight from Japan.

Stop kicking that poor chicken and jump in for the deets…

phantomhourglassbox_jp.jpgThe Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is the direct sequel to GameCube’s infamous The Wind Waker. While series veterans bled at the eye sockets because of Link’s cartoony visual style, the rest of the gaming populace agreed the gameplay was trademark Legend of Zelda.

After spending a few hours with Japan’s The Legend of Zelda: Mugen no Sunadokei (Phantom Hourglass Stateside) we’re happy to report Link’s DS debut is as solid as his previous adventures. Visually the game is beautiful, from animation to every single sprite. The game takes the 2D look in a 3D world nature of Wind Waker and translates it beautifully in this adventure.

Phantom Hourglass continues the story of The Wind Waker where our Hyrule hero has defeated the evil Ganondorf and decides to join the rag-tag crew of Tetra’s (aka Zelda) ship.

The game starts with a simple, yet elegant, retelling of the final moments of The Wind Waker in a cardboard cut-out montage. When we are brought into the present timeline we find Tetra has led her ship into a mysterious area of the sea where a dark mist surrounds the ship and a new vessel appears. Tetra hops aboard to loot the strange ship, but the ghostly crew has nothing of it. As Link attempts to save Tetra he is knocked into the water and washes onto shore the next morning wondering where his newly formed crew has disappeared to.

View the Phantom Hourglass introduction video here.

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Link washes on the shores of a small island town and is awoken by a faerie who starts you on your journey. When you take control of Link you realize the sea has robbed you of your inventory and, much like Samus in the Metroid series, you must reclaim your possessions and save your ill-fated friends.

The faerie who woke our fallen here is named Shiera and she acts as your guide through the game and as your cursor, much like the aiming cursor in Wii’s Twilight Princess. The entire control scheme is based on the stylus and pretty much everything you do to control the action is touch-screen based.

Simply point Shiera in front of Link by sliding your stylus in any direction and he will follow. Pushing your stylus further will result in Link running to catch up. Although simple it works in conjunction with other classic moves; zigzag your stylus in front of a running Link and he’ll perform a roll maneuver.

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Also, by bringing the top screen map down to the touch screen players can write notes. One puzzle later in the game asks you to locate pillars of fire on the map that you’ve passed throughout the world, and by circling the locations on your own map it makes the challenge much easier.

Combat is simple enough and works well. Slash straight toward an enemy and Link stabs, slide is across and Link will perform a side-slash. The details are fantastic and the animation is beautiful and fluid; perform a 180 degree circle around Link and watch him perform his class spin attack complete with the heroic screams of power.

After receiving a basic sword from an elder in town Link is off to find his comrades. After basic questing Link finds himself at the steps of the mysterious Hourglass Castle, where the mysterious relic from the title sits in the centre of the foyer.

Venturing deep into the castle you discover a jailed Pirate who promises you ship your around the world if you help him escape. In order to free him Link must release the spikes creating his prison by hitting multiple switches in the castle dungeon. However, a purple mist is spreading throughout the dungeon and exposure to it will slowly take health away from our tunic-wearing hero.

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A few quick rolls and two switches later we’ve freed the pirate who eventually agrees to make good on his promise once we find a suitable portion of the world map.

Controlling the high-seas is a combination of the Phantom Hourglass controls and the original PC Rainbow Six titles. The map you have equipped will drop down to the touch screen and allows players to plot a course by drawing a line from point A to point B.

Eventually you may encounter battles on the water, but the game thankfully does not throw any battles your way in the beginning since your ship is ill equipped to take on any enemies.

In the next town, a dead pirate’s soul rises from his bones and tells Link of a trapped woman in a house in the centre of the island. After freeing the woman (who is a fortune teller) from captivity by solving a cool puzzle, you have to draw on a map using your stylus where three flaming pillars are in the world, she tells you of the evil emitting from the Volcano mountain.

Deep inside of the volcano Link finds his lost boomerang which is a treat to use in the DS version.

Equip it by tapping the icon in the top-right corner of the screen and Link will grab it awaiting your orders, then it’s as simple as drawing a line to where you want to the projectile to go. Some puzzles throughout the cave require this mechanic and the weapon also acts as an item collector where throwing it at an out of reach item will bring it along for the ride back into our hero’s hands.

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Once Link makes it to the end of the cave we meet the first boss, a female sorcerer who splits herself into three halves.

Look above at the top screen. Each copy of the boss will be represented by a little purple icon. However if you look closely, they each have a different number of horns. This represents the order you must hit them in. You must draw a boomerang path that starts off by hitting the 1 horned icon’s sorcerer, and then passes through the 2nd and then the 3rd all in one move. Done correctly, the 3 figures will be forced to merge.

Hitting the sorcerer with another boomerang shot will make her dizzy giving you enough time to wail on her with your sword, after applying the same techniques three times she is defeated and Link is rewarded with a new heart.

So far the game is tons of fun and looks like a welcome addition to the Zelda universe. Since gamers have had their adult Link with last year’s Twilight Princess I think this title will finally be the one where people disregard the cartoony style and really come to appreciate how polished every title in the series has been.

Is it import friendly? Well I don’t speak a word of Japanese, but thanks to GameFaqs and the wonderful guide makers… I might never need to learn.

It’s slated to come State-side soon… but for those of you who are die-hard and can’t wait, it’s a fun adventure so far.