Saturday, December 12, 2009

Zelda: Spirit Tracks Review

After playing through about halfway into the game, I want to write my own review of The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for the Nintendo DS. It's not everyday I write a video game review. Wait a minute, I haven't made a review since the beginning of this year about Persona 4. Well if I'm making a review of a video game that I barely do on this site, then it shows that it's a worthy title that can't be missed.

Link takes the train and sets off to the castle to receive his engineer certificate. As he makes his way inside the castle, Princess Zelda herself presents Link with his certificate making him a fully fledged rail engineer. Zelda then slips a small note telling him to meet her somewhere. Once Link was able to meet with the Princess, she speaks ill about Chancellor Cole in the castle and the spirit tracks (railroads) have been disappearing lately. Since Link has become a royal engineer, she requests to accompany him to the Tower of Spirits in hope to find some answers. Link agrees so both of them sneaked out of the castle and headed towards the tower. Traveling halfway there on the tracks, an evil force stopped them that was no other than Chancellor Cole that Zelda felt negative about. Cole's intentions is to bring the Demon King Malladus back which explains why the spirit tracks were disappearing. The Spirit of Tower is the source of what made the spirit tracks around the world, and once the tower is broken, the demon will be set free. Cole used a dark energy that took Zelda's spirit away from her body since they only needed her body for their evil plans. Link soon discovered that he's the only person to see Zelda's spirit and both of them hurried towards the Tower of Spirits once again. So the adventure begins for Link where he has to rescue Zelda's body, bring balance back to the spirit tracks, and stop Cole from his evil plans to resurrect the demon king.

The game makes full use of the DS touch-screen function. When I say full, I mean you can practically play through the game with the touch-screen only. For those who likes to use the old tradition d-pad and button layouts will have to do without it, and there's no option to switch to that function either. However, if you have played the previous Zelda Phantom Hourglass, then the controls are just like before. For those who hate to use the touch-screen will get used to it. I remember having one problem where I accidentally stabbed the bomb instead of picking it up. Then on certain cases I quickly turn too fast that I ended up slashing with my sword instead. It's all about getting used to the controls if you are new to the DS Zelda game, then it's not so bad.

Another DS functionally is drawing or making notes on your map. You will need to do this once in awhile in a puzzle or side quest you are doing. I used this feature quite often for not only because I have short term memory, but I did it based on how interesting it is to make notes on a video game to aid you in your quest.

The last functionally is the microphone. It wouldn't be Zelda much without having a musical instrument that is part of the series tradition. In this case, you have the spirit flute where you drag the pitch with your stylus from left to right and blow on the microphone to make sound. This game does remarkably well to make full use of the DS peripherals.

I'm going to give more props on this than anything else in this game. It fits the style of this game perfectly. The music sets the tone of what's going on around you so for example if you are near an enemy, the tone changes to alert you that danger is nearby. I like how the music changes depending on your certain actions that brings a nostalgia feeling back from previous Zelda titles.

The one part I like the most is as soon as you start up the train, the music gives you the sensation feeling that you are embarked on a grand adventure. The music instruments that you hear changes depending on the speed you are going on the train. If you go on regular speed, the music becomes normal compared to moving fast, then the music becomes more exciting as more instruments are being played out. Then if you make a complete stop on the train, the music settles back down with very little instruments playing. The same case when you are going inside someone's house that the music settles down, and once you are back outside the music raises back up again. Once you go inside a dungeon, you can hear echoes playing out from Link's yelling, sword clinking, and everything else to match the environment you are in.

It's those little things that I noticed from my ears alone just shows how much effort they put in this great Zelda game.

● Design
It's a DS game, so I don't expect graphics to be impressive. But that's the problem though, the graphics look fantastic to me. Even if I played the PSP more, I still think Zelda holds up pretty good by itself. I do notice there are lots of bad textures on particular objects, but I do forgive it since I can't expect much from the DS hardware. Nevertheless, graphics are not that terrible and it does really well enough to where you can forgive most of the technical things you might see. As long as the art style looks like any previous Zelda game, that's all that matters to me.

Overall Presentation
If you read and maybe even skimmed throughout this review, you can tell that I enjoy this game very much. It still has its generic storyline where you have to go through dungeons collecting items to gain entrance to the final boss, but if people still enjoy playing it then nothing needs to be changed. Most would argue that if those traditional elements were taken out, it wouldn't be a Zelda game and that very much I can agree with.

The puzzles are fun and rewarding as usual for the series. There are some parts that you have to think how the puzzle works first, but it's nothing impossible and you'll get through it just fine. There are side missions you can do for fun that will add more playtime value aside from the main storyline.

You may think the train is a bit weird for this series, but I think it's a great introduction to add to a Zelda game. We've already seen horse riding and sailboats so I welcome this new addition. It's not as boring as you think since there are lots of interaction going on as you are traveling on the tracks. You have to be careful of your surroundings as there are enemies on the track and monsters you need to blow them away with your air whistle or attack them to keep you from harm. So the train is more than just traveling from one place to the next.

What really stands out in this game is to see both Zelda and Link teaming up throughout the whole adventure for the very first time. Even if Zelda is a spirit, she will help you in certain dungeons and not bothering you around like that annoying Navi fairy that most people find annoying from Ocarina of Time.

If you own a DS, then you can't miss out on Zelda: Spirit Tracks. If you can't afford it, then ask this game for Christmas. There are many games I played where I don't have the motivation to complete the entire game. Somehow this game stands out to me where I want to finish it.