The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
Boats are soooo 2007! Zelda hops into his new train while we blow the whistle on his latest adventure.
A couple of years ago before Phantom Hourglass was released it was easy to be skeptical of a purely touchscreen Zelda game, especially after the wagglefest of Twilight Princess on the Wii. Despite almost universal apprehension Phantom Hourglass proved to be both innovative and a great reminder that Nintendo knows what they’re doing when they design a system exclusive title. But Phantom Hourglass was not without a problem or two, such as the repeated visiting of the timed dungeon the Temple of the Ocean King and occasionally tedious boat sections. Well timed dungeon and boat haters can now rejoice and board the spirit train.
The story of Spirit Tracks comes from the same book as any of the previous Zelda games. You play regular boy Link, meet Princess Zelda, things happen and now only you can save her by collecting items from a series of dungeons. After a dozen or so previous adventures you shouldn’t expect too many sweeping changes by now except for one well advertised feature, Zelda is now along for the ride throughout the story. For the most part this change is rather cosmetic and you could easyly replace Zelda with Navi, Tatl, Ciela or any of Links other companions as you won’t be directly ordering her around, except for in the Tower of Spirits. Much like the Ocean Kings temple from Phantom Hourglass you’ll be returning to the tower many times, fortunately however you won’t be be repeating the same areas over and over. Controlling Zelda in the puzzles starts off simple enough, you’ll have her distract a phantom or stand on a switch but later the tasks that you’ll need to perform become incredibly complex, but rarely frustrating.
The puzzles have always been the core of any Zelda game and Spirit Tracks feels a cut above other recent Zelda titles in challenging and memorable puzzles. It’s not just the quality of the puzzles but also the quantity, the entire game will run several hours longer than Phantom Hourglass and provide you with challenging puzzles that make you feel like you should be filling in a Mensa application for completing them. There’s even a handful of dungeons to complete outside of the main quest and some of these even up the difficulty up a little further and are unlocked by doing a few shipping jobs with your train.
The train itself works just like the old boat except that now you’ll have to stick to the rails rather than fully roam the vast empty ocean. You also not be able to point your train in a direction and run there at full speed, there’s switch boxes to change, ground foes to shoot or avoid as well as other trains that will give you an instant game over should you not get out of their way, giving off a strong Pacman vibe. The train is also used for transporting both people and goods. Transporting people around forces you to pay a little more attention to transportation as they will require you to obey the speed signs on the track and to blow your horn or adjust your speed when appropriate. There’s even a rabbit catching game that you can play from the train, it all seems like an attempt to stretch out the game with the minimum of effort but there is work to be done after the main storyline should you be so inclined.
Unfortunately Spirit Tracks does also take a step backwards in multiplayer with the choice to remove any form of Internet play, games can now only be played locally (although only a single cart is needed) but it all seems less fleshed out than before. The only extra option is the ability to trade treasures wirelessly, which could be useful if you’re searching for a rare item to upgrade your train with.
Spirit tracks is a fine game that improves on Phantom hourglass in almost every way, those who are looking for a portable Zelda adventure with both challenge and length need look no further.