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IApprove: The Legend Of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.

November 7, 2008

I owe a lot to the Legend of Zelda series of games.  Back in the day, when I was a kid of… oh, anywhere between three and fourteen, I was terrible at video games.  I suppose I just had lousy reflexes, because any genre of game aside from old-school roleplaying was completely beyond my ability to succeed.

When I was a teenager, though, things got better.  My reflexes picked up, and I was finally able to play.  The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap was the first action-based game that I ever completed.

From there, it opened a door into a whole new realm of gaming possibilities, From Super Mario Bros. to Ty the Tasmanian Tiger.  Suddenly, I was able to play these games.  Maybe not to get things quite right on the first go, but for the first time I was good enough that I actually wanted to play long enough to get better.  My confidence skyrocketed.  Now, rather than giving up because I couldn’t make it past the first level, I could play and replay a frustrating boss battle as many times as it took until I figured out what I needed to do to beat it.

Part of what made the games easier was when I realized that it wasn’t all about pure reflex.  There were plenty of times when I could use cunning in the place of physical prowess – outsmart my enemies, rather than outmuscling them.  The Legend of Zelda is very supportive of this playing style, which is one thing I love about the series.  I could probably fill a blog on my weird gaming strategies alone, but for the moment I digress.

On to Phantom Hourglass.

Like every other game in the LoZ series (except possibly the second), it’s a fun, alluring (though thankfully falling short of addicting) action/strategy game.  Unlike other games, however, it was made for the Nintendo DS, and is played entirely with the stylus.  While I found this particular feature rather irritating at first, as I play I invariably find myself enjoying it, for a few reasons: firstly, keeping to a single method of play allows you to react faster, and second, the way the stylus is used makes the control system quite intuitive and easy to use.

Another thing I like about Phantom Hourglass is that it is top-down view, rather than full-blown 3-D.  Don’t get me wrong; I love the 3-D installments of the series very much (especially Majora’s Mask, which I would love to get in its GameCube state at some point).  But there’s that simplicity in the top-down view that I enjoy; the fact that I can keep my eyes on the monster at all times no matter which way my character is facing.  Some may call that being a weenie, but I would have to disagree.  For one thing, some of the bosses (as well as other aspects of gameplay) in Phantom Hourglass are based on puzzles that would be impossible (or at least very awkward) to pull off in a 3-D environment.  As a consequence, they require you to think about things a bit differently than a 3-D game does.  I enjoy that variety in games.

If I have one complaint about Phantom Hourglass, it’s that it does virtually nothing to contribute to the storyline of the series; it takes place in another world, and once you’re done there you return home as if nothing had happened.  And quite honestly, Bellum feels a bit like a giant space flea from nowhere.  But then, I could just be bitter about getting stuck in a universe that suspends Link’s ability to swim.

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