Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks Impression

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks on DS
When link comes to play, as a kid or adult, gamers need to pay attention. His latest adventure, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for the Nintendo DS, does not stray from this creed. What makes the Spirit Tracks is the train gameplay, explained a bit more below, but what’s not changed or lost is the Zelda magic that hooked so many of us at a young age. What’s to love about Link and Zelda’s team-up … lets take a look.

Gameplay – Two games in one and then some. Gamers get the typical dungeon crawling sword slashing, boomerang throwing adventure expected from Link but they also get a simplified train simulator. Well, maybe simulator is too strong a term but gamers get to upgrade and equip their train, used to traverse Hyrule, as they see fit and can set the course, change the speed and fire off weapons … even catch bunnies. At first the train may seem like a gimmick but it’s a great way to get around. The traditional dungeons and boss fights are back as are the selection of weapons and puzzle solving devices. This game requires thinking, talking and backtracking but nothing feels forced. Zelda joins the adventure in a few levels as she takes control of a suit of armor which Link must direct and work with in order to advance in the tower levels. There are tons of side quest typical of a Zelda title and plenty of heart containers to collect and this is only the single player campaign. Gamers can now buddy up and take on friends in a very enjoyable 4-player scrum with guardian armor thrown in.

Graphics – Simple, very simple. Spirit Tracks follows Link’s younger, much cartoonier, almost anime SD look. The graphics are actually one of the games weaker points as there are more impressive looking DS carts but when there’s this much content some storage power has to be scaled back. That being said the train levels look nice with expansive landscapes but overall it just feels very choppy at times.

Sound – Another area that feels very old school, but when it’s a lot of memorable Zelda tunes this is a strength. The music is not CD quality and weird beeps and blurbs make up the vocal cast but man oh man are these tunes nostalgic. For the newer, more recent scores, not too much to compliment but they do the job as BGM’s should.

Design – Excellent from the new train mechanics, puzzle solving with the Princess to the traditional feeling dungeon crawling. Bunny collecting, music playing, tower battle and more side-quest wait in a game that raises the bar for game design. Yes, it’s that good and that deep. Some of the best design is seen in the limited levels that require Zelda to join the fray, which gamers must direct a massive suit of armor while figuring out where to go. Puzzles and levels, worth the purchase alone. Utilizing the microphone for a new weapon that feels very natural (fan, blowing weapon for puzzles) and for the magical flute also shows that this design team really gets the DS and what it can do.

Miscellaneous – Zelda is a go! The game touts that Zelda requires not rescuing but for the first time she will adventure with Link and yes this is true but she has no body. So get this, Zelda does require a rescue, her body that is. The Princess’s displaced spirit sticks with Link and proceeds to talk his ear off at times and jumps into suits of Armor to assist link in getting the track maps. She feels a bit limited in her interaction but it’s a welcome change. The second item is the story as this is a Link who sets out to be a conductor and finds himself wrapped into a plot to unleash an ancient evil. It’s crazy and kooky but it works which is a testament to the games design.

Overall, a great game for young kids and the most grizzled vet gamer. The mixture of tried and true gameplay mechanics established back on the NES mixed with new features, touch screen and microphone features create a game that no DS owner should miss. This is what the pure joy of gaming is all about.