The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
Writing a review for a Zelda game. It’s always a challenge. Everyone knows the formula of this legendary series and Nintendo makes sure that each episode of their top series guarantees hours of action and puzzle fun, perfectly balanced gameplay and a graphical design to make you lick your fingers. With this The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for the Nintendo DS this is of course again the case
More over, those that liked the very good predecessor, The Phantom Hourglass, will find this direct sequel even more streamlined and fun. We count about a hundred years since the happenings in the previous DS version and Hyrule is of course again in danger. A certain Malladus, some asshole that’s been in prison in the Tower of Spirits for centuries, has had enough and wants to be his evil self again in the world of Zelda and Link. Therefore he has to escape the grip of the so-called Spirit Tracks. These aren’t just magical lines that keep him tight but also train tracks with which inhabitants of the land can travel all over.
That driving with the train if by the way fantastic and I personally found it hundred times more fun than endlessly going hence and forth with the boat from the previous game. That you need to stick with the predetermined directions only helps to make things more interesting and allows you to better focus on the shooting with your cannon in the meantime. On top of that it also requires some tactical planning to find the right route and plenty of side-missions can be done with your train like for instance taking on passengers or cattle. Only too bad that you sometimes need to redo parts of the railtracks when you crash against something. And finally, the honking of the horn with your stylus is something you never grow tired of!
Our two main characters feel the problems arriving and set out for adventure but very quickly things go wrong and Zelda will miss her body and lend it to that damned Malladus. Luckily her sould remains alive and that way she can help Link to look for the bad guy and get her body back. That Zelda helps is a welcome change and makes the entire story very enjoyable. On top of that also the gameplay is influenced as Zelda’s spirit form – and also the player – can take over other spirits and control them. An endless stream of creative puzzles and immersive boss fights become possible due to that. Those spirits can be sent to push buttons while you do something else with Link, and you’ll often have to change between various characters to take down the stronger bosses.
Those that thought the Zelda formula could only recycle puzzles and gadgets from before were completely wrong. Typical is that plenty of items from previous games pass by, but then to be used in a new way in the typically innovative and still amazing dungeons. Think of the boomerang or bow and arrow. New are amongst others a whip which allows you to swing over ditches and pits, and a magical flute that uses the DS’s microphone and allows to whistle all kinds of magical tunes.
In short, the gameplay doesn’t change but the devs outdo themselves again with original playing fields, puzzles that make your brain work eventhough they’re not too hard and put a smile on your face when you solve them, and a collection of weapons and possibilities that show an almost nowhere equalled creativity. That the controls still feel perfect and there are tons of extra missions and areas to be unlocked only adds to the feeling that you’re experiencing a real adventure and not just a game.
Finally we also want to say something about the beautiful presentation. As expected the soundtrack, even on the limited hardware of the DS, can be called immersive. Also the graphics impress, but more due to their original design, cute characters and the surroundings in which you can immediately dream away. Also the train is a school example of how you can make a beautiful and charming game with only a few polygons.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks doesn’t change the formula of the Zelda games, and that’s a good thing. What it does do is put an adventure on your plate as only few other games can, offer tons of small and large innovations like the magic flute and the fact that Zelda this time is your travel companion, and create a world in which you’ll love to roam around with in your train. That the dungeons, puzzles and end bosses are of very high level and make very good use of the fact that you now can and have to control multiple characters is an additional reason to get this game in your collection.