The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass Review
Phantom Hourglass doesn't stop with just the touch screen; it makes use of every single DS feature. You'll be blowing out candles, hollering into the mic and even closing the DS to make imprints on your maps (if you've played Trace Memory or Lost In Blue, you know what I'm referring to). When you got your DS, these are the kind of mechanics you wanted every game to have. By using all the DS features, Phantom Hourglass always feels fresh and satisfying. This game is a lot like Metroid Prime 3 on the Wii. Everyone knows what each system is capable of, but like Metroid Prime 3 did with the Wii, Phantom Hourglass is the first game to use the DS's features to their fullest extent.
As good as I've made the game sound by now, there are a few major drawbacks. The first being the control you have over your boat. Like in Wind Waker, you'll be doing a lot of sailing from island to island, but unlike Wind Waker, you don't have enough control over your boat, which serves to make the sailing nothing more than an unpleasant chore.
In the Wind Waker, you set the direction of the wind and used a sail to get around. In Phantom Hourglass, you'll draw out your ship's path on the touch screen and you'll automatically sail to the selected location. You can jump, shoot bombs or drop anchor for treasure while in control of the boat… but that's it. If you change you mind on a destination, you'll need to stop in the middle of the ocean and redraw the path. This lack of direct control can be frustrating in some sea battles. At one point, you'll be fighting a one-eyed monster with your cannon. Intuition tells you to circle him and fire, but instead, you're forced to draw a back and forth path in front of him, which is like strafing, if strafing were all about drawing dozens of half-circles and hoping for the best.
Another problem is a place called The Temple Of The Ocean King. This dungeon is located on the island you begin the game on, but when you leave for the first time, don't get misty eyed. You'll be back way more times than you think. Every time you complete a dungeon, you'll need to come back to this place and delve deeper into its underground portions to unlock the next dungeon. This couldn't be any more annoying if it tried. You'll not only visit the same place over and over (and over), but each time through, you'll have to solve all the puzzles from previous visits again to move on. While this is irritating enough on its own, the game makes it worse by giving you a time limit and invincible enemies who can drain your precious remaining time in the dungeon. That makes this temple a mix between clumsy stealth and painful repetition. By the time you're ready to visit the third dungeon, you'll already be sick of this place. I might be going out on a limb here but The Temple Of The Ocean King could be the worst thing to happen to the Zelda franchise since Majora's Mask.
The last drawback isn't really a drawback for me, but I need to mention it anyway. Phantom Hourglass is a fairly short game. It can be beaten to 100% completion in less than 20 hours, but like I said, I view this as a positive aspect, rather than a negative one. Twilight Princess wore out its welcome about ¾ of the way through its 50+ hour play time, but Phantom Hourglass's length feels just right. Again, some people won't play certain games unless they expect to be at it for months, so Phantom Hourglass will probably disappoint them. Not me… I have a lot of games to play and reviews to write. I can't be wasting my time with another bloated RPG snooze-fest (see my review for Eternal Sonata on this very website).
Even with its warts, Phantom Hourglass is one of those games that everyone should try out. Much like Gears and Halo for the 360, or Metroid Prime 3 and Twilight Princess for the Wii, Phantom Hourglass should be "the" game every DS owner has in their collection. The game nails some of the things skeptical DS owners thought they'd never see. It's in full 3D, it utilizes every one of the DS's features and through its sheer quality, it smashes the stereotype that touch screen controls aren't all that great. Phantom Hourglass steps up and does almost everything right. I think that even though it probably won't win, Phantom Hourglass needs to at least make it to the final rounds of the Game of the Year competition
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 94%.