Geez, ever since The Wind Waker, the Legend of Zelda series has had its shares of controversy. I mean, do you remember how upset the fans were when the B.A, scowling Link of the Nintendo consoles past was replaced with the cell-shaded, doll looking runt who made most of the characters on the cast of Hamtaro seem tough and menacing? Well, I do. But I also remember having a blast on Chibi Link's adventure, as well.
People also made a slightly more quiet fuss about the stylus controls featured in The Phantom Hourglass (released two years earlier, and prequel to this particular game). I never got around to playing that one, so I'm basically walking into this new style of game play blind.
Well, like it or not, the game stars Super Crayon Shin-Chan Link, and (again) like it or not, only uses the stylus as the source of control. I'm not going to lie, I did in fact find the stylus-only controls to be a little cumbersome and hectic at first, but by the time I was rockin' and a-rollin' out of the Royal Castle near the beginning of the game, I had the controls down pat.
Speaking of rolling, the world map sequences are simple enough, just draw your route on the map and the train will follow. On the downside though, these sequences are unskippable during the opening chapters of the game, and you may find yourself getting bored at the length on which these sequences transpire. You just need to keep alert for animal crossings (pun intended) and rotating tracks (in case you need to make a quick change in direction).
Gradually, the train sequences become a little more challanging, throwing little obstacles between you and your next destination, whether they be Evil Kamikaze Thomas The Tank Engines(which if they run into you, results in an instant K.O) or Demonic Head Chucking Frosty the Snowmen, either way, it's nothing a little cannon fire can't handle.
But sadly, Link's train doesn't part useful words of wisdom to our hero in this game, so his source of information comes from the spirit of the recently departed Princess Zelda, who disappears and reappears like the Great Gazoo in order to keep our little elven-clad hero focused on the main objectives.
And boy, can she be annoying. I mean, she makes Navi's infamous "Hey-Look-Listen!" business seem tame in comparison! Ok, not really, but still, Zelda needs to take lessons from her silent green companion on the art of discretion.
But what Zelda lacks in subtlety, she makes up for in...er, possession? Whatever, she has the ability to possess these large lumbering knights that are required to solve puzzles in the dungeon levels! I mean it, while the train parts are a little drab and uninteresting, the dungeons are where the real fun lies.
The puzzles are interesting, but for the most part not all that challenging. If you played any other Zelda game before, you may know what I mean. Am I not being specific enough? Well, they usually revolve around the particular weapons you've collected in the actual dungeon. For example, the level in which you've acquired the boomerang, will usually include the boomerang in the solution to that particular riddle. This in turn means the same for the boss battles.
Oh, and I'd almost forgotten Zelda's role in all this. As I mentioned before, she has the ability to inhabit the
Phantoms (the large lumbering knights), so that means Link no longer completes missions solo. The player can control the Zelda-inhabited Phantoms per se', but mostly it's just directing her in the right direction. You draw a path for which she can follow, and she follows it. Simple as that.
In other news, Link's taking up pan flute lessons.
By the end of the game though, I found Spirit Tracks to be an excellent game, and a impressive addition to the series. And all that jazz...
Erhm, by the way, did it ring any bells seeing a large shrill-voiced behemoth suit of armor follow a short blonde pip squeak around? No? I guess it's nothing...