The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is the first Zelda game for the Nintendo DS, and is a direct sequel to the Wind Waker. The development team for Phantom Hourglass has many returning developers from Four Swords Adventures, many of whom worked on A Link to the Past as well.
Search for the Ghost Ship
Set some time after The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass opens with Tetra and her pirate crew along with Link chasing down a ghost ship that was supposedly responsible for having taken sailors and residents of the local islands. The crew finds the ship, but when Tetra goes aboard to explore, she disappears. Link attempts to follow her but ends up adrift in the ocean.
Link recovers later on with the help of the fairy Ciela, who has amnesia in regards to her past, and an old man named Oshus, who proceed to help Link in his quest to find Tetra. To that end, they enlist the help of the reluctant Captain Linebeck and his ship after saving him from the Temple of the Ocean King; Linebeck only offers to help in the hopes of finding treasure on the way. Link discovers that to find the ghost ship’s location, they must find the Spirits of Courage, Wisdom, and Power, using maps and clues hidden in the Temple of the Ocean King. However, to overcome the evil within the Temple, Link must make use of the Sands of Hours within the Phantom Hourglass and what sand is possessed by other creatures around the island to prevent his life force from being drained.
With the aid of the Hourglass, Link is able to locate and ally with the Spirits of Wisdom and Power easily, but the Spirit of Courage he finds looks exactly like Ciela. Oshus explains that Ciela is indeed the Spirit of Courage, and that her memory was lost when Bellum attacked her. He also reveals that he himself is the Ocean King. Oshus further explains that he and Ciela had to take their present forms to hide from the life-eating monster Bellum, who is the reason for the ghost ship and other evil in the area, and that he has taken residence at the very depth of the Temple. Link succeeds in his attempts to rescue Tetra, but finds that she is a statue now, an effect of Bellum’s dark power. Link is ready to continue but Linebeck needs to be persuaded to continue to assist, having come up empty handed so far. Oshus then agrees to grant him one wish after the conclusion of Link’s quest.
The Weapon to Banish Bellum
Link learns that the only way to defeat Bellum is to forge the Phantom Sword from three unique, pure metals around the local islands. After collecting the materials and forging the Phantom Sword, Link descends to the bottom level of the Temple, and initially appears to have defeated Bellum. Tetra is freed from her statue and revived, but before the group is able to celebrate their victory, Bellum reemerges from the ocean depths and takes Tetra again. In the following battle of the S.S. Linebeck and the ghost ship, Linebeck’s ship is lost, as well as Oshus, and Link and Tetra are captured. Linebeck picks up the Phantom Sword, albeit reluctantly, and is able to free Link and Tetra at the cost of his own freedom, managing to return the sword to Link before being possessed by Bellum and transformed into a Phantom-like knight. Link is ultimately able to vanquish Bellum without harming Linebeck.
As the adventure closes, the sand from the Phantom Hourglass is released into the sea. Oshus, now in his form of a gray, blue, and white whale, readies to depart with the Spirits. Meanwhile, Linebeck surprises everyone by simply wishing for his ship back, as opposed to any treasure. After everyone said their goodbyes, Link and Tetra find themselves back on the pirate ship, where it seems only ten minutes have passed for everyone else, and the crew insists it was all a dream. However, Link still possesses the now-empty Hourglass, and sees Linebeck’s ship on the horizon, telling him otherwise.
This game is similarly structured to other Zelda games, holding the same basic functions as other titles. It shares the same basic divide as The Wind Waker, dividing the exploration into sailing on the ocean, and exploring the islands and their dungeons on foot. To travel between islands, the player can plot a course on the Sea Chart, redrawing it to make alterations as needed. While in voyage, the player can shoot at enemies attacking the ship and jump to avoid any obstacles that may appear. Treasures can also be salvaged from the ocean floor, Link can go fishing, or quickly warp to remote points once certain symbols are learned.
While on land, the game shows a map of the area on the top screen, and a 3D top-down view of Link and his nearby surroundings on the lower screen. At nearly any time, the player can bring down the map to the lower screen to draw on it, making notes such as treasure locations, or to control certain aspects of the world. The player controls Link with the stylus, moving him around by the pointing to the sides of the screen, and interacting with objects or people or foes by pointing at them; other motions with the stylus can be used for additional abilities. Tools that make frequent appearances in the Zelda series, like the Boomerang, Grappling Hook, and Shovel are acquired throughout the game, and are used to open new passages, and all of these are used via the stylus on the screen. The game also uses the microphone for things like blowing out fires or defeating certain monsters, and other aspects of the DS system are used as well; a good example of this is when the player must close the system to create an imprint on a map.
The game has numerous stealth elements throughout. In certain dungeons, near invincible enemies called Phantoms roam the floor, with their location and direction visible to Link on the map, and they will chase Link down if he is spotted or makes a loud noise. There are special areas on these floors where Link can hide in undetected, even if he was spotted only moments before. These areas play a part in the main dungeon, the Temple of the Ocean King. This temple is filled with a miasma that saps Link’s life force, unless Link stays in these special areas or time in the Phantom Hourglass. The amount of time remaining in the Hourglass can be restored by returning to the surface; additional time can be gained by defeating the primary bosses in the game, as well as an occasional prize in the treasure hunting game. The hourglass can get a maximum time of twenty-five minutes.
The game takes in the World of the Ocean King, a land similar to the Great Sea from The Wind Waker. Although the territory is more compact, the islands are bigger in size and have a higher population, as well as more areas to be explored with a more interactive landscape.
The land is divided into four quadrants: The most inhabited by far is the southwestern quadrant, where different activities such as shopping, fishing, and ship maintenance and performed. In the northwestern quadrant, only two islands are barely inhabited, and the westernmost waters are initially surrounded by an unnatural mist. The southeastern quadrant is the home of two major tribes, the Gorons and the Anouki, as well as certain islands that serve as recreational places. Finally, the northeastern quadrant is by far the most abandoned, being the former home of the Cobble Kingdom and now infested with monsters.
A special limited edition bundle was released both in North America and Europe, each one including a copy of the game and a Zelda-themed console. The North American bundle had a golden console with a Triforce, while the European bundle featured a silver console with the game logo and artwork of Link and Ciela. The European edition was limited to 1000 copies.
The game received critical acclaim from reviewers, who deemed it a worthy sequel to The Wind Waker. The game was praised for its innovative nature and ease of mastery, as well as the graphics and the more lenient sailing mechanic. The game was criticized heavily for the repetition of the Temple of the Ocean King, due to the fact that it must be visited several times and that the same puzzles must be solved frequently.
The heavily touchpad focused controls received mixed reviews, some citing it as natural and becoming second nature, others stating it wouldn’t be an experience that a seasoned Zelda fan was hoping for. The multiplayer mode giving the game some degree of replay value was agreed upon as a whole.
Phantom Hourglass was a commercial success, selling 4.13 million copies worldwide. GameSpy awarded Phantom Hourglass the Game of the Year award, while Nintendo Power ranked it in seventh place in their list of best Zelda games, praising the innovation and control scheme.
1. Phantom Hourglass is the first game in the Zelda series that does not have any new items; all equipment was featured in previous installments in the series.
2. Only one item (other than the sword) can be used at a time, similar to the older games in the series.
3. Phantom Hourglass is the first 3D Zelda game not to include a playable instrument.
4. Like The Legend of Zelda, Phantom Hourglass has a maximum of only sixteen heart containers.