The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is the second Zelda title to have come on the Nintendo DS. This game is compatible with all version of the Nintendo DS, but does not have any extra features when played with a Nintendo DSi. A train is the main method of transport in this game, replacing the steamboat of Phantom Hourglass. According to Nintendo of America representative Kit Ellis, this game takes place about a century after Phantom Hourglass.
This is a tale from long ago. It’s the tale of the first settlers of this land.
Chancellor Cole’s Plan
Following the events of Phantom Hourglass, Link, Tetra, and the other pirates have come across a new land that is presided over by the Spirits of Good; they had been the ones to seal the land’s tyrant Malladus, into the earth after the concourse of the Spirit War with the railroad tracks calls Spirit Tracks that are all across the vibrant landscape. A hundred years later, in Hyrule Castle, Princess Zelda is seen handing Link a diploma and honoring him as an official Royal Engineer. At the same time of handing the diploma, Link is also slipped a personal message by Zelda explaining that she has been suspicioud of Chancellor Cole, her advisor.
After learning this, Link sneaks Zelda out of the castle to meet with Alfonzo, his master who trained him to become a Royal Engineer. He helps Link and Zelda escape the castle and get on a train when the tracks suddenly disappear, causing the train to crash. Chancellor Cole and his assistant Byrne then confront the three: taking down Alfonzo, Link, and even Zelda, giving the Demon Train enough time to disrupt the natural order and structure of the generation point of the Spirit Tracks, the Tower of Spirits. Chancellor Cole takes away Zelda’s body, yet her spirit appears after Link reawakens in Hyrule Castle, where only Link can see her. When Link meets Zelda as a spirit for the first time, she gives him the Spirit Flute, a magical flute with strange powers. She then asks Link to take her to the Tower of Spirits to find out why the tracks disappeared, until she realizes now that the tracks are gone, the only way to reach the tower now is via an old tunnel in the back of the castle.
The Spirit Tracks
When Link and Zelda reach the Tower of Spirits, they meet a strange old woman named Anjean, who calls herself a Lokomo. She tells Link and Zelda about Malladus and why the tracks disappeared, then explains the only way to restore the Spirit Tracks is to obtain Rail Maps from the Tower, which will reveal Spirit Tracks to four of the five temples across the land, all of which require a restored power base to provide adequate protection and added strength to the tracks in their own realms. It is up in the tower that Zelda realizes she can possess Phantoms, which are the guardians of the tower. Lastly, Anjean advises Link that if he goes to Gage, a fellow Lokomo, and plays the Spirit Flute, Link and the Lokomo can restore power to the rail map and reveal the path to the temples. Anjean then grants Link access to the Spirit Train, the sacred locomotive docked at the bottom level of the Tower.
The temples visited are the Forest Temple, the Snow Temple, the Ocean Temple, and the Fire Temple; all of these are named after the respective realms they reside in. Link and Zelda work their way through all of these temples to restore the tracks; once the Spirit Tracks are restored, the pair needs to lock Malladus back under the Alter of the Demon King at the top of the Spirit Tower. They climb the tower to meet, fight, and defeat Byrne again. He escapes back to Cole at the top of the alter, however, so Link and Zelda follow him. Just as they reach the top of the tower, Malladus is revived, and Zelda cannot return to her body as Malladus is occupying it. Byrne asks Malladus for powers that he had always dreamed of; instead of being gifted power from Malladus, he knocks Byrne unconscious with his magic, due to Byrne having once served the Spirits of Good. Cole and Malladus quickly escape on the Demon Train and go back to the Dark Realm from where it originated.
The Bow and Compass of Light
Link takes Byrne to his train, and Angean tells Link and the Zelda about the final possible option to destroy Malladus. Link must go to the fifth temple, the Sand Temple, and obtain the Bow of Light, a weapon used by the Spirits in the Spirit War. The Bow of Light has the power to separate a soul from its body. Anjean gives Link a Force Gem that reveals a previously unknown set of tracks between the Fire and Ocean Realms.
Link obtains the Bow of Light from the Sand Temple only to find that Anjean can’t find a way into the Dark Realm. Byrne then tells them about a Compass of Light that is below the Altar of the Demon King. That compass is able to reveal all of the places in the world that are linked to the Dark Realm. Link and Zelda proceed to the Tower of Spirits for the final time to obtain the compass. Anjean then gives Link the Lokomo Sword, another weapon used by the Spirits, but Anjean thinks it was meant for Link. The sword is said to be full of energy. After obtaining the compass, Link reveals a place tied to the Dark Realm that was west of Link’s home village; he travels on the Spirit Train to that place to find a portal leading to the Dark Realm.
Link and Zelda find the Demon Train in the Dark Realm, and a battle across a track road begins. Link fights using the train by himself, eventually forcing the Demon Train to halt and allowing him to climb aboard. Anjean gives Zelda a Phantom armor which she possesses to aid Link in the next portion of the battle. They both climb on top of the train to find Cole and Malladus. Cole then starts up the train and begins to attack them, while Malladus is on the end of the train firing at them as well. Zelda and Link eventually reach the front of the train and Zelda grabs Malladus, giving Link the chance to hit him with the Bow of Light. Malladus is being split from Zelda’ body until the Demon Train crashes, leaving everyone in the land of Hyrule again.
With Malladus’s spirit out of Zelda’s body, she has a chance to retrieve it. She is unable to at first, having been separated for so long. Malladus is about to retake Zelda’s body until Byrne shows up and stops him, telling her that she must focus her power to regain her body. The princess finally regains her body, but at the cost of Byrne’s life; Malladus used his magic to kill him for his interference. Malladus then decides he must stop Link and Zelda, taking Cole’s body and transforming into a giant beast.
Link and Zelda team up to defeat Malladus, with Link dealing the final blow in his forehead with the Lokomo Sword. Malladus disintegrates into light, returning the world back to normal. Anjean uses her magic to restore Byrne to life at a later time, several years later. She then explains what she wanted Link and Zelda to do. Lokomos were placed on the earth to watch both the Spirit Tracks and mankind, but Anjean believes that the Lokomos are no longer needed; she and the other Lokomos return to the heavens with Byrne. She departs with entrusting the land to Zelda, and tells Link he must help her watch over it.
Right before Link and Zelda hop on the Demon Train, the latter asks the young hero about his future. Depending on the option chosen, there will be a bit of variance on the post-credits scene. In all three possible scenarios, this scene begins with Zelda writing a book, with the Teacher accompanying her. If Link tells her that he’ll continue being a train engineer, the final scene shows the princess hearing the Spirit Train whistling; she approaches the window and greets Link as he navigates through the Forest Realm. If the option to remain a swordsman is shown instead, the final scene shows Zelda approaching the window to see Link practicing, although is accidentally injured in the process. Finally, if Link tells her that he’s still unsure regarding either option or skips the scene, the scene shows Zelda simply continuing her work. Regardless, when the epilogue concludes, the game screen aims at the sky to show the story’s resolution.
This installment is notable for its changes from Phantom Hourglass in terms of mechanics of various things. For example, rolling requires a simple double-tap on the touch screen, as opposed to making an exaggerated circle with the stylus.
The signature central dungeon known as the Tower of Spirits doesn’t have a curse that weakens Link and finishes him off if a timer runs out, differing from the Temple of the Ocean King in Phantom Hourglass. Due to this change, the timer has been omitted altogether, and the safe zones have become exclusively for hiding from enemies. Also, the floors of the tower need only be explored once, as there is a central staircase that allows access to newer areas. Princess Zelda serves as Celia’s replacement, filling the role of Link’s partner, and serves a more helpful purpose in her ability to possess Phantoms that inhabit the tower.
Obtainment of Train Cars is easier than the search of Ship Parts in Phantom Hourglass, which was entirely randomized. In this game, Train Cars can be purchased with treasures, which are still randomized but are much more widely available, with different forms and objects; thanks to this, search for the golden parts can be made more directly. Another aspect that simplifies the Train Cars is that the Spirit Train itself will have up to four cars only, as opposed to the S.S. Linebeck’s eight.
With the main form of transport being a train, there are some limitations in place; there is only a certain amount of openness to the exploration, with your paths being predefined, and only being able to branch off at certain points. Though, the train is able to carry passengers and eventually can transport and deliver heavy items as well. New tracks become available to ease the travel and give more freedom, as you restore Force Gems and perform Lokomo Duets. Link must stay aware of enemies that try to destroy the train and even take passengers with them. Evil machines like the Dark and Armored Trains will patrol the tracks as well, and they have the ability to immediately destroy the Spirit Train and kill Link instantly.
Spirit Tracks makes use of cel-shading graphics, which is a consistent trait with its predecessors. The game has 3D style graphics but uses a 2D-stle perspective while Link is on foot in a town, temple, sanctuary, or any other regular destination. 3D is resumed during train travels, boss battles, some minigames, and while Link plays the Spirit Flute.
The game takes place on a new incarnation of Hyrule, which is nicknamed New Hyrule, being in the wake of the events of the Great Flood. There are five Realms within New Hyrule: The Forest Realm in the southwest, the Snow Realm in the northwest, the Ocean Realm in the southeast, the Fire Realm in the northeast, and the Sand Realm to the east. The Tower of Spirits lies at the center of the land, and serves as the core of the Spirit Tracks’ power. The dimensions of New Hyrule are at least twice as big as that of the World of the Ocean King, but still smaller than those of the Great Sea.
There was a limited edition bundle of this game that was released only in Europe. It had a copy of the game and two figurines, one of Link and one of a Phantom, all inside of a tin case.
The game is considered a commercial success, selling 2.61 million copies worldwide, despite not selling as well as its predecessor, Phantom Hourglass. Spirit Tracks has received generally favorable reviews, which have mostly commented on how it improved upon its predecessor. IGN in particular praised the design of the Spirit Tower, the participation of Princess Zelda, and the diversity of sidequests, but argued that the game didn’t really provide a challenge.