Review Price £24.93
The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass - The Phantom Hourglass
However, what really makes The Phantom Hourglass work is that it hasn't made the mistake of, say, Super Mario 64 DS and tried to make an existing analogue control system function using touch-screen and buttons - it's been built from the ground up to use touch-screen controls. Unlike many DS games the action takes place on the lower DS screen, with the upper screen dominated by a real-time map. Touch and hold a point on the screen and Link runs towards it, jumping over obstacles if need be on the way. Tap an enemy and he attacks it with his sword; drag the stylus across your foe and Link deals out a vicious slash. Draw a ring around Link and he does his classic spin-attack. The longer the game goes on, the more sophisticated the controls get. The boomerang, for example, now follows a line you draw on the screen, while bombs can be picked up and thrown at any point within range you can tap on. It's a brilliant system, and the fact that you rarely need to touch anything except the touch-screen makes it one of the most comfortable and intuitive on the DS.
Of course, no DS game can exist without a few gimmicks, and The Phantom Hourglass has its share of blowing, singing and shouting, but this isn't one of those games where odd controls have been bolted on seemingly for the sake of it (I'm looking at you, Twilight Princess). No, it's one of those great Nintendo moments where the software and hardware make perfect sense of one another. Even the feature that seems most like a gimmick - the ability to annotate your map - turns out to be genuinely useful.
But even with some of the best visuals on the DS and arguably the finest control system, The Phantom Hourglass would still fall flat if it didn't 'feel' like a proper Legend of Zelda. This has always been hard to capture in words. How can games as different in style and presentation as Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker and The Twilight Princess still have a consistent feel? Why do we love a series of games where so many of the elements and a good portion of the gameplay repeat from one to the next? I guess the answer is that Legend of Zelda always manages to deliver a broadly similar experience, but with enough differences to keep it feeling fresh. It's an experience of high adventure, with a chunk of epic fantasy, a touch of fairy-tale and a smidgeon of silliness. We don't just get a game; we get a world to explore and a story that will makes us want to.
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