What’s less forgiveable is that there are times when the game doesn’t quite signpost what you need to do or a skill you need to have before you make your way halfway across a quite extensive game map to the next objective. In one case, I failed to pick up a visual cue, and as a result was left without a song I needed to proceed, resulting in a good hour of fruitless wandering around until I finally resorted to an FAQ for assistance. In hindsight,
I was probably being a bit thick, but in the past the series has always been very good at drip-feeding you everything you need without openly shoving it in your face. Spirit Tracks still manages this pretty well, but when it does fail it can be annoying. That said, we’re not talking serious levels of annoyance, and the game as a whole is so damn wonderful that you’ve forgotten about it by the time you’re halfway through the next dungeon.
The close of this year has been great for handheld gaming. Much as I’ve enjoyed the console big hitters like Uncharted 2, Forza 3 and Assassin’s Creed 2, it’s been great to dust off the DS and wipe the cobwebs from the PSP and enjoy games as excellent as LittleBigPlanet, Professor Layton and Pandora’s Box and Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier.
These aren’t games that have been cut-down into bite-sized portions for mobile consumption (I’m looking at you, Gran Turismo PSP), but big, meaty games that you can lay down on the sofa and lose yourself in for hours. Sure, you’re aware from time to time of the limitations of the hardware, but not in any way that seriously affects your experience of the game.
The same goes for Spirit Tracks and, really, it’s the best of the whole bunch. If you’re one of those people who finds the Zelda series too staid or too childish, then Spirit Tracks won’t change your mind, but are you absolutely sure it’s not you who’s missing out? Personally, I wouldn’t be without it.
If The Phantom Hourglass was nearly classic Zelda in the palm of your hand, then Spirit Tracks is the real deal. An unmissable handheld epic.