The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
|The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass|
North American box art
|Developer(s)||Nintendo EAD Group No. 3|
|Series||The Legend of Zelda|
|Release date(s)||JP June 23, 2007
EU October 19, 2007
|Distribution||Nintendo DS game card|
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (ゼルダの伝説 夢幻の砂時計 Zeruda no Densetsu: Mugen no Sunadokei?) is the fourteenth game in Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda series. It was released after The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the Wii and before The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for the Nintendo DS. Phantom Hourglass was developed by Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo DS. Phantom Hourglass was released in Japan in June 2007, in North America, Australia, and Europe in October 2007 and in Korea in April 2008.
The game features 3D cel-shaded graphics with an overhead camera perspective, uses Nintendo DS features for game controls including the touchscreen and microphone, and takes advantage of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection for online play, allowing people to play against other players. The game's story follows that of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and focuses on Link as he journeys to save his friend Tetra from the story's antagonist, Bellum, with the help of Captain Linebeck and his ship, the S.S. Linebeck.
Critics were generally positive towards Phantom Hourglass. Its control scheme was praised, while criticism focused on its online features, which were considered too simple. The game received several video game industry awards, including the Nintendo DS Game of the Year award from IGN, GameSpy and GameSpot. Phantom Hourglass was the best-selling game in its first month of June 2007 in Japan, with 302,887 copies. In the United States, the game was the fifth best-selling game when it debuted in October 2007, with 262,800 copies. 4.13 million copies of Phantom Hourglass were sold worldwide by March 2008.
Phantom Hourglass is an action-adventure game with gameplay similar to other games in The Legend of Zelda series. The player controls Link, the protagonist, and explores the world to find new items, information, and allies to help him save his friend Tetra and defeat the antagonist Bellum. The game is divided into two gameplay types: sailing between islands, and exploring the islands and their dungeons on foot. While on land, Link discovers and utilizes many items, including the classic boomerang, bow, and bombs. When sailing, the game shows a map of the area on the Nintendo DS's top screen, and a 3D top-down view of Link and his nearby surroundings on the lower touchscreen. The player can bring down the map from the top screen to the lower screen to make notes. During certain events, including most boss battles, a 3D view is shown on both screens, allowing the player to have a wider view of their surroundings. The player controls Link with the stylus, moves him by pointing to the sides of the screen, and uses the stylus to interact with objects and people or attack foes by pointing at them. To travel between islands on the Great Sea, the player controls a paddle steamer called the S.S. Linebeck. The player can plot a course by drawing on a sea chart, redraw the course to make any necessary alterations, shoot at enemies that attack the ship using a cannon, and jump to avoid obstacles.
The game includes a one-on-one multiplayer battle mode. In an arena, one player controls Link, while the other player, on defense, controls three Phantom Guardians. Players of both sides are aided by power-up items that appear on the playing field. Link's goal is to grab a Force Gem and carry it to his base. The other player, controlling the three Phantom Guardians, must find and catch Link before he returns any Force Gems. When Link is caught, or if the round is over, players switch sides. Each multiplayer game consists of three rounds, and in each round, each player takes a turn at both sides. The maximum length of a multiplayer game is 12 minutes, assuming Link does not get caught. The game supports multiplayer both locally and online through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, as well as Download Play. The game is the third The Legend of Zelda game to include multiplayer, following Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures.
Picking up immediately after The Wind Waker, in which Link defeats Ganon who turns to stone and remains at the bottom of a now sealed away Hyrule, Link and Tetra travel over the flooded Hyrule called the Great Sea on board Tetra's pirate ship. Along the way, the pair discover the Ghost Ship and Tetra enters it; however, immediately after entering the Ghost Ship, she screams for help. While Link attempts to follow her, he slips and falls into the ocean. Washed ashore on an island, Link is awakened by Ciela, a fairy. Exploring the island, Link finds the Phantom Hourglass, filled with the Sands of Hours, and meets an old man named Oshus, who wants to help Link find the Ghost Ship and reunite with Tetra. To aid him in his quest, Link enlists the help of Captain Linebeck and his ship, the S.S. Linebeck, which Link, Ciela, and Linebeck use to visit islands across the Great Sea. While Linebeck was initially reluctant to team up with the two, Ciela makes mention of a huge treasure, prompting him to agree to help them.
After scouring the Great Sea, Link learns that he must use maps and clues hidden in the Temple of the Ocean King to find the Spirits of Courage, Wisdom, and Power, which in turn will help him locate the Ghost Ship. With the help of the Phantom Hourglass, Link finds the Spirits of Wisdom and Power. When Link asks Oshus where to find the Spirit of Courage, Oshus explains that it is in fact Ciela, after which she transforms into her true form. Now in possession of the three Spirits, Link, along with Ciela and Oshus, locate the Ghost Ship and find Tetra on board, who has been turned to stone. While Link determines how to save Tetra, Oshus reveals that he is the Ocean King and that he and Ciela had to change their appearances to hide from Bellum, a life-eating monster that Link must destroy to save Tetra. Oshus also mentions that Bellum was the one who created the Ghost Ship and turned Tetra into a statue, and that he has taken residence deep in the Temple of the Ocean King. Linebeck quickly readies to abandon their quest; outraged at the lack of treasure to be found. However, his loyalties instantly return when Oshus promises the captain one wish in return for his continued aid.
To defeat Bellum, Link learns that he must forge the Phantom Sword from three unique, "pure" metals located on nearby islands. After collecting and using the metals to forge the Phantom Sword, Link descends to the bottom level of the Temple of the Ocean King to face Bellum. After intense fighting, Link appears to defeat Bellum, and Tetra is freed from stone. After Link and Tetra hurry back to the S.S. Linebeck to find Oshus, Bellum emerges and sinks the ship, capturing Tetra and knocking Link unconscious in the process. Linebeck finally shows some devotion when he fights off Bellum while Link wakes up. Then, Linebeck gets possessed by Bellum, forcing Link to fight him, eventually defeating Bellum for good, saving Tetra and Linebeck, and releasing the sand from the Phantom Hourglass back into the sea. Oshus, now in his true form as a white whale, readies to depart with the three spirits, while Linebeck, surprising everyone, wishes not for treasure but for his ship back, and Tetra and Link teleport back onto Tetra's pirate ship, where its crew tells them that only ten minutes had passed since the pair left the ship, insisting that their journey was a dream. However, Link still possesses the now-empty Phantom Hourglass, and sees Linebeck's ship on the horizon, knowing that his adventure was real.
Development started in May 2004, at which point the game still had gameplay similar to The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. At a press conference in Japan for the Nintendo DS on October 6, 2004, Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo said, "We're thinking of bringing Zelda: Four Swords to the DS." In an interview at E3 2005, Nintendo's Eiji Aonuma confirmed that they were working on a game for the Nintendo DS. In 2006, Nintendo presented the keynote address at the annual Game Developers Conference, where they also revealed Phantom Hourglass for the first time and presented a demo. At the conference, Nintendo announced that the game would be released in late 2006. For the holiday season, Nintendo launched two special edition Nintendo DS bundles, each in a different color, on November 23, 2007. One of the bundles, the Gold edition, was emblazoned with The Legend of Zelda's signature Triforce logo and sold alongside Phantom Hourglass.
The same development team that worked on The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures also worked on what would become Phantom Hourglass. In the game's first prototype, the action took place in the upper screen while the touchscreen was a flat map that allowed Link to be controlled. However, the developers believed that this interface caused the player to be too disconnected from the game's action, thereby prompting them to switch the two screens. They felt that this interface would appeal to Japanese players, who they said prefer simple interfaces. The developers added a battle mode that was played over Wi-Fi to appeal to American players.
The game takes advantage of the Nintendo DS's stylus in several different ways. The player can draw shapes to open certain doors and plot out the path of ships on the ocean, among other tasks. The device's touchscreen can also be used to direct Link's boomerang. Phantom Hourglass features cel-shaded graphics, similar to that of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, with some influence from The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. Link and Zelda's appearances in Phantom Hourglass closely resemble those from The Wind Waker.
At E3 2007, Aonuma said that Phantom Hourglass "opened up the [Zelda] series and [gave] a fresh, new control scheme to the aging Zelda formula". He also said that, despite the disappointing sales of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker affecting him personally, he still wished to continue the game's style in another Zelda iteration, leading to the inspiration for Phantom Hourglass. Aonuma believed that the game's simple controls, with the help of the Nintendo DS's touchscreen, helped make Phantom Hourglass the first Zelda game to attract casual gamers.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass was released in Japan on June 23, 2007, in North America on October 1, 2007, in Australia on October 11, 2007, in Europe on October 19, 2007, and in Korea on April 3, 2008. The game was considered to receive "universal acclaim", receiving aggregated scores of 90/100 from Metacritic and 88.82% from GameRankings. Praise focused on the game's use of unique Nintendo DS features, while criticism targeted its more casual gameplay compared to previous games in The Legend of Zelda series. Phantom Hourglass was the best-selling game in its debut month of June 2007 in Japan, selling 302,887 copies. In the United States, Phantom Hourglass was the fifth best-selling game in its debut month of October 2007, selling 262,800 copies. As of March 2008, 4.13 million copies of the game have been sold worldwide, with 910,000 of those copies in Japan.
Computer and Video Games called Phantom Hourglass one of the few "masterpieces" on the Nintendo DS, which made it "worth every penny". Believing that Phantom Hourglass improves on everything that was great about its predecessor, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, GamePro predicted that the sequel would be another successful game in the franchise. Although feeling that the game does not live up to the standards set in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Game Informer still felt that the adventure is worthy of The Legend of Zelda series, and noted that it "has enough great stuff going for it" for them to consider it one of the year's best video game adventures. GameZone enjoyed the "spectacular blend of touch-screen combat, brilliant puzzles, and Wind Waker beauty" in Phantom Hourglass, calling it a "can't-miss adventure" and one of Nintendo's and the year's best games. Hyper's Jonti Davies commended Phantom Hourglass for its "perfect controls and supreme world and dungeon designs". However, he criticized the game for only giving around 30 hours of gameplay.
Game Revolution appreciated the game's graphics, and noted that it uses the Nintendo DS's features better than any other game for the console. Praising its "innovative" and "fun" control scheme, GameSpot felt that Phantom Hourglass "gives new life to several of the series' age-old concepts". X-Play wrote that Phantom Hourglass definitely felt like a The Legend of Zelda game, calling it another successful video game for the franchise and a "must-have" for anyone that owns a Nintendo DS. The Onion's entertainment newspaper The A.V. Club remarked that Phantom Hourglass exploits the Nintendo DS's touchscreen to the fullest extent in an "imaginative and genuinely fun way". In a perfect 5-star review, Empire stated that "Phantom Hourglass is one of Nintendo's greatest achievements and a contender for the best handheld adventure in console history."
Issues that were mentioned in reviews regarding the game included its more casual gameplay compared to previous The Legend of Zelda games, which was not well received by some. GameSpy felt that the game was both easy and approachable enough for casual gamers to play, but sufficiently rewarding and challenging to satisfy hardcore fans of The Legend of Zelda series. IGN believed the game to be "more casual than we'd like", but still found it captivating, entertaining, and "a true adventure worthy of the Zelda name", calling it "different, but it's still the real deal". GameTrailers stated that the short dungeon levels and hand-holding exploration are "outright disappointing", but when comparing Phantom Hourglass to other Nintendo DS games, they conceded that it was still an impressive game, but just a good game when compared to The Legend of Zelda standards. 1UP.com pointed out that the biggest problem with Phantom Hourglass is that it falls back on using innovations from previous The Legend of Zelda games, rather than including new and original ideas: "Innovation arrives in tiny steps, touch screen controls be damned."
Finding it difficult for hardcore gamers to fully enjoy Phantom Hourglass, Nintendo World Report claimed that the game's lack of alternative control schemes was a telling sign that Nintendo did not have The Legend of Zelda fans in mind when creating the game. They still described the game as "decent", but felt that "it’s also a game apart from the rest of the series. It just feels different, and I think it demonstrates that Nintendo is reluctant to sail into the murky waters beyond Wind Waker." The American newspaper The New York Times enjoyed Phantom Hourglass for the most part, but complained about the timer in the Temple of the Ocean King as unnecessary and gimmicky, remarking that the game's dungeons are only "fun to go through once, but none of them are fun enough to go through 20 times". They noted that the time spent traveling through dungeons "removed all thoughts of it being perfect".
Several websites named Phantom Hourglass the 2007 DS Game of the Year, including IGN and GameSpy. It was also mentioned in Best of the Year lists from Wired, Time, and Edge. The game received Editor's Choice awards from GameSpot and IGN. It was also named Best Adventure Game by 1UP.com. The game was designated the Best Handheld Game at the 2008 Golden Joystick awards, the 2007 Game Developers Choice Awards, the 2007 GamePro Editors' Choice awards, the 2007 Spike Video Game Awards, and the 2008 Interactive Achievement Awards. At E3 2006, Phantom Hourglass was designated as the Best Nintendo DS Game by GameSpot and the Best Handheld Game at the Game Critics Awards. The game placed 38th in Official Nintendo Magazine's 100 Greatest Nintendo Games of All-Time.
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