Up to Speed: The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

By Ishaan . November 8, 2009 . 11:06am

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is probably the least anticipated Zelda game in recent memory. Upon its reveal, Twilight Princess on Gamecube was treated to wild applause and later went on to be just as popular as a Wii game. Phantom Hourglass was new and exciting at the time of its DS debut, and fans of the Wind Waker style had reason to be hyped for it. It also represented the first major change for Zelda in a while, so naturally, it was kept under constant surveillance and talked about regularly.


Spirit Tracks on the other hand, is something of an oddball in how it’s being perceived. While, like its immediate predecessor, it was revealed at the Game Developer’s Conference, there was some confusion as to just what the game was after its reveal. The mention of Link riding a train made it sound like some sort of a spin-off rather than a proper sequel to Phantom Hourglass. Ever since then, barely anyone has spoken of it and even Nintendo have refrained from releasing much information on the game. You’ve got to wonder how many people actually perceive it as the next real Zelda based on their first impression of it earlier in the year.


Luckily, Nintendo have been more forthcoming with info on the game of late. At the recent Nintendo investor Q&A, Miyamoto neatly sidestepped a question about Zelda Wii and pointed, instead, to Spirit Tracks:


"I was hoping you’d ask about the most recent Zelda for DS. On December 23rd in Japan we are going to release The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, a sequel of Phantom Hourglass. It’s really fun and challenging. On the other hand it might be a bit difficult for many new Japanese Zelda players who experienced their first adventure on Phantom Hourglass. I believe Spirit Tracks have achieved a unique style and I think you can anticipate the core value of Zelda!"


http://www.siliconera.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/zelda_phantom.jpgThat statement doesn’t really tell you much about the game at all. In fact, all we know so far is that it takes place about a 100 years (I never understand why their time jumps have to be so large) after Phantom Hourglass, that Hyrule Castle is in it, and that Link can "control a Phantom Guardian."


The catch is that this Phantom is possessed by Zelda, who is separated from her own body early in the game and travels with you in spirit form in order to reunite herself with her physical being. And all of a sudden, the game actually sounds kind of exciting. This is the first time a Link and Zelda have worked this closely together.


There’s a couple other interesting touches in the game, too; for instance, the continuity Nintendo seem to be trying to maintain in the Wind Waker universe. The Hyrule Castle palace guard outfits are all modeled around the clothes of Wind Waker’s Link, and the new Link in this game just so happens to be an engineer at the castle, who dons their uniform to blend in and sneak Zelda out, unnoticed by some untrustworthy members of her government.



The usual questions spring to mind: Is there going to be some kind of evolution of the relationship between Zelda and Link? And from the looks of the trailer, there seems to be a slightly heavier focus on narrative…?


Non-fans of the Temple of the Ocean King will be happy to know that, while there is a central dungeon again in this game, you don’t have to go through every single level all over again. It sounds like a more streamlined, refined successor to PH from what I’ve read of it so far. The only change I’m a little wary of is having to lay "spirit tracks" on the overworld to be able to navigate it. I quite liked navigating the ship in Phantom Hourglass and I’m a little worried about how much freedom you’ll have in this game.


It’s a little hard to believe I’m doing an Up to Speed column for Zelda. We usually reserve these for games that we feel deserve the spotlight or to gauge what our readers are interested in. I didn’t think a Zelda game would ever require that treatment but what with Nintendo’s handling of Spirit Tracks, it seemed like people were going to miss out on a great game. I could swear it looks (graphically) better than Phantom Hourglass, too.


So…who’s onboard?

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  • abasm

    I had next to no enthusiasm for this game until I saw the most recent trailer, and I think it’s safe to say that many others are in the same boat.

    • GamerKT

      *same train.

      • abasm

        There’s always a comment thread that *derails* into train puns. It really gets me *steamed*.

  • Code

    rar! It has Rope Snake — I’m totally in.

  • EvilAkito

    I think my lack of hype for this game is due to my disappointment in Phantom Hourglass. It just didn’t draw me in, and I still haven’t finished it. I think that at least part of the problem had to do with the touch-screen controls. Given the choice, I’d take the d-pad and buttons any day.

  • MadMirko

    Well, I’m aboard, of course.

    On the topic of visibility, I’m not sharing any worries. It’s Zelda. Every gamer knows this one is coming, and also if they are going to give it a chance. Seems to me that PH brought in a fair share of new fans (I got asked for the sequel by a fifty-something I gave PH last year), but I guess mostly of the kind that isn’t following gaming news. You know, those “gaming-industry killers”. For them advertisements make sense post release and in-store, and if PH is any indication that is when advertisements will start.

    I’ve read comments that Spirit Tracks will be a good deal harder than PH was, and wonder if those newcomers will immediately be scared off again.

    • I loved Phantom Hourglass. I don’t understand people that hate it. Yes, it was different and more like a stand-up comedy Zelda game but hey, look at what it eventually led to…we’re actually seeing an effort to maintain the timeline now, and an increased focus on Zelda herself.

      I also think it’s great that PH kind of revitalized the franchise in Japan. Now, we have one part of the series designed in a more Japanese style and another done in a (slightly) more Western style. More variety is great!

      • malek86

        My problem with PH was that it was just too easy. Hopefully that won’t set a trend, but… I mean, it’s pretty much a fact that every Zelda game has been less difficult than the one released before it, but PH made that jump a lot longer.

        I’ll see if they can get back a bit with ST, but I’m skeptical. Miya says it’s going to be harder, but then, the guy seems to be too geared toward family games lately, so his “harder” might just be “slightly less easy” for me.

        Or maybe I’m just weird myself. I love it when a game kicks my balls. Shiren DS being the prime example.

        • MadMirko

          New Super Mario Bros. Wii is also a family game. Family game should mean for the experienced gamer dad / basement dwelling nerd offspring, too. I think his approach nowadays is “make it hard for those who want it, help everyone else”, and I’m ok with that.

          • malek86

            That sounds ok, but PH wasn’t hard even for those who wanted it. I’ll see how things go with this new one.

      • I want the PH very badly, still. I’m hoping someone actually picks it up as a gift this year for me. Do you remember how long it was? I’m trying to catch up on my lack of Minish Cap and Phantom Hourglass before Spirit Tracks.

  • I actually enjoyed Phantom Hourglass very much, but I’m glad here’s Zelda now instead of that fairy…

  • kylehyde

    I’m on board.

  • Joanna

    Wow that trailer does promise more narrative, and some interesting plot-game devices (the Phantom, Train.) Still, I have to agree, I’m a little worried at just how much freedom the player is given with the train interface.

  • Zelda and link are inmortal… anyway it would be a good thing to add some “romanticism” to zelda games

    • lostinblue

      there’s some romantic stuff already, but thing is they’re platonic, like they should.

      Ocarina of Time’s ending wouldn’t be nearly as touching if they kissed and made out. it’s way more dificult to convey feelings by the way characters behave, express themselves and move their eyes than… you know, materializing it.

      final fantasy for instance, usually takes the cheap path, thankfully Zelda games don’t.

  • The penultimate boss battle has the main villain cursing Zelda to possess Link’s train; Link must fight it in a recreation of FF6’s Phantom Train fight.

    (I’m totally calling it)

  • My girlfriend is onboard. I still have bad memories of that one central dungeon. She didn’t seem to mind it.

  • WAIT! It is a new Link! What happened to the old Link?

    • MadMirko

      It’s always a “new Link”, but in this case, old Link was a big hero 100 years ago, and is now presumably dead. Some guys adopted his style as their uniform, and new Link is one of those. That’s why new Link dresses like old Link, but is a different Link.

      • Speaking of which…I liked Tetra a hell of a lot but I’m kind of glad to have “Zelda” back for Spirit Tracks. The game really looks like they’re trying to flesh her character out a little more.

        • MadMirko

          Seems that way, yes. I’d think it possible that Tetra was invented to test how the Zelda audience would react to a stronger character at Link’s side. In this installment Zelda not only seems stronger, but essential to the adventure.

          After seeing her kick ass in SSBB it would have been disappointing to have her old fragile self back. Can’t wait to see what direction they take her!

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