The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for the Nintendo DS gives Link his own train to toy with, plus conquers some of the series' trickiest puzzles with the help of his oldest friend: Zelda, the Princess of Hyrule.
ESRB Rating: E10+ for Mild Fantasy Violence
The Basics: Meet Link. Again.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks takes place approximately 100 years after The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, and it appears Link has got the hang of operating vehicles. In Spirit Tracks, he begins the game as an apprentice train engineer, but when Zelda goes ghostly, he's called on to answer the call of his ancestors' blood and perform a little evil-busting on the side.
Gameplay: Something Old, Twice As New
Princess Zelda actively helps Link on his quest for the first time in the series' 23-year history. While Link spends much of his adventure in dungeons searching for Force Gems, he must also climb the Spirit Tower in the center of Hyrule to retrieve rail maps. This is where Zelda is essential: she is able to possess “Phantoms”, the hulking metal guards that chuck out intruders. When Zelda slips into a Phantom suit, she helps solve puzzles by warping, enduring fire, and gaining the trust of the other Phantoms in the tower.
The Spirit Tower's cooperative gameplay is the core of some challenging puzzles. The Zelda series has faced criticism in recent years for relying on similar breeds of puzzles and tricks, but Spirit Tracks forces you to re-think what you thought you knew about Hyrule's brain teasers.
Link's train time will appeal to players who loved sailing in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass.. Less patient players might find the train too slow, and they probably won't like being forced to stick to tracks in a world that's always encouraged open exploration.
Graphics and Sound: Groove With the Spirit
Spirit Tracks has one of the best soundtracks to hit the Nintendo DS. The overworld's main theme was composed to time beautifully with the chug-chug of Link's train wheels, but slows down and quiets whenever he stops. If Link halts in the middle of the Snow Realm, the wind whips around him. If he pauses in a forest, crickets whirr and the trees creak in the breeze.
Conclusion: All Aboard
Some fans will undoubtedly be disappointed with the oft-slow train portions of the game, and admittedly, the tracks feel a little constraining early in the adventure. But as Link progresses and more paths unlock, you begin to realize that Spirit Tracks' depiction of Hyrule is every bit as sprawling and intriguing as the world you fell in love with 23 years ago.
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