Our original plan was to print off an English translation guide to Link’s latest from GameFAQs, and have a solid blast in order to bring you a nice fact-packed review. Things haven’t quite gone to plan though, mainly because the game’s quite text heavy, and as such we felt we were missing out on a lot of stuff due to the language barrier. So instead we’re going with a run down of the first hour. But first, some general guff.
Set several months after the conclusion of The Wind Waker, Link and pirate Tetra find themselves in murky waters. Tetra sets off on her lonesome to investigate a ghost ship, but when Link senses danger he leaps into the sea to save her, only to awaken unarmed and washed up on the beach of a small island.
Like previous handheld Zelda games, the camera is set overhead for the most part, occasionally zooming in behind Link and panning around environments during cut-scenes. And because it’s set in the Wind Waker universe, we get to play as super cute Link again, instead of the more mature elf boy from Twilight Princess. So balls to everybody that didn’t like ‘Celda’.
The controls will be familiar to anybody who has played Animal Crossing, with the stylus used to control Link, and actions and attacks carried out by tapping and rubbing the touch screen – a circle around Link will do the spin attack, for instance. Pressing the d-pad brings up the inventory, and also lets you doodle on the map screen to mark out areas of importance or whatnot. This is particularly useful in the dungeons, not to mention for drawing childish penises. Immature? Us?
The first hour, then.
Right, we’re washed up on the beach and Link’s fairy friend (Navi?) is shouting at us. Well, not actually shouting, as her voice is pretty soft. There are dwellings near by and it looks like she wants us to explore. So we do: there’s a place with chickens outside; the farmer asks for help smashing up rocks and makes a mark on the map as a reward. In another building, a lengthy chat with an old white bearded man occurs. He says our name lots. We know this because it’s the only part of the text not in Japanese.
Earthquake! The bridge to the rest of the island has been damaged. The only choice is to head north, but Navi points out that it’s a dangerous place to go because of the evil red slime monsters wobbling about. We need a sword.
A cave next to beardy’s house seems to be the answer. Why? Because there’s a locked door in there with a chest behind it. But how do we get past the door? We go see the old man again in hope of a clue. That’s exactly what he gives us: the number seven. Eh?
Ah, upon returning to the cave Navi points out a notice board that can be scribbled on. We draw a seven and voila – the doors opens and a sword is ours. Now it’s time for some combat training – the old chap wants us to whack some wooden poles. After smashing them to splinters, we’re off on our way to smack the slime around a bit.
With the slime vanquished and a patch of trees chopped down, we’re in a cave. Another puzzle here, folks – four switches need to be pulled in the correct order. That order is 2, 1, 4, 3. See if you can remember that for the western release. Next comes the second floor of the cave, and it’s overrun with rats. One of the critters has a key on his back – the idea is to trap him by moving a block around then nab the door opening implement.
Now we’re on the other side of the island. There’s a small dock with some boats, but we can’t leave just yet. A trip to the bar is called for. The locals suggest a trip to Hourglass Castle – easily the largest building on the island. Upon venturing inside it doesn’t take long to notice that’s something is up. A mysterious fog surrounds the halls and there are talking skulls on the floor. Somebody is calling out for help too – a pirate, who soon becomes Link’s new travelling buddy. To save him Link must navigate a small maze, stopping in the fog-free sections to regain health. He doesn’t leave empty handed – the first part of a sea chart is his reward.
So with everything on the island done, it’s time to set sail. Remember how dull it was steering the ship in Wind Waker? Seafaring is nothing like that here – you just draw the path you want the boat to follow and off you go. Beadle the floating shop guy is in the vicinity, so a visit to him is in order before we head off to an island with a huge volcano. And that’s your lot – the first hour is all over.
Before we go though, you might like to know what the Phantom Hourglass itself is. This trinket plays a huge part, as rather than featuring loads of dungeons the game is based around one large one with different parts to explore. The twist is that this huge dungeon is cursed and Link must use sacred sand to gain immunity. That is until the sand runs outâ€¦
Release date? A parrot tells us 1st October for the US, 19th October for Europe. It’s certainly looking like an essential pre-order – the touch screen stuff is in no way gimmicky, and the hourglass idea should satisfy those who said that Twilight Princess offered nothing new.