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The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks Review (DS)

Posted by Jim Cook, Jan 19, 2010 21:58

Spirit Tracks is a case study in how many bad design elements one can cram in while still making a decent game in the end. The core of its game play is like most other Zelda titles, letting you explore a vast world, gather special equipment, and fight a variety of creative enemies and massive bosses. Spirit Tracks does this part just fine, but bogs itself down with several terrible ideas that reduce what should have been an amazing, "must play" game to being ’merely’ pretty good. Taking many of its cues from Phantom Hourglass, the latest Zelda game succeeds only because the core of the series’ experience is still

intact.

The plot follows series standards, putting you in the role of young Link. As is the usual, an evil plot unfolds and ensnares Princess Zelda, forcing Link to take action to not only save her, but much of the rest of the world as well. The core of the Zelda experience is here, with an overhead view and basic controls used to let you explore dungeons, towns, and more while fighting all sorts of enemies with a mix of sword, shield, and various tools. Spirit Tracks adds two major wrinkles to this formula however: The first is that Link is also a train conductor, and the second is that Zelda accompanies Link in most of his travels.

Unfortunately, the bit about trains falls completely flat and having Zelda team up with you is a very mixed bag. While there is a fair amount of exploring on foot by going room to room, much of your travel is done by train. You hop on, look at the map, and draw a route to your objective with the stylus... and then have to actually conduct the train there in real time. It takes several minutes to get anywhere, and for the first few hours of the game there is almost nothing to do during the trip; all you can really do is blow the whistle to scare off enemies. Later upgrades give your train new toys such as a cannon and a net for catching wildlife, but even these are merely something to do on the long ride and not truly fun. Worse, you’ll often have to take very long routes to each location as there are often enemies on some tracks, and while some are easily beaten by cannon or whistle others are best avoided entirely. The train rides are hands down the worst part of Spirit Tracks, and given you spend so much time doing them it does hurt the game.

The other major twist is Zelda; the villains only need her body as host to an ancient evil they’re trying to revive, so they magically boot her spirit out. Zelda thus effectively becomes a ghost, and accompanies Link. While she can’t interact with the physical world directly, she can take over the bodies of certain monsters. Once she has done so, you can guide her around by drawing paths on screen; lead her to an enemy and she may attack it, lead her to a switch and she might press it. Far from being a novelty, there are times where you absolutely must have Zelda’s help to proceed. This would actually be very fun except for her AI being terrible and the writing presenting her as a very annoying character.

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Our Rating for The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks Review (DS)
4.5 Replay
Frustrating AI for Princess Zelda and a story that alternates between being very good and terrible mean you’ll probably only want to go through this once.
6.5 Graphics
Hideous Wind Waker style art makes the game an eyesore, but it is laid out very well; you’ll rarely have trouble following the action.
8.0 Sound
A good mix of classic Zelda themes and sound effects along with new audio are used to good effect.
8.0 Gameplay
The heart of a Zelda game, the exploration of various dungeons and using a variety of tools to fight your enemies, is intact. Train travel is a boring gimmick however, and teaming up with the princess is a very mixed bag due to her bad AI and unlikable writing.
6.5 Multiplayer/Online Content
Some basic multiplayer games are included. No online play, but you can trade treasure with nearby players or engage in battle mode, and only need one card for the latter mode.
8.0 Overall
There is a very good game here, it just takes a few hours of sifting through boring segments and bad gimmicks to find it. There is much missed potential here, yet overall Spirit Tracks is a fairly good game.

Rating: 2.0, votes: 1


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