Monday, January 25, 2010

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

Hey, Space Monkees!

This is a review I've been meaning to do for some time now.  However, do to other games, I've put "Spirit Tracks" on the backburner for awhile.  I'm not a professional, or even aspire to be one, so that luckily frees me up from any standards of timeliness.  Even better, I don't need to be objective, helpful, or reasonable.  But I am anyway because if I weren't I would end up like Captain Running-Joke, Armond White.

Let me being the review with a classic trick I liked to use in my walkthroughs, the parable of the Teacher in a classroom filled with idiots.  (By the way, I never mentioned this earlier, but its actually an adult night school.  That's an important detail.)


Teacher:  Class, can we please smoking weed for just a minute so that we can answer one question for ol' Blue?  Okay, here we go:  what is the greatest video game series of all time?

Classroom:  ....?

Teacher:  Okay, you must have all been either too high or stupid to hear what I said.  I'll repeat:  what is the greatest video game series of all time?

Billy:  Uh...  I know!  Weed!

(The Classroom bursts into hysterics.  But then they stop when they realize the Teacher is laughing too.  In fact, Teacher is laughing really loudly.  Inappropriately loudly.  Disturbingly loudly.  This goes on for a very long minute, which seems a lot longer because the entire Classroom is baked out of their minds.)

Classroom:  .....

Teacher:  Alright then.  Its time to break out the "learning tools" then.

(Teacher grabs a yardstick and beats Billy to a bloody pulp.)

Teacher:  Oh by the way, the answer was "The Legend of Zelda".


...I really do need to get that Teacher into an anger management course one of these days.

I think the point Teacher was trying to make is that "The Legend of Zelda" series has been, without a doubt, the most consistently fun, entertaining, and just plain old excellent video game franchise ever created by human hands.  What else could you possibly claim even comes close?  In order for you to top Zelda, you would first need over three decades of glorious tradition, then a timeless ability to adapt to new advances in video game technology and standards, and finally a universal appeal that any person can enjoy.  "Final Fantasy"?  Hell no.  Metroid?  Not even close.  Mario?  Just maybe, but still no cigar.  Ultimately you must surrender yourself to the fact that Zelda is just a plain above all the rest.

I think what really makes Zelda so much better than the other franchises is the fact that pretty much every single game has been, over and over again, constantly at a standard of wonderful quality.  Nobody in the world likes every single Final Fantasy game, but very few fans of the Zelda series can honestly claim they really dislike one game or another.  You might not find "Phantom Hourglass" to be as good as "Wind Waker", but that's a petty complaint, not really based in the idea that one or the other actually is a bad game.  Tingle sucks, but he never ruins the game.  The dungeons in "Minish Cap" are too easy, but it isn't a deal breaker.

Of course, there are loud and annoying people - what TV Tropes calls a "FanDumb" - who cannot be happy even with this.  Some of these "fans" will find nothing but things to complain about:  "every game is too similar", "this game is too different", "Ganon isn't the villain", "Ganon IS the villain", etc.  I've never met these people or heard from them first hand, so I assume they're partially a thing of myth.  But if they do exist, they should become Final Fantasy fans - there's never a shortage of things to complain about in Final Fantasy.  As for Zelda, its as near to perfect as a series can ever hope to get.

Or maybe that's just me and my opinion.  I can never tell, you know.

Anyway, "Spirit Tracks" is the latest successor to the Zelda tradition.  Its a sequel to "Phantom Hourglass", taking place 100 years later after Link (whom I always name "Blue", so Blue he will be for the rest of this article) and Tetra have settled a new Hyrule where the main method of travel has become Trains mostly so that Nintendo can reuse the "Phantom Hourglass" engine.  Once again you're Blue, but a different Blue than the last on, actually you're no relation at all from what I've seen.  After an act of betrayal, the ancient evil sleeping under New Hyrule's soil is almost about to be reawakened, and an Evil Train is on the loose.  Worse yet, the new Princess Zelda has had her body snatched away, so now she's stuck as a ghost.  Blue and Ghost-Zelda must now travel around the world fighting evil to save the day.

So its basically the typical Zelda affair.  If you've played "Phantom Hourglass", you'll know exactly how this game plays, as it truly is that game's sequel.  Many of the problems that game had are still around.  You'll spend a lot more time than you'll want to exploring the World Map, only thing time you're on a train instead of a boat.  That means that unlike "Phantom Hourglass" and more unlike "Wind Waker", there really is not much exploring to be done around the world, because you can see all the locations already.  Luckily there are a few issues resolved.  For example, even though the Master Dungeon is back, its much more fun this time around because 1) the Time Limit is gone, and 2) you don't have to go through the floors over and over again.  Also you can take those awful Phantom enemies from the very beginning.

The main addition is in Zelda herself.  At first she works as just the Fairy Companion archetype, giving you hints and following you around.  She does serve in an exciting new mechanic though:  in the Master Dungeon she can posses the Phantom enemies, making her a walking tank of enemy destruction.  With two characters, all sorts of puzzle opportunities are created, and Nintendo being Nintendo, you'll see them all by the end of this game.  Phantom-Zelda can even be used in a few combat sequences against minibosses.

Another major new thing is the return of a musical instrument.  I've always loved this mechanic - mostly because I cannot actually play any instruments, and this sorta fills out that fantasy of mine.  This time you have a pan flute which is played by blowing into your DS's microphone while scrolling for the proper pipe using the stylus.  Its an extremely intuitive system that makes you feel like you're actually playing a pan flute, and it can be a lot of fun.  Only one problem....  it means you absolutely cannot play this game outside in the view of strangers.  Unless you're completely immune to the glints of critical light coming out of the eyes of people you've never met as they stare at you like you're an insane homeless preacher on a subway train, this is a game that can only be played at home - hopefully far from even your loved ones.

But beyond that the gameplay is the classic Zelda glory.  Dungeon crawling, enemy slaying, and puzzle solving:  the three tenets of the sacred Triforce of days of enjoyment.  This series is so consistently awesome that I've run out things to say and I'm already starting to wrap up.  I still haven't really beaten the entire game yet, but I'm about halfway through.  There's one badass-looking villain who I cannot wait to fight, and a silly looking Irish guy with two hats who also really needs to taste sword.  I'm sure the rest of this adventure is going to be just as fun as the first part as been.

Fanwank Corner:  Nintendo, can we please get a trailer or even just a real name for the upcoming Zelda Wii?  I really cannot wait.


  1. While I agree that most Legend of Zelda games are pretty damn awesome, I think it's safe to say that most people who've played Zelda II would agree with me when I say that game sucked.

  2. How odd that you posted this 2 days after I posted my Zelda timeline. Weird....

  3. Also, Drake, Zelda 2 was good. It was just... diffrent.

    EXCUSE this game, princess, for being diffrent

  4. Same deal with Majora's Mask, people hate on it for "not being like OoT", and its ridiculous.

  5. Here's a cool Zelda tribute/rap a friend showed me:

    I don't know if you've seen it before, but I thought I'd tell you anyway.

  6. Is it just me who does not really enjoy the legend of Zelda? I mean, I have tried to play them, but I just can't seem to get into them.

  7. No, Zelda II was bad. The story was worst than any other Zelda (not that Zelda games are known for their great stories), it played like Heroes of the Lance, and you had to start from the Princess' room every time you died.

  8. Okay Drake, I can imagine this game might not be the best game ever made, but it CAN'T be as anything like "Heroes of the Lance". I've seen Spoony's review - no side scroller in the world this side of Action 52 can be that bad.

  9. Just read this now. Zelda's good and all but I beg to differ on your statement regarding FF. I've yet to play an FF game I don't like. I even like Crystal Chronicles, and that's saying something, since it's not very popular at all.

  10. @BlueHighwind: Alright, it isn't -exactly- like Heroes of the Lance, but it's pretty close. The only real difference between the two is that Zelda II is actually beatable. I tried forever to beat Heroes of the Lance, but I actually managed to finish Zelda II after a week or two. I was just trying to point out that Zelda II was really bad.

    @wee187: You must not have played all the Final Fantasy games then. Final Fantasy is one of my favorite series and I've played almost every game in it (not Mystic Quest though; I know when to take the advice others give me) and even I can't stand a select few (did I mention I've been playing the games since I was three years old?).

  11. While I like Spirit Tracks, I kind of don't like this "filler" that Nintendo is trying to make. Is it to pump people up for the next Wii Zelda? I actually hope that the next one will be better than Twilight Princess, because that game...just wasn't good enough.