December 11, 2009

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks | First Impressions

Troy Benedict Says I really want to hate The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (but I don't).

I've spent an hour with the game and there are so many things about it that annoy me.

The style and presentation of Spirit Tracks is extremely deceptive. The game plays out like a Saturday Morning cartoon full of wildly stereotypical caricatures within the game's cast.

The Link protagonist is childlike, innocent, and naive. He is young, inexperienced, and yet is destined to save the world from an evil so powerful that it wasn't able to be conquered, in the past, by armies of the world's best warriors.

The guards who protect Prince Zelda within Hyrule Castle are pompous, lazy, bumblingly idiotic, or a combination of all three. Whoever thought these gentlemen were fit to serve as royal protectors was an even bigger idiot. It's no wonder that Princess Zelda is always in trouble.

The storyline is so predictably simple. If you know one Zelda game, you know them all. I spotted the game's evil character as soon as he appeared, yet he was somehow welcomed within Zelda's inner circle of trust for a long time.

All of these things had me doing one face palm after another. I felt like I was playing a game designed for my kids and not a man in his thirties.

However, after you look past the kid-friendly appearance of the game, what lies beneath is a rather deep and challenging experience.

Many of Nintendo's games, like the Mario and Zelda series, have a very kid and family friendly quality to them, but when it comes to actually mastering the game's later levels it requires a lot of skill and (sometimes) a lot of patience.

As much as I want to dislike it... I can't.

It's charming and so far entertaining.

It's similar to other Zelda games, but still has enough differences to make it feel new and worthwhile. I'm sure there will be eight dungeons, each with an item that will defeat the boss, and can be used to reach areas of the overworld, as well as the next dungeon. It's different enough that it doesn't quite feel like the previous game with a new coat of paint (although instead of Phantom Hourglass's boat you ride a spirit train).

The game starts off like all Zelda games with an unarmed Link, who must learn the basic ropes before earning his traditional sword and green garb.

Having played Phantom Hourglass years ago, I was instantly familiar with the controls of the game. Everything is controlled with the touch screen, and thankfully controlling with the stylus is quite responsive.

The one thing I liked about Spirit Tracks is that after the action ramps up, is that Zelda is actually your partner in this game. You're still rescuing her, but she's also your teammate. Confused? Spoiler Alert: Zelda's body is stolen, but her spirit remains with you. Because of this, there are segments of the game where you will switch between Zelda and Link in order to solve puzzles or out-maneuver enemies.

So far, I've enjoyed my time revisiting the land of Hyrule, despite wanting to roll my eyes from the game's familiar cutesy-ness. I am looking forward to working my way through this game.

Look for my full review of The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks later this month!