Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The Legend of Zelda; Spirit Tracks: I wasn't kidding about that train part

The DS Zelda games. Some like them, many hate them, due to specific mechanics. Maybe some of that is the Zelda cycle, some of it might be the way the game is structured, some of it may be the controls. It can be all of one, or it can be some of all. Personally, this was the first Zelda I had completed and the first Zelda game I ever owned. Its not the first I've ever played, that title goes to either Ocarina of Time or Majora's Mask thanks to emulation (this was before I knew of and had access to the Virtual Console). I enjoyed it while I played it back then, but how well does it hold up now?

Starting with the plot, it is at least a century after the events of the game's predecessor, Phantom Hourglass, which in itself happens right after Wind Waker, so yes this is on the Adult Link timeline. The Spirit Tracks, special trainlines which link the towns of the world, are disappearing thanks to the work of Chancellor Cole (You learn that before the first dungeon, its not a spoiler), who seeks to revive the Demon King who is trapped by the Spirit tracks and the "lock" which is the Tower of Spirits. After destroying the Tower, Cole uses his dark magic to rob Princess Zelda of her body, which he plans to use as a vessel for the Demon King. Now a spirit, Zelda teams up with this incarnation of Link, who is a brand new Train driver, with the two of them seeking out the four temples to restore power to the Tower of Spirits, before Cole can free the Demon King. If you've played a story driven Zelda game (not including Breath of the Wild), then you know how the story goes, and how the gameplay works around the story. Its very by the numbers, which is a flaw I personally have with it now, mainly because when I play it now, I have Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, Phantom Hourglass, and Link Between Worlds to look to for experience and similarities.

However, one thing I love about this game, one thing that many seem to forget, the characters, especially Link and Zelda. To me, this is the best incarnation of the two of them, because the two of them work so well together. There is chemistry between them, and its actually shown developing in game rather then it happening between games, and we're just supposed to take the developers words for it. Many people claim Tetra is the best incarnation of Zelda, because she actually does something. Well, as Tetra, in Wind Waker, yes that's true. But when Tetra becomes Zelda in Wind Waker, and in Phantom Hourglass, all Tetra does is get kidnapped, whereas here, Zelda actively helps Link, at first mainly just to get her body back, but then to help the land as a whole. I cannot say the same about any other incarnation of Zelda from any of the games I have played, DO NOT SPOIL BREATH OF THE WILD FOR ME OR ANYONE READING THE COMMENTS SECTION... If you choose to comment at all, that is... The charm though does carry on to the rest of the game, this does follow on from Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass after all. The character interactions, the animations (one that still cracks me up is Zelda's... let's call it a "pep-talk" in the Tower of Spirits, even the soundtrack is charming, with some like The Spirit Flute and Overworld Adventure possibly coming up eventually for the Mediaholics playlist, I can neither confirm nor deny it.

When working on this review, I stumbled across a problem that I don't think I've ever had for a game running on a console, and that is aging due to hardware. There are several DS games that have improved thanks to the release of the 3DS, and Spirit Tracks... isn't one of them. To control the game, you use the touch screen to do almost everything, with buttons only for menus and to draw on your map, and the microphone to play the Spirit Flute. When I first played Spirit Tracks, I was playing on a DS Lite, which I admit did have a grip accessory for it, which made it very pleasant to hold, and even without the grip, I had no issues with playing the game. The New 3DS XL on the other hand, is heavier then the DS Lite, and doesn't have a grip, which does make it uncomfortable to play for long periods of time. If you can, I recommend playing it on a light console, maybe a 2DS or DS Lite, and see if you can get some form of console controller grip accessory, you'd be surprised at how comfortable they can be, and the one I has was pure plastic due to having speakers in them. The control itself, if you can get used to it, its ok. If not, you'll find it annoying. It's not as bad as something like Starfox Zero in terms of how polarizing the control is, but there is a split. The game is available for the WiiU, but I don't know how that one is in terms of controller weight when used like you do for Spirit Tracks. I didn't buy it because I still have a physical copy of Spirit Tracks.

I don't think Spirit tracks deserves what it gets. I think there is a level of charm here many people love to throw away because you drive a train and are on rails so you can't explore, and even then, what's wrong with driving a train? In this game, its relaxing, even when monsters show up. You do also have some level of control over it, because the game doesn't crash if the train doesn't follow a drawn route. If you still have a Wii U and haven't given it away to get the about to be released Switch, or you can find it for the DS/3DS, I personally recommend it. I'm going to take a break from games for a bit, and tackle some LEGO movies, so they're going to be... interesting...

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