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Nintendo DS
Nintendo EAD
Q4 2006

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

For all the hype and anticipation, Twilight Princess might not have even been the best Zelda at E3. Touch controls take over the Wind Waker sequel with great results.



Link is controlled entirely with the touch screen. No buttons, no D-pad, just the touch screen. In what is becoming a common DS control style, players touch a spot on the bottom screen, and Link heads that way, similar to Animal Crossing. Rubbing back and forth or drawing a circle on the touch screen imitates slash and spin attacks. Also, tapping an enemy initiates a basic attack. Actually, just about anything can be tapped-- jars, chests, signs, doors-- all giving the expected result. It intuitively replaces the need to use an action button.

Phantom Hourglass plays like a classic Zelda game. The style is Wind Waker, but the feel is A Link to the Past. The demo dungeons were full of classic Zelda environmental puzzles, with switches to unlock and traps to avoid. Phantom Hourglass also reworks the sailing system. Instead of manually controlling the ship from island to island, players draw a path before setting sail, and the ship drives itself. During the trip, players can adjust ship speed and look in any direction while also controling the ship's cannon to deal with incoming foes. It looks like Nintendo upped the number of enemy encounters at sea to keep the action high for those bored by Wind Waker's long periods of sometimes uneventful sailing.

The coolest addition is the ability to write on the map screen. This can be used to mark destination points and treasure chests that are currently unattainable (as a reminder to return later), or to make notes on how to solve puzzles. Players can draw lines to show the path they just walked, or transfer directions from a local sign to the map for future reference. It could even be used to label buildings. Any note any Zelda fan has ever wanted to take can now be done so and right on the on-screen map. It brings back NES memories of pulling out the grid paper to draw out personal maps in games like Metroid. Other than during the two-screen-tall boss battles, the map is always conveniently displayed on the top screen.

A multiplayer mode was also shown, in which one player controlled Link as he attempted to bring crystals back to his base, while the other player controlled robotic drones, each following a drawn path. Heavier crystals made Link walk slower, making strategy important, and giving it the feel of a multiplayer puzzle mode.

word on the street

Because of its late, surprise announcement, the anticipation surrounding Phantom Hourglass was lower than expected for a Zelda title, but became a surprise (if a Zelda title can ever be a surprise) favorite of the show. We also heard some talk that the multiplayer used in the demos might not be the same multiplayer used in the final game, although it was a lot of fun.

press release notes

The epic story of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker continues as Link finds himself lost and alone in unknown seas in a new adventure. Featuring intuitive touch screen controls and innovative puzzles, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass offers new challenges for fans of the series and an easy-to-grasp introduction for gamers new to The Legend of Zelda. But time grows short, and only the Phantom Hourglass can buy Link the minutes he’ll need to survive.

  • The stylus makes controlling Link easier than ever. Tap on the screen to make Link move, or sweep the stylus around him to swing the sword. Players can even draw a path for his boomerang and send it flying into hard-to-reach targets.
  • Players can stash the map on the top screen for quick reference or drop it to the touch screen to make notes, study enemies or chart a path for their boat to follow while they man the cannons.
  • Compete with a friend over a local wireless connection: Guide Link through special dungeons to capture the Triforce, or command the forces that oppose him.
Game storyline: Many months have passed since the events of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and Link, Tetra and Tetra’s band of pirates have set sail in search of new lands. They come across a patch of ocean covered in a dense fog, in which they discover an abandoned ship. Tetra falls into danger when she explores the ship alone, and Link falls into the ocean when he attempts to rescue her. When he washes up unconscious on the shores of a mysterious island, he is awakened by the sound of a fairy's voice. With the aid of this fairy, he sets off to find Tetra and his way back to the seas he once knew.

Characters: Link, Tetra and a host of new characters native to the mysterious lands where Link finds himself trapped.

How to progress through the game: The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is controlled almost entirely by the stylus. Using the touch screen, players direct Link's movements and attacks: a sweeping motion triggers Link's spin attack and tapping characters makes Link speak with them. The stylus controls offer a more intuitive means of playing the game and open up new possibilities for puzzle solving.

The game action takes place primarily on the touch screen, with a map on the top screen. However, the player can inspect the map on the touch screen and make notes using the stylus. The notes on these maps are saved for review on the top screen during game play. Players use the map to chart courses for their ships, too. Using the stylus to draw a path through the islands, players set their ships’ courses. Then, as the ships automatically follow the paths drawn, players can control their ships’ cannons to target oncoming enemies.

In dungeons, players can use the touch screen to draw paths for boomerangs, sending them flying around corners or into otherwise unreachable areas.

Special powers/weapons/moves/features: The stylus-driven game play is the most compelling new feature of The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. Players use the stylus to control Link, chart courses for their ships, mark notes on maps and solve puzzles in both the overworld and dungeons.

A two-player wireless battle mode pits one player, as Link, against another player who controls the enemies pursuing him. Link must collect enough Force Gems before the enemies close in.


Celda 2 slipped into E3, and along side the Wii excitement, held its own as one of the shows top titles. Even on the small screen, Link retained the expressive details that won over Wind Waker fans, even those reluctant to accept the cel-shaded graphics. His newest adventure looks to become a classic in every way, as the DS continues to churn out hit after hit.

Staff Avatar Dave Magliano
Staff Profile | Email
"Tiger uppercut!!"

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