Today, I really struggled with which Zelda game I was going to play. I knew all along I wanted to play a handheld Zelda game in the series, but which one specifically is what I had trouble with. There has been seven original handheld titles, all of which played a certain role in advancing the franchise along and reaching out to the on-the-go gaming market.
So after much deliberation, I decided upon the Phantom Hourglass game, which was the first of two Zelda games on the Nintendo DS. The DS is Nintendo's most successful handheld console to date, and one of the gaming industry's biggest success stories. A lot of its success can be attributed to the Japanese market, where being on the move at all times is common place in the land of the rising sun. The DS nailed that market perfectly, and thanks to a couple different upgraded versions to the system, it was able to become king of the handhelds.
It was only a matter of time before one of Nintendo's most successful gaming franchise would make its way to juggernaut handheld system, and when it did, we were blessed with Phantom Hourglass. Being released after Twilight Princess, it was very clear that Nintendo had no intention of keeping just one version of Link and the storyline running throughout the series, as Phantom Hourglass returned to the cartoonish and cell-shaded style that we first discovered in Wind Waker, and continued the storyline that the game had put in place. This of course was in drastic contrast to the Twilight Princess style and story, further pushing the idea that the Zelda universe and timeline isn't exactly linear.
I bought this game for my oldest son back in the day when it was released, as we had gotten him a DS for his birthday before hand, thinking he would enjoy it. Despite my best efforts at the time, and introducing him to several different games of all styles and genres, I could never get him interested in playing the DS. Eventually, my youngest boy got his hands on it and never let it go. He's definitely a gamer through and through.
When we got him Phantom Hourglass, however, I knew the game would be challenging, especially considering how difficult Twilight Princess was at times. To jump ahead of the potential of him quitting the game before he gave it a fair shake, I even bought him the strategy guide so that he could read along with it while playing, preventing him from every getting stuck on a puzzle.
Turns out, he couldn't care about that game or any Zelda game at all. He may have started it up and started it, just to make me happy, but I don't think he ever played much of it at all, much less cracked open the strategy guide. I ended up playing way more of the game then I ever thought I would back then, basically because I felt bad it was getting played - but also because it was a fine game.
I enjoyed it back then, and I enjoyed it again tonight. I really enjoyed it, and probably because I've just been dying to play a good handheld Zelda game since Ocarina of Time was re-released on the 3DS last year, and especially since Link to the Past 2 was announced to come out later this year. Combine that excitement with the Wind Waker remake that's also on its way, and its quite obvious why Phantom Hourglass clicked with me tonight.
Aside from the great story and fun, stylish graphics, the one thing I loved most about this game - and still do, possibly even more so - is the ability to write notes and draw markers on the game map itself, which is super helpful in figuring out puzzles and backtracking to already explored areas later in the game. The game introduces you to the concept of doing this, forces you to try it out, but then it backs off and lets you use it as you so choose. And believe me, with my short attention span and lack of a decent short-term memory, I use this function a lot. I actually started to wonder why more games haven't gone this route.
So maybe handheld gaming wasn't for my oldest boy. Maybe Zelda wasn't his thing. And maybe that is true for lots of gamers out there. I just wish more who agree with that would actually just give it a shot and find out firsthand. If you do decide to take that plunge, especially if you feel froggy enough to give Phantom Hourglass a shot, I have a strategy guide you can borrow. Oh, and you can copy my notes, too. Not like that didn't happen to me enough in school.
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