It’s too late. The ceremony has already happened. There’s not even time for a dramatic last minute interruption, all the papers have been signed, those present have borne witness. I am now married to Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. We said our vows in Vegas and then flew back to grim England to begin our lives together.
At first it was the looks. The cute and gloriously colourful stylings of Windwaker have been brilliantly recreated in portable form, and the world is as vibrant and varied as its Gamecube predecessor. The characters, the locales, the whole package is irrepressibly charming. It was love at first sight.
Then it was the controls. The game will use your DS to its fullest capabilities. It boldly ties almost every action to the stylus, but implements this perfectly, and uses the stylus at the heart of its puzzles. The game does not use the stylus as a mouse pointer as many games do, but realises its full potential as a drawing tool. Sketch routes for your mobile bombchus, write notes on the maps to solve puzzles, and plot headings for your boat with aplomb. The other features of the DS are used as well. Shout at monsters with big ears and they’ll cower in a corner while you ruthlessly beat them to death with your boomerang, boss encounters will spread the fight across both screens . Every action in the game is perfectly honed and remains fun to the very end.
The level design and structure bear direct similarities to its console counterparts, this is Zelda after all, and you can expect the same item-gathering heart-container-increasing progression that you’ve come to expect from the series. The puzzles are less complex, but well organised and you are normally able to reach your next objective within half an hour’s play, keeping it within its mandate as a portable game.
There were a few arguments of course. I kept telling it that I didn’t want to have to keep revisiting the same central dungeon every time I completed a quest, but it kept on making me go back to redo puzzles I had done five times already. Not only that, but it timed me, put me under pressure, made me sweat. I hated it for that. But soon I was back on the open seas, and the dungeon was forgotten, because for its minor foibles, it had something else, something that I wasn’t expecting at all.
It was funny. Not just in the slapstick cut scenes, but in the dialogue too. The small cast of characters are brilliantly realised, most notably the rogue pirate Linebeck and the Anouki, a pragmatic race of antlered yeti. I laughed when I lifted a curse and its evil denizens, released from its hold, stammeringly apologised for trying to eat me. I laughed at all its jokes, and knew then that we would be together forever.
Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is not only the finest slice of portable adventuring out there, but an experience to challenge any fully fledged adventure game. I would recommend that you go and play it immediately but I won’t. You can’t. It’s mine. Forever.
Things that happened while playing this game:
-Had a massive and completely overblown argument about curtains. Slept on the couch for a few days.
-Carefully sidestepped the ‘lets have kids’ issue, remarking that men and DS cartridges aren’t really made for that sort of thing.
-Drew rude pictures on the map screens.