This Zelda title continues on exactly where The Wind Waker left off. Link has now joined the pirates and is sailing across the ocean with them in search of a new ‘Hyrule’ landmass. However, things don’t quite go to plan when a mysterious ghost ship appears. Tetra suddenly vanished into it and Link falls into the ocean. He later wakes up on a small island and sets off on his quest to solve the mystery of the ghost ship and rescue Tetra. The story takes some interesting twists and turns, and can be both emotional and exciting at times.
Much like its prequel, you get around the world by sailing across the ocean in a boat, but it’s handled a little differently this time. Rather than a ship that uses the wind to sail, this time you have a steam powered ship which is controlled by a very likeable and entertaining character named Linebeck. You have to draw a route to wherever you want to go and then it sails there by itself. However, as the boat sails along, various dangers will be encountered and you have to tap them with the DS stylus so that the ship’s cannon will shoot them, or tap a button so that the boat will ‘jump’ over them. Once again, there are lots of secrets hidden out at sea, and there’s lot to be fun had exploring every inch of it. The only downside is that, by drawing a route from one point to another, it feels that you have a lot less freedom when exploring the world. Everything also feels a lot less connected, and a lot less like a whole world, due to the oceans and the islands having separate maps (you walk to a dock on an island, then it cuts to the boat out at sea, and when you get to an island, it then cuts to you at a dock). Obviously, this is down to limitations of the console, but still the sea exploration is a definite step down after how excellent it was in The Wind Waker. One nice new feature, though, is the ability to customise your boat. You unlock various different designs for its different parts as you go along and you can mix and match them as you please.
As with all other Zelda games, you progress by finding your way to various dungeons then getting through them and defeating a boss hidden within. But now, for the first time, there is also one dungeon that you return to several times and, each time, you’re given the ability to progress a little further. This is where the titular Phantom Hourglass comes into play; as you go through this temple you’re timed and, once the timer runs out you are vulnerable to the extremely powerful phantoms, so you have to unlock more sand to get further.
Of course, all of the other staples of Zelda are present in this game too. There are still nice big caves to explore, secrets to be found, various colourful NPCs, interesting side quests, and mini games to get more features and all of the other things you’d expect of a Zelda game. But one exciting new feature is a multiplayer mode. The game’s multiplayer sees one character play as Link and the other character control three phantoms. Link must sneak around a maze, knowing where the phantoms are and try and collect as many force gems as possible. The player controlling the phantoms, meanwhile, does not know where Link is, but if any of them do catch him they kill him instantly. You both take it in turns to see how many gems you can each get. This mode (which can be done via single card download play) is a very welcome addition and something that brings with it lots of fun.
On the whole, while not the best Zelda game, this is still a game that is not to be missed. The touch screen brings with it some new challenges (including one especially superb puzzle) and it’s all a lot of fun.