A software commentary: The Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks

developed and published by Nintendo for the DS in 2009

Spirit Tracks uses two of the gimmicks from Zelda games of the last 12 years: a magical, musical instrument and a traveling vehicle. Rather than the boat from Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass, Link now travels around in a train. This automatically makes the overworld a really restrictive place as your travel is completely confined to available railroad tracks. This never changes throughout the game. Link only moves around freely within towns and dungeons. I don’t think I ever really got over this and the fact that most of the overworld is really linear and pointless only makes it much worse. There seem to be side quests and optional errands but they all seem really pointless. Most of them are worthless and unnecessary for completion of the game. For example, you can apparently upgrade Link’s train but I never bothered and I got along fine. This weak and pointless overworld basically made it feel like half of the game was missing.

In the story, Zelda’s body has been hijacked by some Demon King and her ghost teams up with Link to restore all the railroad tracks and reclaim her body. This sets up an interesting dynamic in the game, Zelda’s ghost-like abilities. In certain dungeons, she can possess the bodies of evil knights and aid Link in the various puzzles. This presents some new and decent situations. Actually, some of the dungeon puzzles are really complex and tricky. Bring your thinking cap toward the end of the game.

However, when you get to the actual end of the game bring your anti-climax cap as, just as in Phantom Hourglass, this goddamn game does not know when to quit. On four different occasions I thought I had killed the final boss, only for someone to say some damn thing and then have the boss assume some new form or attack mode and draw things out more. It’s probably not as bad as the drawn out ending in Phantom Hourglass but it’s bad.

I recently complained a bit about The Wind Waker but it’s a very deep and satisfying game compared to this one. The only element of Wind Waker that is topped by Spirit Tracks is the musical instrument, a pan flute that you actually play by blowing into the mic. There are many cool, individual pieces in the Spirit Tracks puzzle but somehow they never all came together for me. Out of the 13 single-player Zelda games released by Nintendo, I would probably rank Spirit Tracks at the bottom of the list (I have yet to play Twilight Princess). That probably sounds pretty bad but the Zelda series is top-notch and even the weakest series is still at least pretty good.

If you’re a Zelda fan in general then you will almost certainly enjoy this game. However, if you have yet to delve into the world of Zelda, there are several other games you might want to check out first.

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