Posted on December 15 2009 by Nathanial Rumphol-Janc
Needless to say, a handheld Zelda finally appealed to me after all these years. This isn’t to say the Oracle series is horrible, or that The Minish Cap sucks and that Phantom Hourglass is the worst game in history, it’s more of credit to Spirit Tracks than a downplay on other games in the series. When Spirit Tracks was first announced, we all had the same feelings. As IGN recently wrote in an article calling Nintendo lazy, it sure felt that Spirit Tracks was just a lazy game put together to tide us over until Zelda Wii. Eight months later, with another quest in the series complete, it’s safe to say we couldn’t have been more wrong.
A lot of complaints have come up over the last 6 or so years when it comes to the Zelda franchise. Most of it focusing on lack of innovation, being way too easy, no challenge in the puzzles, boring side quests and minigames, and generally gimmick-like aspects seeping in. In essence, the Zelda formula felt archaic, and for long time Zelda fans the series was losing its appeal. It was understandable then that with the general “dislike” of Phantom Hourglass from more veteran players that Spirit Tracks was met with the same reaction. This time though, Nintendo delivered—and very unexpectedly so.
Not only did Spirit Tracks correct almost everything that was wrong in Phantom Hourglass, it did things in the game we haven’t seen in what feels like an eternity in game years. They gave us a challenge. The kind of which hasn’t been seen since The Wind Waker. When Eiji Aonuma said that Spirit Tracks may be the most fun Zelda ever, he wasn’t kidding around or trying to falsely hype the game up—the game truly delivers so much stuff you never want to put it down, and you keep finding yourself replaying it.
Spirit Tracks isn’t perfect, and I wont pretend to say it’s everything I wanted in a Zelda game. It is almost everything I could ask for in a handheld Zelda, however. The fact I find it more enjoyable then Twilight Princess, Phantom Hourglass, and Four Swords Adventures speaks for itself. If you remember, earlier this year there were two key things I was asking Nintendo to do to help make things seem fresh. First I said that Ganondorf needs to go away, and secondly I said it’s time for the Triforce to not really matter anymore. Ironically enough, that’s what happened in Spirit Tracks. Ganondorf was nowhere to be found, and the Triforce wasn’t even mentioned. There was a focus on force gems and magical rail maps, with a new enemy for a new Hyrule. In essence, it’s exactly what I was asking Nintendo to do.
Of course, I also wrote about 10 things Spirit Tracks needs to be successful. I mentioned the musical score needed to be fresh and inspiring. Needless to say, the musical score is the best since The Wind Waker, and is clearly the best soundtrack ever for a Zelda handheld. It is truly inspiring, even down to the songs you play on the Spirit Flute. Don’t believe me? Check out our song page for the Spirit Flute. I also mentioned that Zelda needed to play an important role, and clearly she did. She nailed it, having her most important role in a Zelda game to date. Of course, that’s not all I wanted.
I asked for a higher difficulty than Phantom Hourglass and Twilight Princess. Lets just say, Spirit Tracks easily provided that. I don’t even have to debate it: It’s the hardest game since The Wind Waker, even if that doesn’t say much. I also asked that there be better and more plentiful side quests. Again, Spirit Tracks delivered. I asked for more interesting characters and items being useful. Nintendo delivered on both of them. It was almost as if Nintendo had been following what I was saying and designing this game for me. It is indeed an odd feeling knowing that I called a lot of this long before I knew much about the game at all. However, it is also gratifying to see that Nintendo is indeed listening to our pleas.
Naturally I didn’t get everything I want. There isn’t a truly open world, for example. Still, it’s covered up well with everything else being of high quality. Spirit Tracks is indeed better than every game released since the The Wind Waker. Maybe you disagree, and that’s ok. Some just can’t get over the train. Some can’t get over Phantom Hourglass and let it apply to this title too much. Still, some just overhyped themselves too much. For me however, Spirit Tracks delivered, and it has now entered my top three games in the series. I am no longer ashamed to say “I really like Spirit Tracks”. What about you? What do you think about Spirit Tracks?