Posted on December 03 2009 by Nathanial Rumphol-Janc
It’s a Zelda game for the DS. It’s published by
Nintendo. It’s going to have items to use, puzzles to solve, dungeons
to explore, bosses and lesser monsters to strike, and swords to hack
and slash with. It’s taken up 99% of the lives of everyone here at
ZeldaInformer for the past month or so. And there will be trains. Lots
Okay, so that’s simplifying things a bit much. Truth is, we’ve covered a wealth of Spirit Tracks
info the past couple weeks, and we plan to sum it up as best we can in
our own words as we enter the weekend-before-release.
Spirit Tracks utilizes the DS’s functionality in much the same way as its predecessor, Phantom Hourglass.
As before, players will use the stylus to control Link, and the menu
interface in this game is largely the same, with a few new additions.
There are two main gameplay themes in Spirit Tracks:
the first is, of course, the game’s trademark train. While the train
has to stick to the tracks, you’ll chart your course and fire cannons
at monsters and other obstacles in much the same fashion as Phantom Hourglass‘s
steam ship. The train has multiple speeds, and can even go backwards in
a pinch. It’s also armed with a train whistle that can signal your
approach—a handy tool when livestock or enemies block the tracks.
Sometimes Link will need to use the train to carry goods or passengers,
both within the main quest and in sidequests.
The other gameplay device unique to Spirit Tracks is the extensive tag-team element involving the Phantoms, previously enemies in Phantom Hourglass.
While traversing the Spirit Tower, Link will collect Tears of Light in
order to power up his sword and strike at the Phantoms patrolling each
floor. Once he does so, Princess Zelda will be able to possess the
Phantom and use its hulking armored body to assist Link. The Phantom is
essentially invincible, so it serves as a powerful weapon against foes
and an effective shield against hazards such as fire. We’ve also seen
multiple types of Phantoms, including one with a blazing sword, as well
as a number of different ways that Zelda and Link can work together to
As you progress through the game, you’ll notice a flow not unlike what we previously saw in Phantom Hourglass.
You’ll first head to the Spirit Tower, which functions as a hub dungeon
similar to the Temple of the Ocean King. Don’t cringe—the repetitive
trips through the same floors have been made completely optional this
time around, and there’s no time limit. There you’ll run the gauntlet
of puzzles until you find a piece of the map. Each map piece reveals
new tracks and a new region of the land, not unlike the maps from Phantom Hourglass.
Head along the new route and you’ll uncover new towns and races to
investigate, and once you find the guardian sage of each area you’ll be
able to access a new dungeon. Dungeons hold items, items help you get
through the dungeon and defeat its boss, and after each boss you’ll
unleash a giant Force Gem which will restore some of the Spirit Tracks.
Then return to the Spirit Tower to find a new piece of the map and move
on to the next area.
There’s been a lot of polish to the gameplay mechanics, and the game
makes a more concerted effort to take advantage of the unique hardware
of the DS. The microphone in particular is used to a much greater
extent in Spirit Tracks,
and is now even used to activate some dungeon items. And speaking of
items, a number of items have been confirmed, some new and some
– New Item: The Spirit Flute
Early in the quest, Link will receive the Spirit Flute, an artifact once owned by the founding Zelda of the new kingdom seen in Spirit Tracks.
Link will learn multiple songs with magical effects that can be used to
solve puzzles or open new paths. The Flute is controlled by a
combination of the stylus and the microphone. Blow into the microphone
while lining up the pan pipes with the correct combination of colors to
play different songs.
The first song learned is the Song of Awakening, which you’ll need to
access the first temple. The second song is the Song of Discovery,
which works similarly to the Shovel seen in previous games. There’s
presumably at least one song for each of the various gameplay regions.
– New Item: Whirlwind
The first of the new items to be confirmed, the Whirlwind borrows a number of functions from the Gust Jar from The Minish Cap
in that it uses gusts of wind to manipulate objects and enemies. You’ll
point with the stylus blow into the microphone to aim and trigger the
Whirlwind, and a small cyclone will issue from it like a bullet fired
from a gun. This tornado can snare objects like keys and make them
easier to reach. The Whirlwind is also useful for stunning enemies and
blowing away clouds of noxious gas, which will appear starting in the
– New Item: Whip
Another new item is the whip, which combines the functions of the Hookshot and the Grappling Hook from The Wind Waker.
It’ll mostly be used to swing across wide gaps by gripping onto an
overhanging bar or ledge, but can also grab faraway items and smack
around enemies. The Whip appears to be snake-like in nature, with
actual fangs gripping onto those grapple points. (Kind of begs the
question of why they didn’t call it the Rope as a sort of pun involving
the name of the snake enemy…)
– Old Items: Boomerang, Bow, and Bombs
The old staples return once again, with basically the same functions as
in previous outings. The Boomerang has notably been seen to carry Blue
Fire as well as the normal fire it transferred in Phantom Hourglass, but mum’s the word on any new uses for the other items.
There’ll be plenty of tasks to complete as the game progresses, such as
playing match-maker, gathering rabbits, delivering and trading items,
and massing a horde of treasures such as demon bits and wood hearts.
Watch out for every possible opportunity to make use of items and
abilities to find secrets or reach new areas. Any longtime fan should
know the drill.
Multiplayer will be similar to Phantom Hourglass
in that players will gather Force Gems and avoid the attacks of
Phantoms, but this time up to four players can join in, one donning
each of the Four Sword colors. Force Gems will now be “absorbed”
instead of needing to be carried individually, cutting out one of the
annoying features of Phantom Hourglass‘s system.
When players take hits, they drop Force Gems and other players can
steal them to increase their score. There are six multiplayer maps
based on the various gameplay areas visited during the single-player
adventure, adding variety that was missing from Phantom Hourglass. Matches only require a single Spirit Tracks game card no matter how many people join in.
Spirit Tracks has a deep lore comparable to the
more traditional titles, with a few new story quirks. Legends circulate
the land, telling of a fierce Demon King threatened the people a long
time ago, but was sealed away by the Spirits of Good. Shackles placed
on the land bound the Demon King in a dark realm deep underground, and
later were used as train tracks—the titular Spirit Tracks. This sounds
oddly familiar, but the explanation for the train tracks is an
The game is set in Hyrule, but this time it’s well-established that this is a New Hyrule, founded by Link and Tetra after Phantom Hourglass.
Link begins as an apprentice engineer who hails from the town of Aboda
and lives with a familiar face for longtime fans: Niko, the pirate
swabbie from The Wind Waker. But this isn’t just
another recurring character, a descendant of the previous Niko, it’s
clear that this is the very same person we saw in the previous
games—and that he’s seen better days. Alfonzo, Link’s instructor,
should also look familiar, since he’s the descendant of Gonzo, another
member of Tetra’s pirate gang.
As we set out, we learn that Link is about to head on his way to a
graduation ceremony at Hyrule Castle, where he will become a
fully-fledged Royal Engineer. When he arrives, however, we meet
Chancellor Cole, a top adviser to the Royal Family who’s short enough
to put Napoleon to shame and who gives off a creepy leprechaun vibe. He
remarks about how pointless Link’s promotion is, but attends the
ceremony anyway. Soon Princess Zelda appears to award Link with his new
title, but as she does so she whispers in his ear that she needs his
After the ceremony is over, Link sneaks up to the Princess’s tower and
escorts her stealthily out of the castle. In order not to draw the
attention of the guards, she gives him his traditional green garb,
which at this time is the clothing worn by Hyrule’s soldiery. Link’s
hood sets him apart, and is usually worn by new recruits. Even with the
new clothes, however, Zelda still must sneak away unseen, so Link
distracts the guards as she slips past.
They board Link’s train and head towards the Spirit Tower, the central
hub for the Spirit Tracks, but on their way the tracks disappear from
under them and they crash! Chancellor Cole appears and, revealing his
true colors, assaults Zelda, separating her spirit from her body. One
of his cohorts, the mysterious Byrne, snatches Zelda’s body and the two
of them run off. At this, the Spirit Tower breaks apart—surely some
great evil is on the horizon.
Link will soon reunite with Zelda, but we soon discover that
something’s amiss—Zelda is a ghost! She asks Link to take the Spirit
Flute, which was given to her ancestors a long time ago, and asks him
to try to accompany her to the Spirit Tower one more time to visit the
resident sage there. Once at the tower, Zelda learns that she can take
control of the Phantom guardians—formerly protectors of the temple, now
corrupted by the recent events—and use them to help Link reach new
places and avoid danger.
Together they track down the sage of the tower, a Lokomo named Anjean.
The Lokomo are a new race to the series, and seem to have an affinity
with machines. Anjean suggests that the duo head to to the temples of
Hyrule, where they will be able to restore some of the Spirit Tracks.
It’s also imperative that they recover Zelda’s body—since she has
strong ties to Old Hyrule, her body will make a suitable vessel for the
return of the Demon King.
So begins Link and Zelda’s perilous quest for gold and glory. We know
only sparse details from here on out, most of which were already
covered in the gameplay section.
There’s lots to be found in this New Hyrule, much of it new and much of
it familiar. In terms of the old, the Forest Temple and Lost Woods are
already confirmed to make an appearance, as well as the obvious Hyrule
Castle and Castle Town. We’ve reported on the return of an Anouki
Village, and the promotional map seen in the first official trailers
shows off Gorons in the upper-right corner. New places include the
various villages: Aboda, Link’s starting village, Whippleton, the
village of Lumberjacks, as well as several others that we’ve yet to
Like Phantom Hourglass‘s sea, the game is
divided into distinct gameplay regions, with various towns, dungeons,
and mini-dungeons to find in each one. There are six confirmed regions,
plus the central Spirit Tower, and each centers on an elemental theme:
Forest, Snow, Ocean, Fire, Sand, and Dark, in that order. Not much is
known about most of these areas, although as one trailer revealed the
ocean area will take us underwater. Every region has a temple to match,
such as the Forest and Snow Temples, but the exact nature of most of
the dungeons is still unknown.
The Lokomo are the native inhabitants of the land, and the ones we’ve
seen appear to have taken on the role of the sages from previous games.
They guard the temples of the land, and these temples in turn guard the
seals on the Demon King. (The demon’s name, by the way, is Malladus, so
he’s probably not related to Ganon as many previously speculated.)
We’ve only heard the names of three of them so far, and their names all
seem to be puns related to trains: Anjean (engine), Gage (gauge), and
Steem (steam). Some have speculated that Byrne, the enigmatic
partner-in-crime to Cole, might also be a Lokomo due to his clothing,
which bears similar emblems to those worn by other Lokomo, his
mechanical arm, and his name (which is also a pun, on the word “burn”).
A recent video revealed that Linebeck is back, probably in the form of
one of his descendants since, unlike Niko, he doesn’t appear to have
aged since Phantom Hourglass.
This time he runs a curio shop, probably due to his ancestor’s maniacal
obsession with treasure. And if his shop is anything like the one in Phantom Hourglass, Link will once again be doing his work for him.
The return of Linebeck was one of the most intriguing surprises yet
revealed, and you can bet there will be many more come Monday, when Spirit Tracks hits stores in the U.S. Be on the lookout for our second Spirit Tracks Bombers’ speculation piece, which will open up discussion on much of the information mentioned here.