Spanning almost thirty years The Legend of Zelda franchise has quite a deep history filled to the brim with many adventures, across the years people have found many games to love as they buried themselves in the embrace of world favorite Ocarina of Time. But where there is love, there is also hate and the Legend of Zelda franchise has a whole lot of hate behind it. Across the franchise’s history any games that broke the trend and took the franchise in a new, sometimes interesting direction were frowned upon first let’s take Skyward Sword as an example, this particular game broke the trend of the Zelda franchise in many ways, first it redefined the way we played Zelda with an all new control system which favored motion and your own abilities to play the game. To this day I can never understand why Skyward Sword receives the hatred it seems to get but that is a story for another article. The other big game that has been frowned upon all these years is Wind Waker, this game again changed how a Zelda game can make us feel, rather than going down a dark path like Majora’s Mask or Twilight Princess, Wind Waker took a much different approach the games childish looks were stunning and spouted cheer and joy across the span of the adventure. It was not always happy times for our hero but this coming of age classic just looked amazing and perfectly embodied the spirit of our adventure.
But speaking of Wind Waker while this game may still be quite underappreciated there is another that follows on in the vein of the original game with its direct sequel The Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass. As far as Nintendo DS and Zelda titles go this gem did not quite see the fanfare that it deserved and while there are some understandable reasons you need to look past the problems to see the wonderful spirit that oozes out of Phantom Hourglass.
The Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass continues the story onward from where Wind Waker left off, Link, Tetra and her merry band of pirates are on the open seas in search of a new world. During this journey the team stumble upon the legendary Ghost Ship, this ship was said to be home to great treasures and being a pirate Tetra chooses to seek it out and ends up captured. Hearing the scream of the in danger heroine our hero Link jumps aboard the ship, however a force sends him away, Link washes up on the beach of a far off island and that is where our journey begun.
Phantom Hourglass set out to continue what Wind Waker did best, it offered the chance for freedom and exploration on the open seas. In part it is restrictive as you have to unlock other sections of the ocean by making your way through the game but each section was filled with seas urging you forward to see what you could discover.
It is worth noting though what Zelda fans hated about this game and why it is deemed as unappreciated. The game changes things up from the standard formula in a big way, first the control scheme annoyed people by the way you had to direct Link by moving your stylus along the touch screen. In part it was understandable why this feature was hated, going from using buttons to just about all the game being played out on a touch screen was a huge departure, however on the whole I never thought it was too bad, unique yes, bad not really, it just took some getting used to.
But the big thing with Phantom Hourglass was the repetition found across the game, in part I would say Zelda games have always been repetitive, but Phantom Hourglass took repetition to the next level. Constantly the game would task you with the repetitive task of going through the Ocean Temple, for the first half of the game you are forced to run all the way through to a certain point in the dungeon. If that wasn’t enough the dungeon also features the titles namesake the Phantom Hourglass, this ominous hourglass helps keep you safe from the dungeons curse, though this only lasts as long as sands remained and therein lies the pressure, the game forces you to think quickly as you see every second tick away from you.
Sadly this is one of the biggest and best things about Phantom Hourglass, the Ocean temple may have pressure and repetition but this is all what the makes the game fun and an underappreciated gem. The fun and the soul of Phantom Hourglass lies with this temple, Zelda games never feature this pressure unless you consider the tower escape at the end of Ocarina of Time. The fact it is frequent, it forces you to remember your pathways around the temple, to remember the solutions to puzzles, to think smart, to think strategic, and to think quick. It is unappreciated just how much this game does with this simple mechanic and it is great, but this is not all that makes this game a gem.
From the oceans, to the dungeons, to the puzzles, to the secrets, to the world, there is so much to see, to do, and to explore. It is not hard to lose yourself in the world of Phantom Hourglass just like Wind Waker before it, the story pushes you forward as Tetra faces a recurring fate of characters in the Zelda universe, and if you played Wind Waker you genuinely want to save her from her troubles.
As far as puzzles went this game featured some of the best of the entire franchise, much like older Zelda games puzzles require some serious thought, and there is even a puzzle in the game that lies about its answer and forces you to think harder in order to find the true solution. I have never in my life thought about a puzzles solution as hard as I did while playing Phantom Hourglass particularly when exploring the Ghost Ship and the pressure of the Ocean Temple, letting the pressure get to you is the downfall of many though keeping a steady and relaxed mind was quite difficult.
It is also the characters that sit proudly in this game, from your fairy partner Celia who is far more amusing then Navi ever was and never annoyed me, to our sidekick character in the game the mighty captain Linebeck. Phantom Hourglass featured some of the franchises best character development, as we see this character who only cares about treasure and greed evolve into one of the nicest people around who would willingly sacrifice himself to save the world.
Phantom Hourglass is never the strongest Zelda experience but it does not deserve the underappreciation that it gets, once you get past the originally frustrating game controls there is an amazing game to be played. This game is a gem of the Zelda franchise, it is a gem of the DS era and a game that must be played and enjoyed. You must play this and solve the burning question is this all a dream shared by you Tetra or did you go to another world, maybe one day we will know?
Want more Underappreciated Gems articles? You can read one about Nintendo Land right here.