So, it's the long awaited Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks review, from yours truly! I was never too fond of Phantom Hourglass. It just didn't give me that Zelda feel. When I play Zelda, I want to feel epic, and epic usually means Ganondorf. I felt epic when I was fighting Ganondorf sword-to-sword in Twilight Princess. I felt epic when I was shooting arrows at Ganon in Ocarina of Time. I didn't feel epic when I was chasing the Pirates of the Caribbean rip-off of a ghost ship with that asshole Linebeck. So, when Spirit Tracks was set to release and as the details of the game started flooding in, I was a little more enthusiastic than I was with Phantom Hourglass. Hyrule, Princess Zelda (not Pirate Zelda), roaming the open fields... In a train? Well, whatever it may be, Spirit Tracks is definitely better than its predecessor, but still encounters many of the pitfalls Hourglass had. The plot of Spirit Tracks involves a new Link, 100 years from the events of Phantom Hourglass. So if you were wondering, no, this isn't a straight-up sequel like Majora's Mask to Ocarina of Time. They do, however, give some links (no pun intended) to Phantom Hourglass. For example, in a cutscene in Hyrule Castle, you'll notice a stained glass depiction of Tetra, aka Pirate Zelda. There's also the return of Linebeck, in the form of Linebeck III, an obvious decedent and the game's resident douchebag. Well, the story has this new Link, a graduate engineer in trains, becoming a full engineer by partaking in a ceremony by Princess Zelda. After the ceremony, though, Zelda asks Link to help her by sneaking her out of Hyrule Castle and taking her to the Tower of Spirits, in an attempt to find out what is happening to all the disappearing Spirit Tracks (which are just railroad tracks). However, on their way their, the tracks disappear from under them, and they are ambushed by Zelda's "caretaker", who turns out to be an evil demon. Zelda is "cursed", or something like that, and you and your buddy are knocked unconscious. When you wake up, you find a ghost of Zelda roaming the halls of the castle, and together you team up to get her body back and restore the Spirit Tracks. Yeah... No more Navi or other fairies this time, your backseat driver this time is Zelda. The story itself is a little grander than Phantom Hourglass, which to me just ended up being a Pirates of the Caribbean rip-off (and I didn't even like that movie), but still no "epic" like past Zelda titles. It's a handheld, after all. As for menus, they're easy to navigate for the most part, although being able to switch items on-the-fly instead of pulling up a menu to do so would've been appreciated. As for the gameplay, this Zelda just doesn't hold water like it's predecessors. First off, the entire game is controlled via stylus. Ugh... I don't like stylus controls. You can't really make any precision navigation with the stylus, and there's no option to use face buttons. Well, you move by dragging the stylus, which Link will follow, you attack by either tapping enemies (for a lunge or stab) or by slashing the stylus across the screen for a slash. You can also do a 360 spin by drawing a quick circle around Link. The major annoyance I find here is that you can't slash and move at the same time. It's impossible. So instead, you have to stand there and then slash. If you miss, you have to move again, stop, and slash. Sure, you can always do the tapping method, but when you want to hit multiple enemies in front of you or even just want to do a 360 spin, you have to stop. That, combined with the slippery stylus controls, make this Zelda a lot less manageable than its predecessors. Stylus control does work well with some things though, such as being able to write notes on your map (although I still crack out the pen and paper instead) and some of Link's gadgets like the boomerang, but I would have gladly sacrificed those for some traditional face button control. There's also the issue of dungeons. There's not a lot of real mind bending puzzles here. The dungeons are incredibly linear for a Zelda game and the puzzles are clearly tuned down so that casual gamers can do them without going into their mental retardation/drooling mode. Water Temple this is not. For hardcore Zelda fans, you may find yourself disappointed at this. The other major nuisance is, for whatever reason, the abuse of the microphone. The microphone portions can, at times, just be broken. Sure, it can work on some minor things like the fan weapon, but with the sections that involve you playing music on a flute of sorts, it's just fucking annoying. Why Nintendo decided to use this terrible aspect OVER AND OVER again eludes me. Train travel is a major emphasis here but isn't much more but a slightly more compact version of the boat from Phantom Hourglass. Instead of drawing a custom path, you essentially choose where you go on the tracks. You can also change where you go in real time, a feature that was sorely missed in Hourglass when you needed to make sudden course corrections. Train travel is kind of a lazy river boat ride where you see all the French people on the shores (huh?), in that I mean it shows a lot of nice scenery, although there are enemies to shoot as well as changing track direction (if needs be), changing gears (from Reverse, Stop, 1st Gear, and 2nd Gear), and using the whistle to scare off animals. I like it over riding in the boat myself, but it's not a huge plus for the game. Graphically and audio wise, it's that top-notch stuff you'd expect from Zelda. It's got a Zelda-esque score and the cell-shading here looks great. For those who say "OH IT LOOKS WORSE THAN HOURGLASS!" I say, "What the fuck are you smoking?" I'm fairly confident they run on exactly the same engine. It looks exactly the same. In fact, I would say this looks better, mainly because there's the beautiful Hyrule countryside versus water, water everywhere. Anyway, this graphics look great for the DS just as a whole. There's, of course, no framerate drops or the like and everything is well rounded. No graphical glitches or anything, a truly polished game. The audio is the expansive overtures that Zelda was made for. The hacking, slashing, yelling, and groaning sounds are all pretty good too. Overall, Spirit Tracks is not all too good for a Zelda game, but in the realm of all games, "a bad Zelda game" is better than most other games. Stylus controls are quite annoying, dungeons are easier, microphone use is annoying, and there's a hand full of other small nuisances along the way. The game still isn't broken by any means, but it just isn't as good as other Zelda titles. It still looks beautiful and has a great soundtrack, though. Overall though, it's just not a great Zelda title at all. Presentation: Not an epic, Ganondorf-stomping storyline like other Zelda titles, but definitely better than the "chase the Black Pearl" one of Hourglass. It really stretches to catch that feeling, though, even if it doesn't quite reach it. Menus are nicely laid out, although a better quick access to items would be appreciated. 8/10 Graphics: The cell shaded world of Zelda again looks wonderful on the DS. The Hyrule countryside, as well as other locales, look a lot better than just lots of water everywhere. Models look nice and there's no problems with the graphics here. I would even say this looks better than Hourglass. 9/10 Audio: A nice Zelda soundtrack. Lots of grand overtures and the traditional Zelda sound effects. I would have liked some more classic Zelda tunes, like Hyrule Field from Ocarina of Time or the Song of Storms (I have them both on my iPod ), but this will do. 8.5/10 Gameplay: Definitely not a strong Zelda title. Stylus controls are not nearly as smooth as D-Pad/face buttons, outside of a few items, excessive microphone controls are annoying, dungeons are dumbed down to appeal to the general audience. Microphone controls can be just plain broken when playing songs, which you have to do time after time. Train travel is better than boat travel, even if it isn't as free roaming. Still, it's a Zelda title that won't impress. 7/10 Lasting Appeal: It's typical Zelda adventure length, although the linear and shorter dungeons make the game shorter. There's also sidequests to do, if you wish. If you can get used to the fidgitty stylus controls, you can enjoy this title for quite a bit. 7.5/10 Overall: 7.7/10 ZOMG NOT A 10/10! DISCUSS!