Phantom Hourglass Mech
Written by: Sage Raziel
The same Cel-Shaded graphics that threatened to rip at the sales of one of Nintendo's largest game series has yet again returned, this time with opposite effects. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass was the fourteenth game in the Legend of Zelda series to be released. It hit the shelves on June 23, 2007 in Japan and soon followed in North America on October 1, 2007. Phantom Hourglass was announced as the direct sequel to Wind Waker, and as such would feature the same graphic style that Wind Waker had introduced; The Cel-Shaded cartoon-like graphics. Nintendo re ally felt this system of animation allowed for more expression of the characters without audio speech. Like it's previously released Zelda games, Phantom Hourglass brought unique advancements in technoloy, this time being a touch screen interface that paved the way for the Ipod Touch, Iphone, and much more.
On October 6, 2004 a press conference in Japan was in session. The topic: The Nintendo DS. Some of the major game designers for Nintendo were there discussing future titles for the new hand-held system. Amoung the many people there was Shigeru Miyamoto. He announced his idea of moving The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords to the DS. Though Shigeru's idea never went through for the DS, Four Swords was remade for the GameCube. Meanwhile, the Nintendo DS was revealed to the public and with it the promise of a Zelda game. Then at E3 2005 it was confirmed by Nintendo that a new game for the DS was under construction with plans on being released in mid 2006. No new Zelda info was released from then on...That is until February 2006, when Nintendo revealed The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass along with a playable demo at the annual Gamer Developers Convention. The anticipated release date for the game was set to late 2006.
Still not much about Phantom Hourglass had hit the public yet, and as with any good game rumors began to spread . These rumors really tore away from the game, stating that this newer Zelda game was aimed at young children. Of course these same rumors nailed Wind Waker, and this time around didn't effect Phantom Hourglass as much; Either you liked the graphics or you didn't Nintendo would produce a good quality Zelda game regardless. So really the success of Wind Waker set Phantom Hourglass up for success and gave it an immunity to graphical criticism.
The same team that had worked on Shigeru's Four Sword remake, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure for the GameCube, took on the task of Phantom Hourglass just months after the release of their previous work. Having worked so much with Four Swords they really strived to keep the DS as much like the GBA as possible, only introducing new concepts in small doses. This really held the NintendoDS back, and wasn't a good decision on the teams part. Originally the action took place on the upper screen, and most of the controls involved buttons. The touch screen showed maps, and other small in-game charts. This was a very poor use of the new interface introduced in the DS. When presented with a demo, Shigeru Miyamoto felt that the game felt too much like GBA game and ordered the team to rethink the control system. This forced the release date back to late 2007.
In response to Miya moto's request the team decided to change the control scheme of Link from using the buttons to drawing on the map on the touch screen. As you moved the stylus along the map it would control Link. No buttons were needed, though the action remained on the top screen, and the control interface and map were on the bottom screen. The team, proud of their work, presented the newly thought up control system to Shigeru once more. This time he was satisfied, but noted one issue. While staring at the touch screen to move Link around he felt too “disconnected” to the action on the top screen. Thus, the screens were switched and the action was on the touch screen. This allowed players to control Link in the actual game world, not on a map.
Miyamoto decided, just before turning Phantom Hourglass over to Nintendo, to add some features that might make it more popular in North America. He crammed in a multiplayer, and a WiFi multiplayer at the last second, hoping to boost US sales slightly. Upon release fans went nuts. Many people absolutely loved Wind Waker, and this sequel was just what they wanted. Phantom Hourglass had done it, or so it appeared...The game was the top selling game of the month in the US and Japan for Nintendo, but after that sales stalled and began decreasing almost to a halt. Why was this? Phantom Hourglass had received close to no negative feedback from critics, and fans seemed=2 0satisfied. As sales staggered copies of Phantom Hourglass filled the “used section” of video game store across Nintendo's empire. Eventually the reasoning behind this arose. You see, Phantom Hourglass had succeeded in presenting the Zelda feel, and introducing a unique interface, along with a wonderful new addition to the Zelda series, but unfortunately it was just too short of a game. Zelda fans grabbed it up hoping to spend several days straight wondering through challenging dungeons and traveling the Great Sea. Instead they spent roughly between 30 and 72 hours to completely beat the game. That's short for any title!
Through it all The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass had many flaws, but recovered well. Though I believe if Nintendo would've put a better team in control of it's development it could've been so much better. Not that it was good to begin with. It received a 9.5 out of 10 from Game Informer, and was acclaimed a Must-Own Game by IGN. Overall the title has sold about 4.12 million copies world wide. Many people felt that Phantom Hourglass did not meet the standards set by Twilight Princess, but none the less was an excellent addition to the series. I believe this game has planted a seed in our hearts, as the Pokemon series did with the GameBoy Color. Twenty years from now, when the DS is mentioned our minds will instantly return to that glorious day when we picked up our copy of The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.