Thoughts on the Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

First the annoying: it's practically a stylus-only game, which makes it an RSI game. The practically qualifier is there because a couple of actions can be triggered with buttons, but they're intended to be triggered with the stylus. You move with the stylus, you make actions with the stylus, and you make a simple wrist splint with the stylus and some duck tape after playing for a while.

Well, maybe not that last one.

On the other hand, it's fun enough that you'll be playing long enough to need to doctor your wrist. (So you might want to get a wrist strong bracelet to remind you to keep your wrist strong and stop playing after an hour or so. Plus you might be able to use it instead of the duck tape.)

But enough with my complaints about excessive stylus use. (You hear me, DS developers? Don't rely on just the stylus! The D-pad and buttons are there for a reason!) There's the whole "rest of the game" to talk about.

The game makes great use of the stylus by allowing the player to annotate the location maps. More games should do this - although the game goes somewhat out of its way to require annotating. This is a very useful feature.

Unfortunately then there's moving around with the stylus. Certain moves can be triggered by certain gestures (draw a circle for the spin attack, draw small circles to do a somersault) - unfortunately actually triggering them can be annoyingly difficult. Likewise, attacking becomes somewhat annoying because instead of an instant button press it's a gesture which takes time to draw. Not much time, but enough to be annoying. Fortunately combat is not a large part of this game, but the combat portions are somewhat annoying.

The game also makes some random use of the microphone - somewhat neat, but in the end, really just annoying if you ever intend to play the game in a quiet setting.

I never did like the Wind Waker art style, and since Phantom Hourglass is a direct sequel to Wind Waker (it recaps the Wind Waker story at the start) it uses the same art style. It doesn't really work any better on the DS than it did on the GameCube, but it does at least not tax the DS's 3D capabilities. It's not enough to prevent me from playing, but it isn't my favorite Zelda art direction.

So after all that rant, so far I like the game. I can't play it for long stretches without destroying my wrist, but it's fun enough.