Welcome to episode 7 of my quest to finish every Zelda game before the remake of Link’s Awakening releases near the end of the month. For this episode, I played 2009’s The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks on Nintendo DS.
Taking place around 100 years after the events of Phantom Hourglass (which we examined with frustration in episode 6), Spirit Tracks is the final game in the “Adult Timeline.” It features many of the same mechanics as its predecessor. Players control Link via the stylus and touchscreen and draw on the map, and it features a nearly identical cast of characters. However, there are a couple of notable mechanical differences between Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks.
For one, Spirit Tracks has players piloting a special, cannon-equipped train throughout the overworld rather than the steamboat from the previous game. Personally, I enjoyed the mechanics of the train in Spirit Tracks far more than I enjoyed the boat in Phantom Hourglass. It just felt more engaging and immersive to me. But then again, I’ve been a little overly obsessed with trains for as long as I can remember.
The second standout mechanical difference between Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks is the way Link rolls. In Phantom Hourglass, you had to tap the edge of the screen while running to make Link roll (a feat that is much easier to describe than perform). In Spirit Tracks, however, players make Link roll by double-tapping the touchscreen in the direction that they’re currently running. It may not seem like the biggest difference, but in practice, it was far easier for me to master.
Is Spirit Tracks more fun than Phantom Hourglass?
While I definitely had an easier time with the controls in Spirit Tracks, I don’t know if I’d call it a better game than Phantom Hourglass. The touch-based controls at least felt innovative and experimental in Phantom Hourglass. However, in Spirit Tracks, they don’t hold up as well. Nintendo really should have ditched the tap controls. They just aren’t as fun as traditional Zelda controls (especially in top-down dungeon crawlers).
For my playthrough, I used an original DS cartridge purchased for under $30 at my local GameStop store. However, if you wanted to pick up the game without having to hunt down a physical copy, you can always purchase the Wii U virtual console port on the eShop for $9.99. But act fast! Just like how Nintendo killed the Wii eShop a few years ago, the Wii U’s eShop won’t last forever.
Anyway, there are only three Zelda games left in my marathon. Next up on my quest is one of my least favorite Zelda games: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (an unpopular opinion, I know). I’ll see you then, but in the interim, let me know if you agree with me about Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks!