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'Zelda' finally arrives for Nintendo DS

Offering a compelling story, great gameplay, and the return of a beloved character, ‘The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass’ is an essential — if long overdue — addition to the DS catalog

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‘Zelda’ finally arrives for Nintendo DS

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
(Nintendo; Nintendo DS; Everyone)

With more than 47 million units sold in less than three years, Nintendo’s mega-popular DS is hardly in need of a killer app. Still, there was a conspicuous gap in the handheld’s already vast library — one that was just closed with the release of The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. (Zelda joins Mario, Pokemon, and Metroid to become the last of Nintendo’s blue-chip franchises to make it to the DS.) We’re happy to say the wait was worth it: Phantom Hourglass is an innovative, engrossing adventure whose length belies the teeny game card that holds it.

Of course, the game stars Link, the franchise?s beloved sword ‘n’ shield-wielding boy-hero. (We should point out that some knowledge of Zelda is helpful but absolutely not required.) When a mysterious ghost ship sails off with his girlfriend Tetra on board, Link enlists the aid of a fairy (who happens to be afflicted with an identity crisis) and a cowardly braggart named Captain Linebeck (useful only because his swift ship is Link’s best chance to catch up with Tetra). The pursuit sets Link and his friends on a collision course with all sorts of sea- and land- based baddies, all of which — true to Nintendo’s family-friendly ways — are equal parts scary and endearing. Giant lobsters, hermit crabs, and slime-oozing plants aren’t exactly the stuff of nightmares, but finding ways to beat them offer some cool challenges.

Hourglass makes fine use of the DS’ unique interface: in fact, you can play the entire game using only the touch-sensitive screen, without ever having to use the directional pad or buttons. You control Link’s movement, for example, by drawing his intended path on the screen. To fight, you use the stylus and various sequences of swipes to make Link lunge, hack, and slash with his sword. You can also use the stylus to make notations on a map, or jot down clues to puzzles that you’ll encounter later in the game. And you can shout or blow into the DS’ built-in microphone when calling out to a character or extinguishing a candle. Hourglass certainly isn’t the first DS title to incorporate these features, but few have done it this well. Though the latest Zelda is a bit late to the DS party, it leapfrogs its way to the front of the line and is easily one of the best games on the system. And with the always entertaining Advance Wars, it lets Nintendo truthfully claim that the DS now has a library of great games that runs from A to Z. A