Nintendo’s Zelda team is making a habit of taking curtain calls lately. Who can blame them, though? After years of developing an engine and assets for the first game on a platform, they can turn around and deliver a second entire game in a much shorter period. This was how Majora’s Mask worked, and Spirit Tracks, the series’ second DS installment, is in the same vein. No one called Majora groundbreaking like they did Ocarina of Time, and no one will say that about Spirit Tracks either. It doesn’t mean it’s not fun, though.
Let’s go ahead and get to the new stuff, shall we? Tracks replaces a ship with a train for no real reason, and Zelda is this game’s new Navi, following Link around to assist and generally pester him. Of course, she has no body, so she’s a bit more useful in puzzle-solving, as she can do things Link can’t.
This is very much a sequel, so the controls, graphics and game progression are almost identical to Phantom Hourglass. Touch-screen movement has its advocates and detractors, so it’s hard to say much else about it.
The bosses and puzzle solving elements in Tracks are very well-conceived, and the NPCs in the game have a lot more personality than your usual Hyrule citizens. Generally, the attention has been placed on this stuff, because the engine was there. It’s a recipe for success, and fans will appreciate the level of detail in the world.
Of course, the game isn’t perfect, and the titular Spirit Tracks are partially to blame. Riding around in a train is incredibly tedious, even when attacks and interchanges try to make them interesting. Portable games are supposed to get you through boring rides between places, not cause more of them. Also, the multiplayer mode is very tacked-on, and since Four Swords, nothing has been able to achieve that level of fun.
It’s simple: if you enjoy Zelda games, get Spirit Tracks. If you hate them, don’t. If you’re on the fence, this is one of the good ones. Of course, come to think of it, they’re all good ones.
Pros: More Zelda! You know you wanted it.
Cons: Nothing groundbreaking.