The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is an action-adventure game developed by Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo DS as a part of Nintendo's critically acclaimed The Legend of Zelda series. It features 3D cel-shaded graphics with an overhead camera perspective primarily, but incorporating different views based on context.
The graphics are similar in style to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and Nintendo of America confirms that The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is that game's direct sequel. Satoru Iwata unveiled it with a trailer during his keynote address at the 2006 Game Developers Conference in San Jose. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass was first released in Japan on June 23, 2007.
The game is a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, set several months after its events. At the start of the game, Link, Tetra and her pirates are at sea looking for the Ghost Ship rumoured to ply the waters in that area, taking sailors and residents of the nearby islands. Tetra, convinced that the phantom ship is simply a bunch of trouble-making pirates, is determined to teach them that pirates have rules, too. When a mysterious ship appears in the middle of a dense fog, Tetra jumps aboard to explore. As the ship pulls away and begins to vanish with her on board, Link attempts to leap over and save her only to fall into the water himself.
After having a vision of Tetra being surrounded by darkness and calling for his help, Link is washed up on Mercay Island and meets a fairy named Ciela, whose appearance is similar to that of Navi from Ocarina of Time. The fairy has lost her memory and decides to team up with Link. On Mercay Island, Link meets an old man named Shiwan who provides him with a sword. Link travels to the far side of the island and rescues Captain Lineback from the Temple of the Ocean King. In doing so, Link secures the use of Lineback's customizable steamship to travel throughout the overworld (initially restricted to a single quadrant, but expanded as he acquires more sea maps).
In the first half of the game, Link must rescue three colored fairies: the red Fairy of Power, Reef, from the Fire Temple; the blue Fairy of Wisdom, Nelly, from the Wind Temple; and the yellow Fairy of Courage from the Temple of Courage. However, upon defeating the Courage Temple's keeper, a giant lobster known as Leyard, the rescued fairy is colorless and appears just like Sierra. Sierra wonders why this is, but cannot remember anything due to her amnesia. As Link and Lineback are about to leave Molde Island, Shiwan then arrives, using his magical walking stick to fuse Sierra with the colorless fairy to become a yellow fairy, revealing that she is the Fairy of Courage.
Lineback and Link then set off to pursue the phantom ship. After rescuing four sisters from imprisonment on board, it is revealed that they are in fact phantoms themselves. Defeating them, Link obtains the key to where Tetra is being held, but he discovers that Tetra has been turned to stone. The old man Shiwan then arrives and reveals that he is in fact the Ocean King himself. According to him, a few years ago, an evil plant monster named Bellum appeared, hungry to eat life-force. He used this absorbed force to create powerful monsters, including the dungeon bosses and the phantoms in the Temple of the Ocean King, and used them to seal away the three fairies of Power, Wisdom, and Courage. Sierra, the Fairy of Courage, was able to split herself into two to flee, but in doing so, she also lost her memory. The Ocean King tried to fight Bellum but failed, and he too divided himself into two. Shiwan then created the Phantom Hourglass so that someone could use it to venture through the Temple of the Ocean King and defeat Bellum.
Shiwan then reveals that the only way to defeat Bellum is by obtaining a weapon known as the Phantom Sword. Shiwan asks Link to visit the smithy Sauz on his island. Sauz asks for three steel crystals as necessary ingredients for the sword; the scarlet, azure, and verdure steel crystals are on Goron Island, Ice Island, and Dead Man's Island, respectively.
Link sails to Goron Island where DaiGoron, the tribe's chief, asks him a quiz to admit him as one of the Gorons. Link defeats Bongorongo in the Goron's Temple and saves MaiGoron, a child Goron that becomes Link's controllable sidekick throughout the temple. Link then sails to Ice Island where he resolves the situation among the snow penguins and snow monkeys. The two races lived peacefully on either side of the island for 100 years, until recently, a snow monkey invaded the snow penguins' village and disguised itself as one of them. Link defeats the Gleeock in the Ice Temple and receives the Azure Steel. Lastly, Link sails off to Dead Man's Island where he must talk to the spirits of four knights and then finally Mutoh himself, the king of the ancient Daiku kingdom. Link defeats an ancient rock soldier known as Oisu and receives the final verdure steel crystal.
After taking the three steel crystals to Sauz and having him forge the Phantom Sword, Link returns to the Temple of the Ocean King and journeys to its lowest floor, where Bellum lurks. Link and Sierra defeat Bellum with the help of Phantom Spheres, which enable Link to freeze time and attack Bellum's weak spot. Bellum then appears to be defeated and Shiwan, the Ocean King, then arrives to warp them to safety. Sierra recovers her lost memories. On Lineback's ship, Tetra is unfrozen and thanks Link for all his trouble. When Link is about to reach out to hold Tetra's hand, Bellum suddenly appears and kidnaps Tetra, then takes over the phantom ship. Link and Lineback chase after the phantom ship and attack Bellum's tentacles in a marine battle, sinking the ship. Finally, on the ship's ruins, Bellum possesses Lineback and turns him into a sword-wielding Darknut. Link defeats the possessed Lineback in a sword fight (as in the style of Ganondorf in Twilight Princess), and Bellum is finally defeated and disintegrates into the Sands of Time.
Shiwan reappears as the Ocean King, a blue whale, and says that the Fairies of Power, Wisdom, and Courage must leave with him to their world. Shiwan asks Lineback to make a wish, and Sierra replies for Lineback, saying that he hopes to find treasure. Link and Lineback say their goodbyes to Sierra, with Lineback pretending to not care about her. Then, the credits roll while a collage of Link's new adventures (in the graphical style of the introduction) is shown. Later, Link and Tetra find themselves aboard the repaired phantom ship. Soon after, Nico sails by and Link and Tetra reboard their own ship. Nico asks what Link and Tetra had been doing for the past ten minutes, and asks Tetra if she just had a bad dream, which Tetra denies. While the pirates argue, Link gasps, noticing that the phantom ship is nowhere to be seen. Link reaches into his tunic and fishes out an empty Phantom Hourglass. Link then runs over to the opposite deck of the ship, where he sees Lineback's steamboat sailing off into the distance. Link smiles in relief and there, the game ends.
The graphics retain the same cel-shaded quality of The Wind Waker, except in a classic overhead view, like A Link to the Past. It was developed by the main Zelda team at Nintendo (Eiji Aonuma and co) instead of Flagship at Capcom, the developer of the modern 2D zelda games.
The gameplay in this Nintendo DS game is mostly overhead, similar to most 2D The Legend of Zelda titles, but the character models and the environments are in 3D. The rendering environment is similar to Animal Crossing for the Nintendo GameCube, and somewhat like the Nintendo DS sequel to Animal Crossing. The touch screen is used to show the main gameplay, used to control Link, or to solve puzzles (such as the hourglass shape at the beginning of the trailer shown at GDC), while the upper screen is mostly used as a map screen. The map can also be brought down to the touch screen, allowing the player to write notes on it. It will also be used to create a taller screen in some events, such as the battle scene in the trailer. All boss battles use both the top and bottom screen. The microphone is used as well.
Link has a fairy named Sierra, similar to Navi and Tatl and Tael from Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, respectively. The fairy acts as the cursor for touch screen input with the stylus. However, unlike in the Wii version of Twilight Princess, the Fairy has a part in the story and communicates with Link.
The player controls Link by using the stylus on the lower screen of the DS to manipulate the fairy. Running and walking is done by placing the stylus in the direction the player wishes for Link to go, with the speed of his movements determined by the distance between Link (who remains in the center of the screen) and the fairy. Rolling is done by dragging the stylus into the edge of the touch-screen twice in succession, while talking to people, reading signs, and picking up items requires the player to tap them on the touch screen.
Phantom Hourglass takes full advantage of nearly every DS feature including the built in microphone. Throughout the game, there are torches and candles that the player can extinguish by blowing into the Nintendo DS' built-in microphone. On other occasions, the player is required to shout to attract the attention of non-player characters.
Sword swings are accomplished by drawing a small arc near Link in the direction the player wishes to cut. Likewise, a quick tap in one direction with the stylus produces a jab, while a thrust-like motion from Link into a direction makes a thrust, also drawing a full circle around Link will cause him to perform a spinning swing attack. Touching most enemies on the touch screen will cause Link to lock on to them, after which he manoeuvrers to their location and attacks them.
Sailing is present in this title similar to the sailing system found in The Wind Waker. Instead of a sail boat however, a steam boat is Link’s mode of transportation, requiring no manipulation of the wind. The boat’s course is plotted ahead of time using the touch screen, allowing the player to concentrate on attacking foes with its cannon as the boat travels to its destination point. The boat also has upgradable parts which the player can find and customize to his or her liking.
The overworld, like The Wind Waker's, is set in a vast ocean comprised of four quadrants, mapped out on charts obtained in the Sea King's Temple. Each quadrant has between 3 and 5 islands, totalling 16 in all. The overworld is much smaller than that of The Wind Waker, making oceanic venturing much more convenient and user-friendly. Upon departure from any of the several islands scattered (randomly, as opposed to The Wind Waker's tile formation) around the sea, players are given a map where the stylus is used to draw out a course in which the boat will follow. This route can be altered at any point during travel.
The game features a full inventory of seven items from classic The Legend of Zelda games, all of which are controlled by using the stylus. To control a boomerang's flight path and Bombchu's travel path, the player has to use the stylus to draw it out on the touch screen. To use arrows, bombs, the grappling hook, the hammer, and the shovel, the player must point at the tile where he wishes to use the item.
The game has seven major dungeons and one "master dungeon" with an initial ground floor and thirteen basement levels. The seven dungeons are Fire Temple, Wind Temple, Temple of Courage, the Phantom Ship, the Goron's Temple, Ice Temple, and Mutoh's Temple. The master dungeon, known as Sea King's Temple, is one that Link must revisit many times over the course of the game. Upon each visit, the player can only make limited progress, and must work through other dungeons before they are able to proceed further.
In the Sea King's Temple and Phantom Ship, there are guards known as phantoms. These enemies follow Link; every time Link is hit, he loses a heart and half a minute on the timer. There are three colors of phantoms: Blue Phantoms are the slowest. Red Phantoms begin appearing on the fourth basement, are faster than Blue Phantoms, and can pick up Force Gems. Golden Phantoms begin appearing on the tenth basement and can instantly teleport to wherever Link is. Each floor has a number of "safe zones" where the phantoms cannot hit Link; these are marked as purple areas on the map screen. Phantoms can be killed once Link obtains the Phantom Sword before the final boss battle.
Beating the game unlocks a time trial mode for Sea King's Temple. The player's highest time remaining is recorded on his status screen. Because time bonuses (awarded through yellow pots) are available on each floor of the dungeon, it is possible to complete the time trial with zero net seconds lost.
Footage from the demo shown at E3 2006, official screenshots as well as the official trailer, show a few items included in the game, including bombs, a bow, a shovel, the boomerang, and a cannon for the boat. Other items include the grappling hook, Bombchus, and the hammer. An icon in the lower left corner of the touch screen showing the word "Menu" will bring up a menu in which the player can choose their current item, which will appear in the upper right corner.
The Game Developer's Conference of 2007 unveiled a new trailer for the game, which depicted Link getting trapped by enemies and having to rub the touch screen with the stylus repeatedly to escape.
A multi-player battle mode is also included in Phantom Hourglass. This battle mode is a 1-on-1 multiplayer game officially dubbed "Hide-and-Go-Seek" by Eiji Aonuma. In an arena, one player takes on the role of Link, while the other player, on defense, controls three Phantom Guardians. Players of both sides are aided by power-up items that shortly appear on the playing field, such as the Pegasus Shoes, a Decoy, a Time Increase and a Whirlwind maker.
Link’s goal is to grab a Force Gem from one of the many zones and carry it to his own base at one side of the arena. The other player, controlling the three Phantom Guardians, must try to find and catch Link before he scores any points. When Link is caught, or if the turn-time has passed, players switch sides. A game consists of three rounds, and in each round, each player takes a turn at both sides. The maximum length of one whole multiplayer game is 12 minutes.
The game supports multi-player both locally and online through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Local Download Play is also supported.
The Touch Screen has been demonstrated to be used in many different, mysterious ways, from drawing on doors to open them, to drawing on maps, and solving puzzles. One clip shown by Satoru Iwata has the player drawing a path that his Boomerang follows. It is also shown to be used for drawing paths and shooting cannons from a boat. This suggests it is a sequel to Wind Waker.
There is also a fairy, similar to Navi that players control like a cursor. Where this fairy moves, Link would follow. It represents the stylus, which implies the game is played entirely on the touch screen.