Zelda's Phantom Menace

About a week ago, I started playing The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, a DS game from 2007. Now, at about the halfway point, I feel it is important to note the annoying design choices in the game. Specifically: bad stylus controls, the Phantom Hourglass dungeon itself, and pointless challenges.

Everything in this game must be done using the touch screen. There is no other option. Want to move Link? Press in the direction he Gould move. Want to attack? Swipe or tap. Want to change weapons? Press on the menu. Want to advance through these boring conversations? Keep tapping until everyone shuts up.

There is no reason that every action needs to be done with the stylus. This design makes it impossible to attack while moving or to quickly change between secondary weapons. It’s also causing my touchscreen to be scratched. And after The World Ends With You, I’m getting tired of game design decisions causing damage to the console.

Secondly, the title’s Phantom Hourglass is named after an item repeatedly used in the game giving you an artificial time limit in a central dungeon.

Puzzle solving under a time limit is bad enough, but this game also forces you to solve the same puzzles over and over. You visit the dungeon, make it to the next treasure, go explore, then return to the dungeon and repeat all the same. Puzzles until you make it to a new floor. Eventually, you get a warp to the middle of the dungeon, but its too late. What should be a fun part of the game turns tedious.

The second reason the dungeon is a pain is that all the enemies are invulnerable. Instead of a normal, action focused Zelda, you are suddenly forced onto a stealth game that doesn’t fit with the rest of your playthrough. Zelda and stealth are no strangers, but combine it with replaying the same dungeon repeatedly with a time limit and my patience wanes.

Lastly, the pointless but required side tracking to advance the plot. The best example so far is what is needed to access the Goron dungeon. You must talk with the leader who will only grant you access once you talk to every character on the island. OK, fine. Talking the leader again, you need to pass his quiz, with unrelated questions like “How many children are on the island?” and “What’s in this spot?”

Just let me save sage Tetra already! After getting 6 questions correct, you would think that you could now access the temple. You would be wrong. Instead of just walking directly to the right and into the dungeon, you need to play hide and seek with a kid first. He runs off to one side of the island where you must find him, then he runs to the temple entrance. I have no idea why that would be included in the game other than throwing one last frustration at the player for the hell if it.

It is only because I’m stubborn that I’ve made it this far into the game, but any more crap like this and it’s getting chucked out the window.

Jay Lindquist avatar
About Jay Lindquist
Developer and wonderer