The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass: Linebeck

It feels like the Zelda titles of the mid-00s focused on pairing Link with a strong supporting character. Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask had the fairy companions Navi and Tatl, but they developed a reputation as being mouthpieces for each videogame’s instructive systems than actual characters who have an impact on the plot. But The Minish Cap introduced Ezlo, a cranky older character who guided Link, not revealing his true motivations until late in the plot; Twilight Princess introduces Midna, a mischievous and devious character who develops a strong bond with Link through adversity; Spirit Tracks pairs Link up with the Princess Zelda herself, giving players the longest and deepest look at her character in the entire series. And The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass has Linebeck, a greedy scoundrel who offers Link reluctant transport on his steamship.

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The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass: The Temple of the Ocean King

There are many controversial parts of the Zelda series—Wind Waker’s cel-shaded graphics, Skyward Sword‘s motion controls, the sidescrolling deviations of The Adventure of Link, the mere existence of the CDi titles—but one addition that seems to be a universal agreement: Few like, and fewer are willing to defend, the Temple of the Ocean King in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. I do not count myself among their number, but do I count myself among those willing to defend it? I’m not so sure of that either.

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The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass: Gongoron

As I guide Link into the eastern ocean in search of the Pure Metals that can forge the Phantom Blade, he arrives on Goron Island and meets the petulant Gongoron. The son of the local chief, Link must work with this young Goron to retrieve the first Pure Metal, Crimsonine, in the depths of the Goron Temple. It’s a unique moment in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, one which is not repeated anywhere else, making it seem all the more special and unusual.

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The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass: Oceans

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is a direct sequel to the earlier The Wind Waker, and it shows. In a broad sense, both are about traditional Zelda exploration on smaller islands, navigated between by boat in a broader ocean environment. As a DS game, Phantom Hourglass makes compromises over what The Wind Waker is capable of on the more powerful Gamecube hardware, but still manages to stand out in its own unique, and surprising ways.

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The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass: Dual Screen Bosses

The DS and the 3DS are strange artifacts. With a single digital world occupying two screens simultaneously, new possibilities are created for interaction between player and videogame, providing new and unusual possibilities for perspective and understanding the world. But most of the DS and 3DS games I have played do not attempt to take advantage of these possibilities, instead delegating one or the other screen to maps or statistics, information which is hidden behind a button press on other hardware. It’s a typical story of software development on a Nintendo console: Nobody quite captures what the hardware is capable of like Nintendo, for whatever reason. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is by no means a standout example of what the DS is capable of, but it does use its second screen in intermittently creative ways. This stands out most especially in the boss battles.

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The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass: Change

Today is November 9th, 2016, and I don’t know how I’m going to write anything about The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass given what has just happened in our national politics. An incompetent charlatan was elected to the highest office in the land by 25% of the country because of an arcane and irrelevant election system. Worse than that is the almost 50% of the country who chose not to vote, or were prevented from doing so by the thoughtless gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court. We can blame the electoral college all we want, but the truth is that a mythology was built up around the Democratic candidate for so long, surrounding her in a malaise of scorn and hostility so thick that it didn’t occur to anybody to vote for her in spite of the obvious and glaring shortcomings of her opponent. The next four-to-eight years in the United States are going to be very dark indeed, with many of the meager advances President Obama has made being pulled back almost the moment the Oath of Office will be completed, and with a vacant Supreme Court seat that will be filled by an abhorrent ideologue who will take up the chair for decades. I don’t know what I can do to help. All I can do right now is try to reclaim some sense of normalcy, some sense of calm, so I can heal the disbelief of last night and store up my resolve for the future. I have a feeling I’m going to need it. It is for this reason that, against my own shattered will, that I will try to write something intelligent about The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.

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