Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ghost's Angry Reviews - Spirit Tracks

This is your standard spoiler warning.  If you don’t want The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks spoiled for some reason then don’t even bother.

Ghost here! Glad you could drop by. 
Ah the Legend of Zelda!!  This series has been such a staple of the Nintendo Company for 25 years or longer.  Unless you have been living under a rock, don’t care one single bit about video games, or are currently five years old, you have at least heard of The Legend of Zelda.  There are many of us out there, myself included, who absolutely love this series.  I can’t help feeling a burst of nostalgia when I hear that theme song, see the word “Hyrule”, or watch a guy running around in tights and a skirt.

MY EYES!!!!! THEY BURN!!  Is it too late to take back that last sentence???  Oh that image has been burned into my retinas forever.  Thanks a lot internet!

It’s also kind of awe inspiring to be reviewing a portion of something which originated before I was born.  Well everyone, put on your tunic, get a firm grip on that slingshot and let’s go on a quest for the Master Sword as we dive right in to this series.  However in this particular review we are going to mostly focus on one game, Spirit Tracks.  To understand how we got to this point, let’s go into a probably not so brief history of the Green Skirted Fairy himself, and his adventures.

The Legend of Zelda was first released in Japan on February 21, 1986, on the Famicom Disk System.  A cartridge version was later released in the United States on August 22, 1987, and Europe on November 27, 1987. The game was originally inspired by Shigeru Miyamoto’s experiences wandering around in the woods of Japan as a young child.  Zelda’s name was taken from the wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Thus the idea and name of the game came to be.  This kind of game origins seems to happen a lot in this company; Tajiri-Oniwa with his bug collecting being the beginning of Pokémon, Miyamoto with his own personal history,  the Mother series with what I can only assume was a really bad acid trip.
And yes… this is an artist rendition of only a small portion of Earthbound (Mother 2).  It’s that bizarre and I shall be tackling it in the future. 

That gives me inspiration then.  I should make my OWN video game based on my own life experiences!  Let’s see here… a fashion ignorant child must save the planet from an invasion of invisible ninjas and aliens from taking over the world.  His inventory includes a broken flagpole, nunchucks made of tree bark and yarn, a rubber band gun,  a potato launcher,  a bumblebee in a jar, and a blanket.  You will also have companions to fight such as attack hounds, and a rabbit!  It will take place in various settings such as a small wooded town, and the warehouse where your mother works.   The cover artwork should be something like this!
Yes, this is actually me and one of the "attack hounds" Sambo

There has to be a princess or something to save if I’m going to put this out on Nintendo.  Let’s see…. Well I do like Edgar Allen Poe’s work.  His wife’s name was Virginia.  I’VE GOT IT!!  It shall be called The Hillbilly Epic of Virginia.   AWWW YEAH!!!

…wait what was I talking about again?  I think my imagination ran rampant and my humor must have taken a sleeping pill for a moment.  Now where was I? OH Zelda!  Miyamoto’s group worked on Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda at the same time.  Super Mario Bros being, of course, planned to be extremely linear and every bit of combat and action was to happen in a pre-arranged sequence.  Zelda was meant to be the exact opposite.  A wide open world where with a few exceptions you could go anywhere and do anything in whatever way you wished.  The theory of a “world” was one that Miyamoto really wanted to explore and expand.  And I dare say he did exactly that.  The game was a smash hit.  It sold over 6.5 million copies and was the first NES game to sell over a million.  It also placed first in player’s poll favorite game in the very first issue of “Nintendo Power.”  

With the success of The Legend of Zelda, it was no surprise that a sequel was to come.  In fact, there have been a whole multitude of games released on every Nintendo console with the exception of the Virtual Boy (there may be another system out there without a Zelda title but I’m too lazy to check).  The Zelda franchise has become the fourth most popular franchise in all of Nintendo and has produced many wonderful staples of the gaming world loved by nerds and fans around the world.
Best. Game. Ever.

One good thing about the franchise as a whole is that there’s really at least one game out there for everyone!  While there are several elements that are the same and can be come cliché of the series as a whole, there are multiple styles to the games.  You can have the fairly standard adventure/fantasy games like the original Zelda, or Ocarina of Time (yes I just called Ocarina standard even though it’s anything but standard), you can go into a more whimsical nature with the cell-shaded “toon” style of games such as Minish Cap and Wind Waker, or you can go for a more gothic game with tons of creepy atmosphere to sooth your darker side with titles such as Majora’s Mask or Twilight Princess

Now I can’t do a Zelda review without mentioning the whole timeline issue.  The chronological ordering of the Legend of Zelda games has been absolutely confusing and a point of contention among gamers for quite some time, and that’s putting it lightly. The problem lies within the fact that the actual timeline has never been revealed by Nintendo and it’s pretty much up in the air for interpretation.  To confuse matters more, every time that a game is released, Nintendo says that it’s a “prequel.”   They’ve done this garbage for a pretty decent time now.  And here I thought George Lucas was the only one doing this type of stuff.   Why does he keep popping up in my reviews??!!   There are many different theories, the most popular of which is a timeline split with Ocarina of time; one set of games following Young Link as he leaves and heads to Termina, the other with adult Zelda ruling the land with no Link at all.  But then when games come around with completely unrelated people, such as Twilight Princess it throws fans into a panic and threatens the integrity of the split timeline theory and where games lie in that timeline. 

This is so notoriously confusing that in the last segment of the Nostalgia Critic’s movie “To Boldly Flee” when he asks that reviewers point out every single plot hole, confusing thing, and inconsistency they can find, they set aside a portion for JewWario to say “The Zelda Timeline…the WHOLE THING” where you can easily hear him while everyone else is mumbling incoherently.  Now, while that movie isn’t exactly mainstream or something it was profound enough to find an inclusion in all the things that drive nerds crazy.  But honestly, does it REALLY matter what placement in the timeline this stuff belongs?  Is the fact that Ocarina of Time may come before the original Legend of Zelda game change the fact that both are fantastic games? 
There are a few exceptions where they are definite sequels.   Zelda II is a direct sequel to The Legend of Zelda.   Majora’s Mask is a direct sequel to Ocarina of time.   And the Wind Waker has two sequels, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks.  The others are kinda just tossed around a bit and no one even knows where the Oracle games even go in this whole idea.  And let’s be fair here…If you have the time to sit down, come up with your own theory and actually argue about it, then congratulations you need more to do with your time and life!!!

Now I think I’ve rambled enough about the series as a whole.  Let’s focus on the reason I started this bad boy to begin with, the notorious Spirit Tracks!

Spirit Tracks is actually the third game in a continuing storyline of games, with Wind Waker being the pioneer, and Phantom Hourglass following.   This particular three game series has also been a thorn in some Zelda fan’s sides as the “toon” style of the games were cool with Wind Waker but they hoped it would end… and it never did.  Out of the Fifteen (is it sixteen now?) Zelda games, seven of them are in this toon style, and there appears to be no end in sight so we might as well get used to it.  The other reason is that Wind Waker, which has a large theme on water and the ocean, came out around the same time as Super Mario Sunshine, and Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire.  Both of these games also had large water and ocean themes.  It was like Nintendo was turning into a one trick pony.

The Wind Waker was a step in a new direction for Zelda fans.  The most obvious example of this is the game’s nautical theme of navigation.  You had to not only known where all these islands were in a vast ocean but you had to change the wind direction to get to all these locations.  It was as if the Hyrule we have always known and loved was gone.  In fact, it pretty much was gone except for a small fragment of it, as you would find out in the course of the gameplay.  The game was something fresh and challenging, yet it received mixed reviews from the fanbase.  Many thought the story was weak and the cartoon feel distracting while others love it just as much as Ocarina of Time. 

Out of that came Phantom Hourglass, a second game in the series actually starring the exact same characters as opposed to having a new “generic” Link we so often see.  Some people enjoyed it but overall it was one of the worst games I’ve ever played.  It was annoying, difficult, and confusing, not to mention the closing of the game was just plain lazy.  I personally hated it and didn’t play past about the second dungeon.  The game is, as I can happily say, rotting on my gaming cabinet and will probably never see the light of day again. It was just an absolute wreck.

Speaking of wrecks, now we have Spirit Tracks, which I can just go ahead and say it’s a wreck too… a train wreck if you will.  When Spirit Tracks was first announced, it came in the middle of a long stream of Nintendo catering to the casual gamer, the people who actually wanted Wii Music, and getting new fans who would never consider themselves and never be actual gamers.  They treated this game like a diamond in the rough and that they were going to focus back on true gamers starting now, having forgotten that they had only recently said the same thing about Animal Crossing City Folk.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some Animal Crossing, but if anyone believe that series to be something for “hardcore gamers” then you probably think sewing is a dangerous sport.  Most of us cynics knew that Nintendo was lying through its teeth that they would focus on the actual gamers again anytime soon, but despite this Nintendo still kept trying to sell this as something new and exciting and desirable.  Even now if you look up Spirit Tracks on Wikipedia it only talks about how reviewers said that the game looked interesting and only reported positive responses.  I don’t remember it like that at all.  The community’s generalized first impression was the same as I had; which was...

And if you weren’t on that side of the argument you were probably saying “Well this might not be as bad as it looks”  and boy did it look bad!!   If you’re asking yourselves what made it so bad?  Well sit tight and put on your waders cause it’s about to get deep in here. 

As a disclaimer, the only reason I played this game is because a friend of mine borrowed by Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days game and insisted I borrow one of his as a fair trade.  Looking through I didn’t exactly want to play Cooking Mama 2, some puzzle game, or My Japanese Teacher, so I picked up Spirit Tracks out of his collection because it was a game I was curious about but didn’t want to shell out money to buy.  Let’s hope I can make it through this.


As you start up the game, you get a little mini history lesson about what went on in this region that you are about to play in.  Kinda like Lord of the Rings if it was interpreted and drawn by a second grader.  Apparently, there was a battle between the Demon King and the goddesses several years/centuries before.  The goddesses were not able to kill the demon king but were able to imprison him deep within the earth beneath a tower.  Have you ever noticed how useless and powerless these so-called “goddesses” are in this series?  Give me a break!  They then bound him in shackles which ran the entire length of the region.  These shackles took the form of railroad tracks because you know… obviously when I think of an era with ancient goddesses, people fighting with swords and arrows, and people carving information into bare rock, I think of trains.  These railroad tracks carried energy from the temples of the land which kept the Demon King locked up. And just like that being the wise and wonderful goddesses they are, they promptly left the world never to return again and leaving in their place a race of people called Lokomos to watch over the world.  We’ll get to THAT later.

                                                         MAIN CHARACTERS

Now that we’ve been given a tiny bit of introduction to the world we are about to stay in for the rest of the game, let’s take a look at your main characters, as if you honestly need to figure out who your characters are.  It’s a Zelda game!  It’s gonna be Link and Zelda.  But maybe they decided to throw a curve ball in there and maybe there’s a new hero.  Maybe they just called it Legend of Zelda because it’s similar to the other games and is in the same place… maybe they…I’m just messing with you, you’re Link again.

Now, this is not the same Link as we have seen before it’s a brand new young man who looks the exact same as all the others.  And thus we have Zelda Cliché #1 – New Game New Link.   Granted this particular cliché doesn’t follow for all the Zelda games but it’s more common than not.  Remember me saying earlier that there are several cliché’s in this series, well just keep an eye out because I’m going to be pointing out several more.

Link in this incarnation is trying to get his conductor’s license so that he can use the Spirit Tracks to ride around Hyrule because….. he has nothing better to do? That point is never really explained.  OH BOY!  It’s going to be one of those games isn’t it?  A game that expects us to just roll with whatever it hands out, isn’t it?   Link lives with Niko, a pirate we should know from The Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass, for also no feasible reason.  He is an elderly man now and is the one telling Link about the demon king from the intro.  Once he gets done with his story, he asks if Link believes him because no one else seems to. 

Wait wait wait, hold the phone.  We know from the previous games that Niko was not native to this region.  He showed up with Tetra and the others.  Since this story was native to this region and this region alone, then how does Niko have knowledge of this story?  Obviously he had to have heard it from someone or read it on something after arriving there.  But he is saying that nobody believes his story at all.  If he had a scroll or tablet from somewhere that would be a credible source for his story, but if somebody told him this story the surely there would be knowledge of this tale from at least ONE other person in the region.  But no, Niko has full knowledge of this story with no proof, no explanation of how he knows it, and no one native to the region has any knowledge of this story either.  What a coincidental plot hole you’ve got there guys!  And for that matter, why is Niko even in this game other than to dump plot points, and ensure that this is, in fact another sequel to Wind Waker.  Couldn’t this have just been some native man from the region; something with some sort of logic or credibility?  No? I shouldn’t hold such high expectations as planning a credible plot should I?

Link is an apprentice to Alfonzo, the only other conductor in this entire game.   That’s right everyone.  This is a game involving train tracks going the whole length of the world and you and your master, Alfonzo are the only two conductors in the entire game!  I need to quit focusing on the smaller stupid points or we’ll be here all flipping day!

Link meets up with Princess Zelda who gives him his conductor’s certificate but also gives him a letter outlining how to reach her room so they can talk.  Eventually Zelda asks him to take her to the Spirit Tower because the Spirit Tracks are starting to disappear.  Zelda wants to investigate. She also gives him a soldier apprentice’s uniform so he can walk freely about the castle which gives him our standard look of the green tunic’d hero.  OH look.. Zelda Cliché #2 – Our hero must be green.  One thing though, there aren’t that many soldiers in this game.  You think they’d notice a random new guy running around in their soldier uniform.  Apparently the soldiers are that stupid though and fall for the disguise.  Link, of course, agrees to take her there on his train only to get sucked into an adventure in order to save the region from evil.  And thus we have Zelda Cliché #3 – Meeting the Princess always causes bad things to happen.

Now let’s get to our other main character, Princess Zelda.
I have to admit.  This is the first game in which I really actually like Princess Zelda a lot.  Usually Zelda isn’t really doing much.  She’s either captured, crossdressing, sulking in a castle, or asleep.  But in this one she’s right there in the middle of the action with you and I have to say she is this game’s most redeeming quality.   She is the descendant of Tetra from the Wind Waker.  There is even an image of her in stained glass above Zelda’s throne, which I thought was kind of cool.  Now I can’t really continue talking about her till I get through some more plot dump, so we’ll come back to her and why she’s so amazing in this game.


After presenting Link with the letter and going to her room, she begins to play the flute.  Cue Zelda Cliché #4 – Musical Instruments are always magical.  She has noticed that the Spirit Tracks are starting to disappear and needs a conductor to sneak her out of the castle.  She believes the answers are within the Spirit Tower which was the fabled spot where the Demon King is being imprisoned according to the intro.  And she fears that her chancellor, Chancelor Cole, has something to do with it.
I dunno.  He seems like a pretty stable guy to me.  I’m not sure what her problem is.

Why does she need to be sneaked out?  Well because the Chancellor has pretty much forbidden her to leave the castle for safety sake.  This is the one problem I have with Zelda.   Zelda is the princess.  There are no other ruling members in the royal family so therefore she calls the shots.  If she doesn’t want to listen to the Chancellor she doesn’t have to.  Fire him, have him assassinated.  Who cares!  You’re the flipping ruler of the whole country.   Be proactive and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!  But she decides to be sneaky and ask Link to assist her in her escape; a boy who she doesn’t know at all and has taken this massive chance on a first meeting basis.  Why couldn’t she have just asked someone else to help her?  Oh yes that’s right cause there’s only two conductors in the whole game and they both live in the same town.  And thus we have Zelda Clichés 5 and 6.    Zelda Cliché #5 – Zelda is the sole ruler of the region while not showing any sort of authority.  Zelda Cliché #6 – Link is asked to do something massively dangerous after meeting Zelda for maybe five minutes.

Once Link and Zelda get back to the train Alfonzo joins them.  Apparently Alfonzo used to be a soldier for Princess Zelda and was excellent in his duties before he decided to go play with his train set.  So, the three of them head off to the Spirit Tower when the tracks beneath them just disappear which, of course, causes the train to almost topple over.  Chancellor Cole shows up with an ally, Byrne to take Princess Zelda.  Byrne defeats Alfonzo and Link, knocking out the princess and taking her body with him.  There is this really awkward scene later where the question is asked as to what Cole and Byrne are doing with her body.
In reality they are using her body to revive Malladus, the Demon King from his imprisonment.  In order to revive him, the Spirit Tracks must be broken, and he must use a vessel of the royal family, hence Zelda’s Body. 

Zelda’s spirit however returns to Hyrule Castle pleading for anyone to help but no one can see her except for Link.  REALLY???  How convenient. That’s not even a Zelda Cliché that’s just lazy writing.  Link has no reason to see her but yet he somehow can.  And as per usual…the game doesn’t explain why.  This is just a colossal mixture of cliché and terrible writing…and this is only the first thirty minutes of gameplay!

Now back to Zelda as a character.  Spirit Form is the mode Zelda is in for the entirety of the actual gameplay.  This Zelda stays with you for the whole game.  She goes to every dungeon, every boss battle, and every scene with you.  She is a substitute for your standard fairy that Link is always put with.  I have to agree that this move was a good one.  Though I am a little confused why they didn’t go with a Fairy since they’ve hit all these other Zelda Cliché’s they should have hit #7.  Zelda Cliché #7 – The boy in the skirt travels around with fairies .  Oh well, one cliché successfully avoided! 

Zelda is a much better companion than the fairies of old because she actually assists you rather than tell you obvious information or just generally annoy you to the point that you want to be devoid of the gift of hearing.  While you are in the Spirit Tower, she can take control of a Phantom.  When she possesses a Phantom, she can assist Link with puzzles, navigating the room by walking through spikes, stopping boulders, and carrying you across lava, as well as aiding you in combat.  I’d like to see Navi attempt half of that!  She’s a well thought out character who contains that spark of attitude that Tetra had and you can honestly believe that this character is a descendant of Tetra.  If you can’t see it on your own, don’t worry, the game will remind you in text about once per 30 minute session.  But overall she’s probably the most well thought and well created character easily making Zelda this game’s gem, and actually reason enough to at least play this game for a couple hours.  You heard me right.  This character is the one thing that made this game tolerable and even enjoyable!

And since these two are interacting constantly, the unspoken romantic nature between these two characters in the past is actually feasible and to some extent explored.  In the past, Link and Zelda were just sort of a given thing.  You accept that they are going to be together because it’s destiny or some other form of garbage but in reality there really is no reason or logic behind them being together other than the fact that Link is saving the world and/or saving Zelda’s Life.

However in this game that changes.  There is constant interaction between Link and Zelda.  Link is working with Zelda to save the land, as well as Zelda herself, from danger.  There are a couple of instances inside the Spirit Tower where Zelda even attempts to save Link’s life.  They are true companions and when Zelda gets her body back after all Link has done and all the time they have spent together, their love does actually seem genuine.  There’s a reason she should love him, and I’m glad to see it follow through and be believable.  The game even ends with the two of them holding hands.

Now at this point I would normally talk about the storyline, however there really isn’t much else to the storyline I can say that I haven’t already said.  It’s a very shallow story covered over by new bells and whistles (literally) to distract you from their lack of writing.  Basically you have to do your classic temple quests, defeat the temple boss to restore the purity of the temple, which allows you to reach the top floor of the Spirit Tower to stop Cole, Bynre and Malladus and save Princess Zelda and the world.  So, instead of focusing more on the story, I’m just going to be looking at different aspects of the gameplay or the world in which we are thrown into.   Oops almost forgot Zelda Cliché #8 – The temples are the key to world peace, yet evil forces have been able to penetrate each and every one of them without anyone in the entire world noticing until it’s too late and Link has to go eliminate the problem in ALL of them.


I’ve put off this particular discussion for a while now.  It’s what everybody always talks about when they are talking about this game, and if you know anything about the history of this game you already know half of what is going to be said.  While I’ve already mentioned the transportation in this game in one manner or another,  I feel it actually needs its own section.   This game follows in its predecessor’s footsteps by having you navigate the world by vehicle.  In the two previous it was by boat, but in this one it is by train.  And I have to admit, my reaction was pretty much the same as many people’s reactions.  Anywhere you look around the internet you can see the generalized reaction of the masses.

Now I realize that game developers are always looking for something new to add.  But a train?  It’s just so out of style for Zelda.  I mean we’re talking about a world where people live in caves, huts, and stone castles; a land where people fight with swords and whips, where stuff is written on stone and scrolls yet we have TRAINS??  It just seems so out of place for the setting.  If you’re going to pick a sort of medieval time period for a game series then you need to stick true to the time period.  We need to nip this in the bud before it gets out of control.   Next thing you know Zelda games will be cluttered with out of place things like robots, laser beams, and aliens.

                                                     …….. I umm……..well I…..

Well… apparently this is NOT the first time out of place randomness has been added to these games.  Perhaps someone could tell me HOW THESE IDEAS MADE IT THROUGH????  Are they trying lure people in with something more common or futuristic or popular?  IT’S NOT WORKING!!!  As a matter of fact it’s more offsetting than it is engaging.  Don’t try to cover up your lack of writing skills with futuristic ideas that don’t belong in the environment we are presented.

If I can find it in me to just simply accept the fact that Link is on a train and this is logical, there are several issues I have with the train itself.  I went through this whole entire game with the train only having four heart meters which never increase.  Link could get multiple upgrades to his health, but the train can take no more than four hits before it’s completely destroyed.  And that’s from the start of the game to the finish.  Sure you can blast some rocks and get a refill in health but it’s still only four hearts and since you have two entire stages of the final battles in your train, this proves for things to be incredibly difficult.   Now I am told that apparently you can purchase upgrades for the train, but that information was never clear or even presented in the confines of the game itself.  I only knew that because a friend had stumbled on that part randomly.  So what gives game?  Are you TRYING to make things needlessly difficult?

Let’s not fail to mention the dangers that await you as you go around the world.  In every area there are enemies trying to hurt the train.   Most of them are harmless enough that you can hit them with a cannon blast or blow your whistle to scare them.   But then there are THESE THINGS.
These delightful little annoyances are called Dark Trains, or as I like to call them Absolute Ownage on wheels.  These things patrol the map.  Now why are these things so annoying?   Because these trains explode the second they touch you.  If it explodes, it doesn’t matter how many of your health bars you have, you die instantly.  Immediate Game Over.   To make matters worse, the Dark trains are twice as fast as your top speed.  Before you get the cannon you have to watch their pattern and avoid them at all cost.  But even after you get your cannon these things are a pain.  Now…one would think that if the bomb-like trains explode when they touch you, then they would explode when hit with a bomb yes?  WRONG-O!  If you shoot a bomb from your train’s cannon at them they just keep on trucking your way.  How cheap is that?  An enemy that can’t be stopped or killed who is twice as fast as your top speed and who one-hit KO?   I’m calling bull!


Along your journey you meet these beings called Lokomos.  These people are protectors of the different realms and who sit in steam wheelchairs because… Handicapability is cool? Who knows. 

Anjean (pictured to the left) is the most prominent as she is the Lokomo in charge of the Spirit Tower and the one whom you interact with the most.  She’s almost a third main character in all respect which is kind of neat.  With the help of these Lokomos you can gain access to the temples and help restore the Spirit Tracks.

Now at first glance I didn’t really have a problem with the Lokomos.  They were generic enough and fit the bill required of them.  But once I started examining them closer and seeing the final scenes of the game I started to get annoyed.  The first and foremost point of irritation is their “race” name, Lokomos.  It follows a lovely trend in this game of running out of creative ideas for things.   The game is called Spirit tracks.  Therefore we must have the Spirit Tracks themselves, the Spirit Tower, The Spirit Train, the Spirit Flute, and these things are kind of spirits but we don’t want to call them spirits.. hmm this game is about trains…trains… locomotives… AHHA!  LOKOMOS!!  Brilliant!! It’s just a little bit absurd having most major things in the game be plays off the title.  I’m pretty sure I had this level of creativity in kindergarten.

The other thing that really got me irritated is the lack of originality with these guys.  What do I mean?  Well apart from sitting in steampunk wheelchairs for no reason, well… just take a look.
Each Lokomo has their own special musical instrument to play songs with Link.

There are seven Lokomos in total, one for each region of the map who were appointed by the goddesses to look over the world.
Oh REALLY now? Surely a franchise as well developed as the Legend of Zelda wouldn’t just brush some dust of their old ideas, give them a new paint job and expect us to accept them as new right? RIGHT?  Because these guys are basically a combination of SAGES FROM PREVIOUS GAMES!!! They just slapped them in a wheelchair and made them even more pathetic.  If I wanted chewed up remnants from Ocarina of Time or Wind Waker, I’d just play those games! Nintendo actually managed to make these characters worse than their original counterparts in my opinion.  Why?  In the two games these characters are ripping off, there is a sense of belonging with them.  In the case of Ocarina of time, the Sages are diverse in race and personality.  They are also people whom you have met previously and have an interest in.  In Wind Waker they are people you have helped and have a connection with.  Helping them achieve their Sage status was something you really wanted to do.  But I these games, it’s just generic people who help you complete your goal who you have zero interest in whatsoever. 

The Lokomos were supposed to be in charge of the different realms and their song when played with link can restore the spirit tracks so that you can gain access to the temples.  If these Lokomos were assigned by the goddesses then why aren’t they out there doing something about the world?  It’s not like in Ocarina where their power was suppressed or anything.  These guys were out and free!  But, of course, we can’t have any sort of logic here.  This wouldn’t be Spirit Tracks unless it met head-on with  Zelda Cliché # 9 – The goddesses have placed powerful beings to help protect the world and all of which are useless as a dog turd in the long run unless you need a rainbow bridge to walk on… they can handle that no problem.


For those of you unfortunate enough to play Phantom Hourglass, you’ll find that the actual gameplay in this game hasn’t really changed at all.  You use the touchpad for every single thing link does.  You move, attack enemies, toss the boomerang, and shoot arrows by drawing all over the bottom half of your DS.
 It’s nice to see the company fully utilizing their device with a game and at first I really liked the manner of movement.   UNTIL you realize all the limitations you have been presented with and the confusion that the touchpad can have with your desires. 

Let’s take a few examples of these shenanigans.  If you wish to slash your sword to attack more than one enemy at a time you drag the stylus across the screen in a slashing motion.  If you wish to perform a dodge roll then you tap a direction twice.  These actions are very straightforward and pretty much impossible to mix up wouldn’t you agree?  Yet I’d say about 50% of the time that you attempt either of these actions the other happens.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to hit enemies to only find myself rolling along the floor and plummeting down a chasm.

Also the weaponry can be a royal pain to command.  Pretty much every item in Link’s arsenal requires him to become stationary in order to use.  The exception to this rule is, of course, the bombs.   This causes several issues at times.  I fully understand being stationary when an item is in use because some items such as the Bow you really do need to be stationary for.  But things such as the boomerang or the whip you should be able to have the item out and still run around unless attacking with it.  BUT NO!  Once you pull out an item you’re trapped there till you click the “put away” button located in the top right corner of the screen.  As can be seen below.

This causes additional problems because there are several enemies and obstacles that like to hide in that top corner meaning at least 75% of the time you need to get to/attack something in that top corner, you end up putting the item away rather than hitting the target.  Even in the picture example above, the portion of the screen i need to get to next and use the whip on is right where the put away button is. This generally results in taking damage or immediate plummeting death.  LOVELY

Woah woah woah wait a minute BACK UP!!  That picture above….that’s the whip.  A whip that looks like a snake and can be used to cross chasms….why does that seem so familiar?  I can’t quite put my finger on it…
 Oh lookie more plagiarism!  And this time not even from a Legend of Zelda game!  It’s interesting how often the Mother series appears in these reviews as well!

Then there’s the Sand Wand.  This wand causes the sand to lift up and create a platform for you to walk on.  The problem with this is that it only lasts for a few seconds.  Link can walk across the sand perfectly fine without creating a platform.  Zelda when she possesses a Phantom, however, is too heavy and requires the platform.  There is this one particularly frustrating puzzle where you have to get Zelda to cross a large sandy place.  You cannot stand in one place and see both sides of the puzzle.  So here’s what you have to do.  
1. Get out the Sand Wand and raise the sand
2. Quickly click the put away button at the top right of the screen
3. Switch to the Zelda Phantom
4. Walk on the sand
5. Quickly switch back to link and create more sand
6. Put the sand wand away
7. Switch back to Zelda and have her walk on the new segment before the old gives away
8. Move link forward
9. Repeat steps 1-8 till you get across the way
I was stuck on this thing for far longer than I should because you can’t move link, raise sand, and move the phantom at the same time because every single action uses the touchpad!!! This should not be an issue people!!!!


I know this may come across as a big shock to each of you, but I also have a couple of problems with the villains of this game as well.  Let’s take a look at each of them in individually shall we?

Chancellor Cole
The Chancellor is seen as this big threat who keeps Zelda confined to her castle and who is this powerful being able to assist in the resurrection of Malladus, the Demon King.  However, he does nothing to back this up at all.   My first issue with him is that, like many other Zelda Villains, he says and does things the first time you see him to identify that he is going to be the villain of the story.

And thus he brings about Zelda Cliché #10 – Obvious villain is obvious.

Like all generic villains with whom the writers didn’t really care about, Cole just wants power and is going to resurrect the demon king in order to get it.  You would think someone with the knowledge and ability to resurrect a deity would be a very powerful individual.  Cole even shows that power by using darkness to break apart the Spirit Tower into four different pieces.  I have to admit, the ability to break a 30 story building into four pieces is pretty cool and I expected him to be a fairly formidable character to fight.  Cole demonstrates his power further by revealing he has horns, and being able to float……OK? Little bit odd but I can roll with that.  Maybe he’s going to save up his actual power for recurring boss battles.  Yeah that’s it!

I couldn’t have been more wrong.   Cole disappears from the face of the game until you have played 75% of the game in total.  He stays at the top of the broken tower to resurrect Malladus.  When Link and Zelda get to the top of the tower finally to stop him, Cole just simply runs away.  That’s fine; I can just teach this guy a lesson later right?   So I waited…and I waited…and I waited.. and I was finally able to go after him and meet him in combat.  We were fighting on the top of a train!  This guy has all this massive amounts of power I was expecting to be putting up with quite the challenge ahead of me.  What does Cole do?  Create ghostly rats that float around Zelda and transform into puppet strings so Zelda ends up attacking you till you simply cut the strings.   THAT’S IT?

Oh yeah!  This game is so awful it just made me reference The Room!  Nintendo this is not how you make a villain at all!!! You mean to sit here and tell me that they made a character that can break apart an entire tower built by goddesses out of just his sheer magic power, but his attacking strategy during his boss battle is rats and strings? NO NO NO NO!!

The Demon Train
As the name of this villain suggests, it’s just another cop-out to the theme of the game.  However the manner in which the Demon Train is introduced is actually more hilarious than it is rage-inducing.  When you first head toward the Spirit Tower with Zelda, the tracks disappear.  Link, Zelda, and Alfonzo get out of the train to see that the Spirit Tower is breaking apart.  The sky turns very dark and clouds begin to form.  
Check out the look on Link’s face of “HOLY CRAP!!!”

Now obviously whenever I see this look of sheer terror I’m expecting something good to happen.  I’m expecting a relatively scary monster, or something formidable, creatures or beings of such pure evil that they would turn the manliest of men into little babies.  But no.  That’s not what we get at all.  We don’t even get anything remotely like that.  We get THIS
I literally laughed out loud whenever I saw this appear from the clouds.  The whole train theme has just officially gone too far.  They actually sat down and took the time to make a Ganondorf-like train as a major villain in the story?  After my laughter at its sheer stupidity, and taking some advil to assist with my aching sides from the hilarity of the joke Nintendo just handed me,  I was somewhat dumbfounded and speechless.  This isn’t a Legend of Zelda villain; this is a rejected villain from “Thomas the Tank Engine Goes to Jail”
You got a purty mouth!!!
And, just like Chancellor Cole, you see this train at the beginning very briefly when Cole makes his escape, and you don’t see it again till your final battle with the stupid thing.  Yes you heard me correctly, you FIGHT THE TRAIN.  This is where the annoyance with only having four heart containers comes from if you didn’t know about the upgrades!  The Train has the main engine and two cars he is pulling.  The car in the back has four cannons which can shoot from either side you are attempting to attack him on.  The other car has lasers that do the same.  The cannons and lasers are very slow so you don’t really need to worry about them quite so much.  What you need to worry about is the train switching tracks which forces you to slam in reverse or swap tracks very quickly to avoid smashing into the rear of the train and gaining damage for yourself.

Ultimately this thing is really just a joke; a gimmick put in there as an attempt to tie in the game’s theme as well as the Ganondorf face to remind us that this is a Zelda game.  The Demon Train doesn’t work and is the most ridiculous thing we’ve ever fought in a Zelda game.
OK I take that back… Second most ridiculous thing we’ve fought in a Zelda game.

This is our big villain! This is the first character even mentioned in the game albeit by a background story.  So hopefully he should be an excellent battle right?  Well if anything I’ve learned from this game is to just not have any expectations at all.  The previous two villians have been massive wastes of potential and time so why should Malladus be any different?   But, maybe I’m wrong!  I mean, something with the title of “Demon King” should be evil, powerful and formidable should it not?  Let’s take a look at this foe which the goddesses had to fight with.


BAHAHAHAHA!!!!  Is this a joke???  THAT is our villainous foe?  You have to be kidding me!  I can come up with a lot of things far more terrifying than that.  Here's just four right off the top of my head!

That’s just….I just…I’m dumbfounded here.  All this buildup,  all this story, all these formidable titles like “Demon King” being thrown around for a psychedelic floating clown face?  I’m sorry that’s just unforgivable.

Not only that, but the manner in which he returns is just as ridiculous.   According to the story and Anjean, the spirit tracks were the locks and shackles that kept Malladus in the earth.  With them enact then he would stay imprisoned.  Cole added to the story by explaining that he could only return by using a vessel of the royal family, A.K.A. Zelda’s body.  Now that’s a lot of stipulations isn’t it?  The reason Link and Zelda are going to the temples is so they can restore the Spirit Tracks, and they successfully DO RESTORE ALL of the spirit tracks.   Now with the Spirit Tracks back in place and serving their purpose one would assume Malladus would stay imprisoned right?  NOPE!  He gets resurrected AFTER THE TRACKS AND LOCKS HAVE BEEN RESTORED.   So that means either the story they bothered telling us was a lie, or the writers of this game were full of bologna.  And I know it’s not the former.   Why waste our time going through these temples to restore everything if you’re just going to ignore the fact that the temples and tracks are what keep the villain subdued.  HELLO??????

Another thing that lowers my confidence is the fact that he possesses Zelda’s body but he has to get “used to it”….This is why Cole retreats after you encounter him on the altar.  Malladus has control of Zelda’s body for long enough to do one attack then has to rest to get acclimated to his body.  One would think a demonic god would be able to just kind of do whatever but for plot convenience he has to get used to it.  Later in the game, you face Cole and Malladus possessing Zelda’s body.  Malladus has once again been able to fully control Zelda’s body only at the start of this battle and is firing laser beams at you which are easily deflected by Zelda’s Phantom shield.  It’s nice to see that the Demon King’s power is easily stopped by 2 inches of steel.  So yes you are fighting Cole and a Puppet Zelda.  Now this is, of course, just stolen straight from Twilight Princess.  I’m not gonna call it a Zelda Cliché quite yet, since only two games have exhibited it so far, but maybe someone can confirm if we have a puppet Zelda in Skyward Sword.  Cliché status on standby!

To further add stupidity to Malladus and show just how lazy the plot team was, it took Malladus days to be able to take full control of Zelda’s body.  Yet after Zelda’s body is released of his evil by the light bow, and Zelda returns to her body, it takes him a grand total of three seconds to fully take over Cole’s body and fight for the rest of the game.  Isn’t he supposed to only be able to take over a member of the royal family’s body???  Why doesn’t have to get used to Cole’s body?  And the logic just gets worse.  Take a look at THIS WHY DON'T YOU?

When Malladus takes over Zelda's Body, he turns into this....
When Malladus takes over Cole's Body, he turns into THIS!
 I........I....... ummm...
I give up.  I really do

There is only one reason why Malladus would turn into that beast when possessing Cole, and that is to ensure that this game achieve the maximum number of clichés and yup they hit number eleven.  Zelda Cliché #11 – Need a final fight? pass the bacon!!   While in this form you first have to stop fireballs from hitting Zelda till she can gain the power of light to shoot light arrows into his back and kill him.  The Fireball thing you have to successfully pass which is REALLY annoying and took me a good 45 minutes to get right.  The fact that it took me that long to get it right added a bit of humor into the game if it were being played in real time.  Because Malladus shoots fireballs in a sort of pattern and if you mess up he starts the pattern all over again till you do the whole thing correctly.  However, immediately before Malladus starts his fireball barrage, he states that Cole’s body is rejecting his influence so he doesn’t have long in that body.  He seemed be sitting there in that body perfectly fine for almost a whole hour while I tried to figure out the fireball pattern!  What a load!

There is absolutely NO excuse for the lousy work they did on these villains.  It’s as if they came up with an idea then got down to a deadline and just said screw it, and it really shows with these guys.  I give them a 1 out of 10 in pretty much all aspects.


Yes, I’m sure you’re  tired of hearing me ramble on and I apologize for that.  I know I’ve pretty much ravaged this game from one side to another so you may be wondering what I could honestly say as closing remarks.

Ultimately despite the grand total of things that are irritating and don’t work at all, despite the things that just tick me off about this game, despite the volume of clichés both from Zelda games and the entertainment industry in general, it’s actually not a terrible play.  I went into this thing believing it would be a horrible game just as bad as Phantom Hourglass but actually I was shocked.  Is it one of the greatest games in the series? NO CHANCE, however it’s not the worst either.  It was better than Phantom Hourglass!

The relationship between Link and Zelda is really played out well and this Zelda easily becomes the best version of her that we’ve had to date.  She really is the diamond in the rough and boy is there a lot of rough.  The Train thing is unique and it can be kinda fun just blasting things randomly and not having to worry about wind.  The Tower can be annoying but it doesn’t have a time limit like Phantom Hourglass so that’s a VAST improvement.  Also this is the first Zelda game in which I DON’T want to Sparta-kick the company because of the Water Temple.  The Water temple in this game is actually a good play.  There are multitudes of other things I didn’t even get into like all the side quests, ferrying people around the world, and collecting rabbits.  Though most of that stuff is optional, if you really enjoy side quests and making a game 100% then this game would keep you occupied for quite some time.  The volume of sheer idiocy in this game is immense but it was never quite enough to make me STOP playing the game like its predecessor, Phantom Hourglass did.

I would suggest playing it once if you can borrow it from someone. I don’t think I’d run out and buy it unless you found it at a yard sale cause although it’s a decent game but in my opinion not worth full retail price, or even used retail price.  It’s an experience worth trying if you get the chance, just don’t take it too seriously.  If you just keep playing through without stopping to really overanalyze like I have done, you actually might enjoy it more than I have.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness
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  1. Are you freaking kidding? Spirit Tracks is my favorite game in the series. Dark trains aren't as annoying as land pirates, and even though it is not the best game to most people, it still is good. And you forgot some things. The L and R buttons will pull out your item if you HOLD the button down. And there are 6 Lokomos and not 7, there are 7 instruments. AND ZELDA DIDN'T FREAKING KNOW THE SPIRIT FLUTE HAD SPECIAL POWERS UNTIL ANJEAN TOLD HER!! It seems you're just one of those people who intentionally look at the bad parts of the game to make your experience bad. The game has huge character development. Link goes from a cowardly kid to quite fearless. And this game is not too easy or too hard. It has an amazing balance. (Other than the compass of light. That's just bullcrap hard puzzles and 90% Phantoms.) So if you stopped whining your ass off and looked at the good parts of games, you might have rated this game higher. But you decided to make your experience bad. And what the hell kind of a game reviewer is that.

    1. This was legitimately the 2nd ever game I reviewed. At that, this was posted on a forum a good year before I even started this blog. I have matured and honed my skills since then but decided to keep things like this to show where I came from. I haven't gotten THAT much better most likely but I'm also no longer trying to emulate people being angry for no reason.