The title is the one that currently marks the end of Adult Link’s timeline.
After defeating Ganondorf in one of the most intense battles in the saga and, later, Bellum, making use of the Nintendo DS double screen, Link, along with Tetra and his band of corsairs, paused their adventures and settled in a new place. . This new land became the ideal place for the revival of Hyrule and to restore the hegemony of the Royal Family, but the peace was short-lived.
The Demon King Mallard appeared with the intention of destroying the world and forced the spirits of good to descend from the heavens to fight him. Although they defeated him, the spirits were not able to eliminate him for good. Due to this they decided to seal it, making use of the train tracks posted throughout the land that would serve as chains.
Thus, one hundred years after this battle, we come to the fifteenth installment of The Legend of Zelda saga. Spirit Tracks inherited many of the most striking characteristics of Phantom Hourglass, but with the always unmistakable search for innovation, both for better and for worse. On this occasion, we put aside the boats and adventures at sea to get involved in an adventure on dry land. What do you say, you get on our train? Let’s start!
The end of Adult Link’s timeline
Two years after the release of Phantom Hourglass, Nintendo offered us the chance to get involved again in a new adventure to save the world with Link. However, this is not the Link from Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass, despite the obvious graphical similarities. One hundred years have passed since Link and Tetra bet on creating New Hyrule, a Hyrule that wants to maintain the foundations of civilization before the flood it suffered and was narrated in Wind Waker. This does not mean that there are no nods to both installments, of course, but let’s go by parts.
While it is true that Spirit Tracks seems to want to cut ties, at least partially, with the previous naval adventures, the use of cel-shading makes us feel that we are still living the adventure of the original Toon Link. However, the feeling that Spirit Tracks gives us is slightly different if we stop to see the different environments that we visit throughout the trip. More elaborate scenarios and with greater personality than Phantom Hourglass will pass through our eyes. What caused this change?
Changes for the better
There is no doubt that Phantom Hourglass should follow the Wind Waker line in terms of the world they travel through, for narrative reasons, but this does not happen with the fifteenth installment. Criticism from the media and players must have played a key role in this change, but it was not the only thing that affected the appreciable improvements that we have been able to observe. Yoshiki Haruhana, one of the main people responsible for Toon Link’s aesthetic in Wind Waker, commented on the importance of the work of artists such as Koji Takahashi, from Animal Crossing: New Leaf, or Seita Inoue, from Splatoon, in the designs of Spirit Tracks.
Specifically, both were involved in elements such as the train, one of the main novelties of this title, some areas of the world and the vast majority of dungeons that we visited. We can also see other very interesting designs, such as that of the minister Makivelo or the Trenebundos, a new race of wise men.
Spirit Tracks improved in those aspects that Phantom Hourglass did not know how to take advantage of
Since Spirit Tracks returned to bet on the technology of Nintendo DS, Nintendo did not hesitate to return to take advantage of the movement and control system of Phantom Hourglass. Aonuma defended the formula linked to the use of the stylus as the most appropriate, something that is not surprising, since it was one of the most acclaimed features of Phantom Hourglass. Thus, with the Aonuma-Iwamoto tandem each in production and direction tasks respectively, the playable bases of Spirit Tracks were ready.
As we have said before, one of those bases is that of innovation, something that has been repeated constantly throughout the franchise, and that this time gave a swerve that did not finish convincing many. If Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass were characterized, among other things, by the freedom of their boat trips across a vast ocean, Spirit Tracks traded the boat for the train. This change was one of the most famous and striking in the presentation of the title and it was strange to see Link and Zelda on a locomotive.
Link the Machinist
Spirit Tracks began its story with Link’s graduation as a machinist, a very important profession in this New Hyrule. In his new role, Link drives his train along the tracks that are scattered throughout the territory, having to choose the best path to his destination depending on the circumstances. To do this, he had to blow the whistle, launch cannon shots or accelerate and brake when appropriate.
The first few minutes on the back of our locomotive generated a nice feeling of control and of being on an adventure. The emotion of living a new story, the magnificent music that accompanied train travel and the novelty of these mechanics merged into what those responsible for the title were looking for: the desire to want to continue traveling by train all the time. However, this feeling was diluted as the hours passed. Excitement and novelty soon gave way to tedium and boredom and the reasons were the few possibilities that existed once the journey began.
The train, however, did not convince many players
Unfortunately, there was little or nothing to do on each trip. Beyond exploding rocks, defeating the few enemies that could appear, which were not very varied, choosing the paths to follow and respecting the signs. Without a doubt, the excitement of traveling by train suffered with each mission we completed. To this we had to add the extreme slowness with which we moved at times, something that was accentuated by the many trips we had to make from one end of the map to another and when we wanted to advance quickly in the main plot of the game.
Also, another difference from Phantom Hourglass and Wind Waker is the feeling of exploration on the back of the train. If in naval adventures we could let ourselves be carried away by the waves and discover new places, islands and surprises, Spirit Tracks suffered from a very marked lack of exploration.
This is mainly due to the guided nature of the tracks, which were placed in a specific way and, therefore, forced us to follow certain paths. Without the possibility of improvising new routes and without being able to explore at will, the change from the boat to the train felt like a step back from its predecessors, a mechanism that was the subject of criticism both from the public and from specialized media.
The story and its characters did attract attention
But The Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks had other points that played in its favor. The plot, for example, turned out to be more attractive than the control of the train could lead to think. After Link’s consecration as a machinist, a ceremony conducted by Zelda herself, the princess asks Link for help to travel to the Tower of the Gods. This serves as the main axis of the game and from it all the train tracks of the place depart.
Faced with the disappearance of the Sacred Ways, which function as chains for the Demon King Mallard, Link and Zelda decide to visit the place, finding upon their arrival that Makivelo was the mastermind behind those disappearances. His objective was none other than to free Mallard from his captivity.
After an attack by the villain, Zelda’s spirit is separated from her body, while Link is defeated by Táligo, a warrior under the command of Makivelo. Thus begins an adventure in which Link and Zelda must travel across the continent to return the Sacred Ways to normal, recover Zelda’s stolen body, and prevent Mallard from being released.
A dungeon to which we will return many times
The idea here is similar to what we were able to experience in Phantom Hourglass. The Tower of the Gods serves as the Temple of the King of the Sea, a place that we will return to from time to time and that, once we have overcome the new challenges that it offers us on each visit, will open up the possibility of continuing to advance and explore. new places.
Although the interior of it is very similar in appearance to the Temple of the Sea King, the Tower of the Gods is significantly better designed. For example, we will no longer have to repeat each level to continue progressing through the tower, as we did in the temple, but we will be able to go directly to the dungeon that we touch at that moment.
This is the main advantage over the Temple of the Sea King, but not the only one. One of the most interesting mechanics is the one that allows Zelda to be able to take control of the specters that swarm through the dungeons. In this way, Zelda, who as a spirit could offer nothing more than guidance, now takes on a material body and helps us in various ways. For example, she will be able to carry us, fight or overcome traps that Link could not overcome alone.
Again, the touch screen stood out in the playable
Looking back, the idea of asynchronously controlling Link and a partner came from Phantom Hourglass. Specifically, this mechanic was the key to defeating Dongorongo, the final boss of the Goron Temple, whom we had to defeat by controlling both Link and the son of the Goron boss. In Phantom Hourglass this idea ended up being a mere anecdote, but in Spirit Tracks it was consolidated as a fun and interesting mechanic, becoming one of its greatest playable attractions.
In addition to controlling Zelda when she takes the form of a ghost, the Nintendo DS touch screen once again displayed magnificent synergy with, on the one hand, Link’s control, and, on the other, with the different tools of the that we had Gadgets such as the whip and the boomerang returned, for which we had to mark the route to be taken with our stylus.
A flute that changes everything
But other new ones were also added, such as the sand staff, which allowed us to create columns of sand, or the vortex of the wind, a tool capable of generating small tornadoes by blowing into the console’s microphone, thus being able to move items such as keys or rupees. and put out torches.
But if there was one item that stood out above the rest, it was the earthly flute. This was used to play different melodies by blowing into the microphone while we moved the item on the touch screen. Each melody had its own function, from waking up sleeping statues to tell us the location of treasures, for a fee, in dungeons, to mixing our melody with that of the Trembled in certain parts of the game. Being a clear nod to Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker, the earthly flute gave rise to one of the most fun minigames of Spirit Tracks, but, in addition, it gave the game a great quality in terms of the soundtrack.
The music that accompanies the adventure is one of the best in the saga
The Legend of Zelda has always had high-quality musical pieces, that’s for sure, but Spirit Tracks managed to generate a wonderful feeling of fun adventure just by listening to the song at the beginning, the one that plays when you start the game. This piece, which begins with chords reminiscent of the main theme of the saga, gives way to a completely different and rejuvenating one. The same thing happened with the music that played while we were driving our train, a Realm Overworld that aroused our desire to continue blowing the whistle, at least for the first few hours.
Spirit Tracks has one of the best soundtracks in the Zelda franchise. Both the opening and this Realm Overworld are some of the most notable pieces, but they do not overshadow the leitmotiv of Princess Zelda, a recurring melody that always reaches the heart. In fact, on this occasion, Zelda achieved a greater role and presence within the plot, not because of her song, but because of a version of the princess that many fell in love with.
Zelda takes an active role
Accustomed to versions of the princess that appeared sporadically throughout the game or in disguise, seeing Zelda continuously by our side, being, roughly, the Navi of this game, was a point in favor. Especially since this Zelda had something different. In Spirit Tracks we met a human Zelda.
Of course, of course she displayed that elegance that has always accompanied the character, in this title we saw a girl with her weaknesses and selfish attitudes, with a rather impulsive character at times and who even dared to make jokes. This, added to those different endings that we could obtain depending on a certain decision of Link in the last bars of the game, made Spirit Tracks have one of the most beloved versions of the princess.
And from the end, we go to the beginning
Spirit Tracks may not be the best game in the series. The critics, as it happened with Phantom Hourglass, were mixed, although it is said that this second video game for Nintendo DS was superior to the first. The reasons can be several, from improving what Phantom Hourglass did wrong, like the Temple of the Sea King, to generating dungeons and a more common structure than seen in the saga, going through impeccable character development like Zelda.
However, from Nintendo they did not want to part with the roots that unite Spirit Tracks and Phantom Hourglass. This is something that we can see in the various winks that are scattered throughout the game, such as the presence of Nico, cabin boy of the Tetra crew, or Lineback, grandson of the charismatic Linebeck.
In 2009 the Adult Link timeline came to an end, at least for now. Two years after the release of Phantom Hourglass, Nintendo decided to end this timeline that began with Wind Waker, continued with Phantom Hourglass, and culminated in Spirit Tracks. However, the Japanese were already working on exploiting the beginnings of the saga. If you miss Fujibayashi in this installment, don’t worry, he was deep in another of The Legend of Zelda’s most innovative titles, but that story will have to wait a little longer.
Hi, its Martin, I am a gamer and a writer. I love exploring games of varied genres and writing blogs about them.