Christmas is over. Everything’s back to business. I know I said that this month would be Nintendo DS homebrew month, but with family and friends and all the holiday jazz going on, yeah…that’s not really going to happen. As gung ho as I want to be about DS homebrew, I didn’t spend the money and time to come back east to sit in front of my computer to code. I’ve been spending quality time with the folks — this is the first time in a year and a half where the entire family has been back together again. We’ve watched movies together and caught up on each other’s lives. I had a lot of good homecooked meals including some succulent duck, ox-tail soup, and steaks.
And in-between those moment with my family, I’ve also been spending time playing Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.
Hourglass is an excellent game. I enjoy everything about it and it’s my favorite game since Link to the Past — mainly because I missed the N64 generation of Zeldas and never got into the yiffie-brownish-bloom known as Twilight Princess. I played Windwaker and enjoyed it, but being all 3D made it a pain in the ass to move around and do things with some amount of fluidity. I like my top down Zelda and that’s what Hourglass gave me with all of the advantages of the DS implemented for good measure. The slideshow cutscene at the beginning outlining the Windwaker story is cute and funny. The stylus controls are superb — I caught on to them quickly and it makes doing everything in Zelda that much more fun and fluid. You point to have Link move where you want him. You click on enemies to fight them. You can even roll — though it’s a bit more difficult because of the touch screen, but I never found it totally useful — unless you enjoy ramming every tree in the game world to see what surprise it hides. But…Want to throw your boomerang? Draw a path for it to travel on. No, it’s not terribly realistic to have your boomerang do figure-eights or fly in an obscenely long twisting and turning curvy path, but it’s damn fun. The map annotating feature was awesome. I’ve wanted RPGs to have some kind of map notation system for a long time and with the stylus controls on the DS it makes that whole thing a snap. Some people complained about going through the Temple of the Ocean King over and over. Yes, when you go through the temple you have to actually go down the temple level by level trying to act stealthy. You can’t kill most of the enemies on any of the levels. Oh and there’s a time limit (the phantom hourglass). Does that sound extremely annoying?
Not if you took notes on your map. I hate shit like backtreading through levels or repeating the same shit over and over again — hence why I dislike most japanese RPGs and the grind-a-thons we call MMOs. The temple wasn’t terrible and I actually enjoyed going through it again and again and didn’t have an issue with it getting boring or repetitive — and once you get beyond six levels you get a warp to the midway point in the temple. I used the note taking ability to guide me back through all the solutions to the puzzles and annotate anything new I came across. So every time I ventured into the bowels of the temple it was like the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade — I followed the cryptic shorthand scribbles I left on each level map and it guided me to the solution. Fun, I daresay, and I like that this is a feature that isn’t forced upon you in the game — that is the game doesn’t judge you on how you do your note taking. It reminds you a great deal too through the NPC dialogue, but otherwise you’re left to decide how you will use the maps.
The multiplayer is a fun little diversion too. You play as Link or a set of Phantoms (they’re huge knights, or think of genome soldiers from Metal Gear Solid). As Link you try and get “force gems” ( i.e. triangle things that come in small, medium, and large and have increasing point values based on their size) and return them to your base and when you do, you get points. As the Phantoms the player uses the stylus to draw the path in which the knight should go. It becomes a small real-time strategy game where you try and corner Link and slice and dice him. Link can enter safe zones placed throughout the level to hide from the Phantoms. It’s a very fun, little strategic game. You can play with friends via the friend code system or just play anyone worldwide, which is what I usually opt to do. I particularly enjoyed griefing players. See, after they get points by collecting force gems, you can, when it’s your turn, go and steal those points. Being the jerk that I am, I liked to rob them blind and then chuck the force gems all over the place. Not only do they lose all their points but it’s a bitch for them to safely get gems since they’re scattered everywhere.
Oh, one issue about multiplayer that I wish Nintendo would address. Sometimes players find themselves on the losing end of a battle and suddenly the game gets slow and lo-and-behold your opponent has opted to leave the game. They don’t get penalized for that. So a message to all you quitters — and I don’t care if you’re 8 or 80 — you’re a quitting douchebag. Since there’s no way to call out the r-tards that play this game, I changed my user name from “albino” to “uraquittr.” I thought that was more appropriate without getting profane. I suppose this means that no one wil play with me anymore, since as soon as they see that name, they just quit, like the quiting douches they are.