Yahtzee explores the pirate boat adventures of Link in the DS title: Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass.
A world without Nintendo would be a far bleaker one than this, and yet there's something about them I find incredibly infuriating. They've got roughly enough money to buy the Earth and all the heavens, and a fanbase so devoted and rabid that they could release a game about a sewage-encrusted rapist and it would still sell like billy-o. And while they sit in this position that many game developers worldwide with slews of new and interesting game concepts would happily hack off their wedding tackle to occupy, all they do is constantly remake the same games.
Okay, so sometimes you've got an ocarina and sometimes you're in a boat and sometimes you're a werewolf having repulsive erotica drawn about you by people on deviantART, but pick any one of the ninety billion Zelda games there have been so far and odds are good you'll always be the same bloody guy saving the same bloody girl with the same bloody boomerang.
I'll keep the plot summary of Phantom Hourglass short because I'm sure all you clever, college-educated nerds could hazard an accurate prediction as to the main elements. Princess Zelda gets herself into a pickle and has to be unpickled by the hero, who is called "Link" on the few occasions when I feel mature enough to not abuse the "enter your name" feature and "Fagballs" at all other times. Fagballs starts off with just a sword and has to fight his way through quests to collect tools that will open new ways to go, including a boomerang, a bow, a grappling hook, blah, blah, blah, yeah, we've all been here before.
To find out what's new, we have to cross over into the realm of the hardware billies, because this is the first major Zelda title on the DS and is controlled almost entirely with the touch screen. For the most part the movement feels natural, and there's something about being able to scribble all over my maps that I found very therapeutic. The reverse effect is offered, however, by the blatant shoehorning of the DS's other exotic functions into gameplay, such as when you have to yell at the top of your voice into the microphone. Doing such a thing while out and about - which I remind you is what handhelds are for - would probably cause your own major organs to physically tear themselves from your body to escape humiliation.
I suppose it's worth mentioning that this game follows on from Zelda: Wind Waker on the Gamecube in a rare case of Zelda direct sequelage, meaning a return to everyone looking like they have grotesque, life-threatening head tumors, only more so because of the lower resolution. Don't feel you need to play Wind Waker first, because the requisite disaster takes place within seconds to strip you of all the possessions, hearts, friends, and common sense you had by the end of the last adventure. And then having hit the reset button, the game deposits you on a mysterious foreign shore in time for another series of unfortunate events as far removed from the plot of the first game as I am from attractive, single women.
Hang on, though, because there is something else connecting this game to Wind Waker. Remember how everyone complained about how it had too much monotonous sailing? Well, Nintendo took all those complaints on board, then threw them into a fire. The sailing returns like a greasy sex offender returning to your room at night. Instead of being in full control, though, you draw the path you want to take and the boat follows it automatically with a punishing lack of urgency. Don't think you can just set it down and go off to a trendy juice bar for a few minutes, because on the way you're certain to be constantly assailed by monsters and clipping issues.
Phourglass' other gimmick is that after each dungeon you have to go back to the starting temple to find out where to go for the next one. And while not wishing to be confrontational, this aspect of the game can fuck right off. There are three reasons why it can fuck right off. One, it's on a completely unnecessary timer. Two, it's full of unkillable baddies, creating that death knell of enjoyment, the forced stealth section, which I kind of hoped gaming had grown out of by now. And three, every time you return you have to go back through all the rooms you went through last time to get to the new area. It was after returning to this godforsaken place for something like the sixth fucking time and trying to remember where all the funny-shaped keys went that I officially abandoned the game along with my cherished reviewer integrity. But it doesn't bother me, because I'm pretty sure I can take an accurate guess as to how the story ends.
Since it raised a generation of latch-key kids and everything, it seems that Nintendo is the only company we allow to get away with this kind of thing. Imagine if anyone else did it. Imagine if Valve released Half-Life and then a few years later they released Half-Life again with exactly the same plot but with better graphics, different level design, and maybe one new gun, like a tube that shoots lemons. We'd think they'd all gone raving mad. They'd be in rehab before Half-Life: Citrus Bazooka could even hit shelves.
Here's an idea, Nintendo, free of charge. How about next time you want to make a Zelda game, you don't call it Zelda. Maybe instead of Fagballs the main character could be someone else, like a dog. Maybe instead of Hyrule it could be set somewhere original, like feudal Japan. And maybe instead of collecting tools to access new dungeons and areas, you could collect magic spells that are cast by, say, by painting funny shapes with a magic brush. Hang on a second, I'm going to write this down.
- He only gets mad because he loves you: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Sometimes I like to name Link "I Say" because it makes all the other characters talk like Foghorn Leghorn
- Please shut up about flak towers