First Impressions is a regular feature in which Mary shares her -surprise! – first impressions of a game she’s been playing while she should have been making comics.

I received the latest in Nintendo’s beloved Zelda series for Christmas and launched right into it. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks so far has me engaged and looking forward to picking up my Nintendo DS, which is a rare feat these post-iPhone days. This is a marked improvement over the previous DS title in the series, Phantom Hourglass. I’m not even sure I’ll ever finish PH, due to the repetitive nature of having to return to the same temple after completing each dungeon. Spirit Tracks also has a tower you have to frequently return to, but you don’t have to repeat the parts you’ve already completed, making all the difference.
Spirit Tracks is a little talky in the beginning, which I usually get impatient with in games, but I actually enjoyed the story and humor. The cut scenes are very well directed and acted, proving that you can still have compelling storytelling even with limited graphics. The art style is like Wind Waker. Short adorable big-eye characters. The action is 3-D top down, and you direct “Link” (his name is actually whatever you choose, but we all know who he really is) around with the stylus. I’m really not a fan of moving and attacking with the stylus. I get used to it, and for the most part it works fine, but I can’t help but feel I’d have more control if I could just move him with the D pad and attack with the buttons, like the good old days. Otherwise the gimmicky goodness of the DS is well utilized. You have to draw to solve puzzles sometimes, and you’ll find yourself blowing into the mic a lot, which is a little awkward in public.
So far I’ve completed the first temple, which was very fun and surprisingly short, but I can tell there’s a lot to the game. I still haven’t acquired a stamp book, which I am frequently reminded of by the many stamp stations throughout the land. No doubt a side quest, which the Zelda series is usually known for handling pretty well. I’m looking forward to exploring the side-quest aspect of the game more, especially if it means I can get a faster train engine. I’m very glad for the change of transportation (no more huge expanses of sea!), but the train is pretty boring so far. The fastest speed is slow as mud, and there’s no challenge to getting rid of any baddies in my way – simply pull on the whistle to scare them. Perhaps the developers wanted the transportation in this game to be easier than in the recent titles, but if I have to chug along, at least make it interesting. But I think I’m just not far enough into the game. The trailer I posted above shows Link shooting enemies from his train, so obviously it gets more interesting.
Otherwise, I’m thoroughly enjoying the latest Zelda romp, with its fun and challenging puzzles and engaging temple design.
The game does feature a multiplayer option, but I haven’t tried it yet. Looking forward to it, as I really enjoyed The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is published by Nintendo, produced by Eiji Aonuma, and playable on the Nintendo DS and DSi. It was released in North America on December 7, 2009.
Two NPC comics featuring this Zelda game: Downtime and Declaration.