When Spirit Tracks was first announced, you could feel the wave of fanboy revulsion reverberate throughout the internet. “Link on a train?!” was a subject line in about a billion emails, texts and forum posts, and we have to say even the GR office was abuzz with incredulous fervor. Today, having essentially seen the first 90 minutes of the game (and played through the first dungeon), we can safely say Spirit Tracks is every damn bit as good as Phantom Hourglass, if not even better.
Oh, we have reasons for this claim. Chief among them: Zelda is with you throughout the entire adventure.
Above: And she’s a g-g-g-ghost!
For the first time, Zelda will tag along and aid Link in various ways instead of the usual Navi-like fairy. We’re not privy to the full extent of her power, though right off the bat she can possess the powerful knights that roam the dungeons. Once she’s inside, you can direct her to distract other knights or solve various puzzles.
Above: Zelda-knights will glow pink, presumably because she’s a girl
The question is, how did Zelda get this way? Why does Link have a train? Is Ganon the villain, or is it someone new? Well, now we can answer most of those questions, and it’s best if we start from the beginning.
The first 10 minutes
Spirit Tracks takes place about 100 years after Phantom Hourglass. So yes, this is a new Link, a new Zelda and a new kingdom named Hyrule (that looks nothing like the last Hyrule, naturally). This time, Link’s an apprentice engineer for the royal railroads, mere minutes away from undergoing his final acceptance ceremony to become a true railroad tycoon. As exciting as that may sound, it’s more of a formality, as the railroads are slowly disappearing from Hyrule. Link’s merely there to receive his title from Princess Zelda, then be on his way.
Above: Pomp, some circumstance
As you leave, Zelda whispers in Link’s ear. She wants you to come to her quarters later, as she has something she wants to discuss with you. Before long, a shadowy figure bursts out to interrupt the moment, a man introduced as Chancellor Cole. Turns out he kinda runs the show in this new Hyrule, and judging by his devilish features and disdain for Link, it’s clear Cole is up to no good.
In Zelda’s quarters, you learn what the railroads really are: a series of shackles that lace the planet and hold an ancient evil captive. While they do act as transportation, their main function has been keeping this sinister being from running wild again. The tracks all converge at the Tower of Spirits, which is precisely where Zelda wants you to take her. Since Cole isn’t keen on Zelda leaving, or of Link driving her around, they’ll have to sneak out Solid Snake style.
Above: Even the townspeople have noticed
Now donned in a typical green tunic, you take control of Link with the stylus and touch screen just as you did in Phantom Hourglass. The only major difference we noticed was Link’s roll, which is now a double tap on the edges of the screen instead of pushing the stylus all the way in one direction. It’s a simple streamline, but effective.
Now though, it’s time to bust out of Hyrule.