Via some supernatural means, the titular Phantom Hourglass enables Link to wander the temple without choking on pink fog - but only as long as the sand flows. Guarded by the armored chasers, you have to traverse each floor without wandering into their Metal Gear-ish cones of vision - they’ll give chase should they spot you. One swipe from their swords and it’s back to that floor’s entrance, minus some time. Padding out the stealth sections of Wind Waker and combining them with the level of puzzling usually reserved for the toughest dungeons means you’ve got a Zelda innovation of serious note.
Deeper floors reveal new dungeons on the “outside” containing the items and sand required to go deeper still. You’d think the back and forth would grow tiresome, but the Sea King’s Temple has been designed with repeat visits in mind. It’s a stunning piece of level design, constantly unfolding in surprising new ways.
And items? How did we cope before? When you realize that the boomerang can spell out your name, there’s no question what a godsend stylus-driven items are. Not simply content with giving you huge amounts of control - drawing intricate paths for the boomerang and bombchu never grows old - they’ve found new things to do with the most tired of items. If the hookshot’s tightrope tricks don’t make it into the next Wii Zelda, there are going to be some angry letters.
Handheld honing will annoy some factions of the Zelda community, though. Despite sporting a solid 15-hour story, side quests aren’t as plentiful as we’d hoped. Cannon-shooting minigames and letter delivery tasks are fine, but the main “fairy stones” task is somewhat voided by it only really kicking in after the main quest - which was when you actually needed the power-ups offered as a reward. However, this is a tiny gripe.