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Why every Zelda game is the best AND worst in the series

Why it’s the best Zelda ever: Thanks to its touch-screen-only controls, this could be the most accessible Zelda game out there (well, this AND Spirit Tracks). Instead of multiple buttons and items assigned to inventory slots, Phantom Hourglass relies solely on stylus input; tap where you want Link to go, tap enemies to attack them, draw your boat’s path directly on a navigation map and so on. The puzzles, dungeons and bosses of prior Zeldas are all here too, so veterans can’t complain about a lack of content for the sake of appealing to a wider audience.

Why it’s the worst Zelda ever: So yeah, those touch controls don’t always work properly, leading to a lot of unintentional movements or actions. How that’s supposed to lure more people in instead of, oh, let’s say dedicated buttons that always work when pushed, is beyond us. The biggest offense, however, is the Temple of the Ocean King, which you must revisit (and replay) several times throughout the game. Add that to even more Wind Waker-style sailing and there are plenty of reasons to sit this one out.

Brett’s take: A lot of Zelda fans I personally know ignored this, mainly because of the touch screen controls. Excessively negative, perhaps, but it’s true that the touching/sliding stuff didn’t always work, and that god damn Ocean King place is a menace. Just the thought of playing through that again makes me shudder. At least Linebeck was a cool addition to the Zelda universe, right?


Why it’s the best Zelda ever: Take all the positives of Phantom Hourglass, duplicate them and then slightly refine the touch-screen controls; you end up with a friendly, accessible Zelda that’s even easier to suggest to non-gamers. The train tracks, which at first seem limiting, are actually preferable to the open ocean of Hourglass, as they introduce a surprisingly fun minigame of avoiding evil, indestructible train cars howling down the tracks. Like most handheld games, Spirit Tracks drops the Ganon storyline, this time in favor of a “magical engineer” plot and a baddie right out of Maximum Overdrive. Weird, fresh and fun, while still retaining the all-important spirit of exploration. Plus this time Zelda herself is along for the ride as a constant companion. Link and Zelda, working together at last!

Why it’s the worst Zelda ever: Two touch-only Zeldas in two years? This is a case of too much too soon, as Spirit Tracks looks, plays and feels an awful lot like Phantom Hourglass. Granted, the Temple of the Ocean King is gone and the train tracks are slightly more fun to traverse than the open sea, but we really didn’t need another handheld Zelda so soon. Like the Oracle games, this feels like a stopgap solution, reusing an existing engine and assets to make a quick buck instead of letting the franchise breathe for a few years. We went five years without a Zelda while waiting for Ocarina of Time to arrive – would that be so bad today?

Brett’s take: It’s easy to dismiss Spirit Tracks right away. Link, on a train, in engineer clothes, fighting a demon engine? Sounds absolutely absurd. But the oddness helps make this stand out from Hourglass, which relied too much on Wind Waker for its ideas and direction. The final dungeon is a monstrous pain in the ass, but overall this is one of the better handheld Zeldas.


Why it’s the worst Zelda ever: Because it is.


 

Jun 30, 2011

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75 comments

  • ProChuga - January 5, 2013 8:20 p.m.

    i have to say Ocarina of time holds its place firmly at #1, it was the first game that i ever played, and captivated me every day of me playing me...All i wonder is how it took me 6 years to beat it..(water temple), but now i can beat it in 2 days. 2nd place would have to be Majora's mask. that game.that game..it was difficult, but it was so freakin awesome. The only problem i have with the game is the water temple(always the hardest), but other than that, the game has so many side quests and possibilities it really puts those thinking muscles to work. Keeping track of time, collecting masks, fighting, and solving problems... very exciting. 3rd place would have to be the wind waker, so huge of an environment for its time, especially for a Zelda game, although not as many side quests as i would prefer the storyline of this game were amazing, i couldn't of asked for a game like it to be any better. Twilight princess was a huge let down to me and many other zelda fans, first problem was when it first came out i beat it in the first 2 days of arrival in stores, it just didn't feel like a classic zelda game for me, the older the better is normally the case for zelda games. Don't get me wrong, there were classic zelda features to the game...but...a bazooka!? really now, this guy saves your but with a rocket launcher... and i thought for a second that Ganon wasn't the main villain in this game, i thought it was the twilight lord, but boy was i wrong. The DS games were a let down, they just don't have the feel of even being a Zelda game, and for me, the phantom hourglass was so hard to beat on the whole phantom temple or whatever that place was, in fact i had to buy a strategy guide to get me through it half the time. Over all i think the Zelda games will always be my favorite series, even outranking the Fallout series and Elder Scrolls series. FYI, only zelda game that i never beat was minish cap, the last boss, i'm just not that good with her moves, even with the gameboy gamecube adapter.
  • christopher-gardiner - July 8, 2012 7:19 p.m.

    Wind Waker was and still is the best Zelda game in existance, because it was the one that got me into the series, and was the first one that i have played, with Ocarina of Time at close second.
  • navi-the-fairy - February 11, 2012 3:36 p.m.

    You're very biased, you know. If you can blame Zelda 1 for aspects of it that are primitive and only there because it was first, then you should probably point out that A Link to the Past has very little character development at all and is relatively uninteresting to many people who've not had experience with any games prior to the 3D shift. Take off the nostalgia goggles, being amazing for the time doesn't always mean amazing now. And for Ocarina of Time, where do I start. The field is bland, the characters are a clear step backwards from Link's Awakening, the only half of the inventory is usable at any point and the time traveling forces you to be unable to use items you've already obtained, the owl and the fairy hold your hand constantly, the first three dungeons are a chore and the game only gets good part-way through, and the game's biggest hook is "wow it's in 3D." I adore A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time, I adore all of these games, but none of them are perfect and if you really want to make a list of what makes these games good and bad you should try a little harder :P
  • nomis - December 10, 2011 7:34 p.m.

    wow...Minish Cap is easy?! guess I got a lot to learn about Zelda games haha
  • TJF588 - October 4, 2011 4:31 a.m.

    I lament a lack of even commenting on the GBA version of ALttP (and perhaps the GCN versions of the NES and N64 games, but IIRC, only OoT's Master Quest was worth noting, and that's in the 3DS version). Why? Four Swords. How about the recent DSiWare Four Swords Anniversary Edition?
  • Ravenbom - July 9, 2011 7:46 a.m.

    I had fun with Link's Crossbow Training. For an hour. Also because I didn't use the stupid zapper.
  • egregious - July 6, 2011 2:40 p.m.

    A Link to the Past is my favorite game of all time. Still. I've had those discussion about top ten, five, hundred games, and ALTTP always comes out number one. The perfect game. Wind Waker is my number two Zelda game, to be honest. I loved the look and it just felt so lighthearted and fun.
  • Imgema - July 4, 2011 4:47 p.m.

    You know, technology and gameplay advances can improve graphics and um, gameplay, but they can't improve one the one thing that is the most important for me: Atmosphere. Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask are STILL the best Zeldas for me, not because of the nostalgia (i grew up with 8 and 16 bit zeldas actually) but because of their atmosphere. Ocarina of time also has the most content and secrets compared to any other Zelda and there are even little things that you may never see, unless you try them, like, have you ever played the Zelda lullaby near a destroyed sign? Did you ever let a butterfly land on your Deku stick? And dozens of other things like that. Oh and both games have the best soundtrack of any Zelda game. You can't improve music compositions with newer technology now, can you?
  • randomroy - July 4, 2011 7:26 a.m.

    How could you forget the Game and watch Zelda game?!!! My family couldn't afford a game boy so it was my pride and joy. It was my first ZELDA and holds a special place in my heart. I think I played it for 8 hours straight in the car from London to Edinburgh when I was young.
  • jackthemenace - July 3, 2011 4:03 p.m.

    Well, I enjoyed Phantom Hourglass and Spirit tracks, and, since I played Link to the past on GBA and Twilight Princess on the Wii, I've never really had the chance to play a LoZ game with a real controller, which I find disappointing, now I realised that 10 seconds ago.
  • Bobishungry - July 3, 2011 1:13 a.m.

    i've heard of each of these games before, even the link's crossbow training. But i had always thought the faces of evil intro video was a fake intro made by some random guy on youtube. I wish i was right!
  • AlbVega - July 3, 2011 12:33 a.m.

    Twilight princess for me. I was never really a Zelda fan until I played this and Ocarina back to back. Midna it's a great character, the towns and overworld feel incredibly alive and everything just screams EPIC. Plus the armors were cool. It's the Zelda I have completed the most, and that's in one sitting only. These articles are amazing, please do now Castlevania, Resident Evil and the sacred Mario games.
  • HowdyCowboyCheesesBurger0911 - July 2, 2011 3:51 p.m.

    I enjoyed the the Zelda faps but this is to much, no more Zelda.
  • The_Tingler - July 2, 2011 3:46 p.m.

    Oh, and Wind Waker is the only one in the series with f***ing camera control. Sigh.
  • The_Tingler - July 2, 2011 3:46 p.m.

    Nothing wrong with A Link To The Past? How about this: the story's tacked-on and there are no interesting characters in it, plus it doesn't do very well in guiding you to your objectives. These are the reasons I got bored with it. I completed it, but I had GameFAQs open for a great deal of time. Wind Waker is my absolutely favourite, mostly because of the superb story and characterization. Oh, and absolutely everything else. It's the only game barring Batman Arkham Asylum that I've got 100% everything on.
  • KingArchie55 - July 2, 2011 2:35 p.m.

    I loved LttP. I got it for GBA, and I played that game for like 3 years. Then I lost it. But man, that game is fantastic. It's gotta be my favorite game.
  • Tenfey - July 2, 2011 12:30 p.m.

    Your description for Link to the Past was actually dead on for me. It was the first Zelda I had ever seen, and I played it non-stop for weeks. When I went back to try the previous NES entries after borrowing them from friends, I could see how they had led up to LttP, but I could never really get into them. Don't worry though, I eventually sat down and played through both of them, albeit about 10 years later and with a FAQ.
  • AuthorityFigure - July 2, 2011 6:47 a.m.

    The DS games are inferior to the GBC games to my mind. Twilight Princess may have tried too hard to be like OoT, but I have a clear concious on that - I wasn't one of the ignoramous' yearning for a 'dark' (read: 'dull') Zelda game.
  • 510BrotherPanda - July 2, 2011 5:19 a.m.

    Since I live in San Francisco... THE NEXT TIME I SEE YOU GUYS AROUND THE CITY, I WOULD GREATLY APPRECIATE A DISCUSSION ON THIS ARTICLE, PARTICULARLY YOUR OPINIONS OF THE HANDHELD ZELDA GAMES. Sure, I'm not "the guy with all the Zelda tattoos", and I'm not nearly as old or game-experienced as all of you, but I think my perspective on this is at least...worth...a little bit...
  • Limbo - July 2, 2011 4:22 a.m.

    Excuse me, the Faces Of Evil is one of my favorite games of all time. I find this article highly offensive. Jokes aside, my favorites would have to be Ocarina Of Time, Majora's Mask, and Wind Waker, in that order. Ocarina of Time because it encompasses everything Zelda games are about and is just fantastic, Majora's Mask because it is the most unique, memorable, and has dozens of side quests (ALIEN ATTAAACK), and Wind Waker because it was my first Zelda game and I have a nostalgia boner for it.

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