Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks -HANDS-ON PREVIEW!

The best thing about writing for a gaming site is playing games, and the best thing about playing games is playing NEW games. What’s the best thing about playing NEW games, you might ask? That would be playing games that aren’t even released yet. Up until a couple weeks ago, I’d played a couple of games maybe a day or two before they showed up in stores. That was until I got an invite to a super-exclusive Nintendo of Canada-run event in downtown Toronto that gave me an hour with Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for DS.

At the time of the event, it was about a month before this game’s release; I was really excited to see what the event involved, what was included in the game, and I got the chance to speak with some gaming media-men who regularly attend these events. What follows is coverage of the event itself, in which I’ll try to skip right to the exciting bits.

I showed up a block or two north of Union station fifteen minutes early, so I walked around a little before finding the PR girl with one of the other attendees. We started chatting while more of them showed up, at which point they started grouping up; it seems they all knew each other from similar events. I was the new guy there, basically, but while we waited I found a two-person clique and we had a nice little discussion about COD 2 before the streetcar arrived. It was a really old one with a brown paintjob. We all piled in and sat down. In front of each seat was a bag containing a DS with a copy of Spirit Tracks inserted, so without hesitation I picked up the DS and started playing.

I was under the impression that we were going somewhere for the event, but no. The event actually took place on the streetcar itself. We rode around town for an hour while we played the game, and it was much like its predecessor for the portions where you ran about as Link. I started in this field, and I had to bomb my way into a cave to solve some old-school Zelda puzzles. Once I was out of there Link enters this huge, broken tower with the broken pieces floating above the foundation. I enter, there’s a cutscene, and then I have to climb up to the first floor of this tower so that I can grab an important map. That’s when the game mechanics start to differ from previous Zelda games. The princess herself is with you, but she has no body. So what can she do for you? Possess certain enemies, that’s what! To get through the tower, you need to make use of your very own giant, possessed statue by drawing a path for it with the stylus. It can walk over spikes, distract evil statues, and hit switches for Link, and that’s just what I was able to do in 10 minutes.

So, controlling a statue to aid Link is pretty cool, but after I grabbed that map the game got even more interesting. In the first Zelda game for DS Link used a boat to get around, which wasn’t awful but I was kind of sick of it after Windwaker for the Gamecube. In Spirit Tracks, however, you use (surprise) a train! You can shift gears between forward, fast forward, stop, and reverse, and you even get a little pullstring that you can pull with your stylus that blows the whistle! I was the most annoying train in the land, constantly doing 120 and repeatedly sounding the whistle. The greatest challenge I encountered in this game was stopping at train stations; they’re pretty small, and it’s hard to stop DIRECTLY in front of them as you’re required to do. Anyway, I followed some tracks and checked out some towns, finally making it to (and through) the token Lost Woods area. Why is there always a lost woods in Zelda games? Can’t it ever be the easy-to-navigate woods?

That’s when the streetcar stopped and I had to get off and pry my fingers from the DS, but not before I got a sweet loot bag with some snacks and a Link plushie. It was a cool experience, being the first exclusive gaming event I ever attended, and Spirit Tracks was a thrill to play. It brings some cool stuff to the table, like being assisted by a Zelda-ghost and using a train to get around instead of a boat. It also maintains the slick stylus-guided gameplay found in the first Zelda DS game, and from what I played it seems like a really entertaining game. I would recommend it to anybody with a DS, and -especially- if you plan to play it on a streetcar; it immerses you like nothing else. MICHAEL D.

~ by consolecreatures on November 30, 2009.

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