Saturday, July 4, 2009

Items in Spirit Tracks

One major points of interest in a new Zelda game for me is the question, what items there are. And with items I don't to refer to sword, shield and the other typical equipment, I refer to the items, you can assign to a button to use them with the same button (or in case of the Nintendo DS the touchscreen). Let's call those "action items" for now. However, I was very disappointed, when Phantom Hourglass only got nine spots in the item menu, seven for action items and two more for potions. I see, that the NDS Zelda team wanted to keep Phantom Hourglass close to original The Legend of Zelda, when it comes to certain elements like the items (or the repetitive music). The Legend of Zelda on the NES only got eight action items, one of them being a potion, so you can see where the number came from. And like The Legend of Zelda on the NES Phantom Hourglass only has full Heart Containers to collect instead of heart pieces, which wasn't a bad thing, because that way there was more space for other collectable items like the Spirit Gems or the ship parts. You can honor the attempt of being close to the first Zelda game, but you also can complain about the low number of action items. I certainly complain. And I hoped, that Spirit Tracks won't follow this trend of only having seven items, but my hopes were smashed by this video of the E3 demo:

It shows the nice gameplay with the Phantom, but look at the menu at 4:51. The item menu has nine slots again, two for potions, seven for action items. Arrgh... Those seven items better be good. So, let's make a list of what items are currently known:

The Boomerang
It's back. And it works exactly like in Phantom Hourglass, no enhancements or alike. But since this was one of the most entertaining items in the game, I don't complain.

The Whirlwind
It's a blowgun, that shoots whirlwinds. Basically this is nothing new, we got something similar in Oracle of Ages & Seasons with the Gale Seeds combined with the Seed Shooter or the Slingshot. And we got the Deku Leaf in The Wind Waker, the Gust Jar in The Minish Cap and the Gale Boomerang in Twilight Princess, which all dealt with wind power. However, this item emphasizes the use of the Nintendo DS microphone, since you can shoot whirlwinds by blowing into the microphone. In the above video it also looks like you can simply shoot whirlwinds by tapping, so I assume, that you can shoot larger whirlwinds with the microphone or something. Because otherwise why should you want to blow into the mic? You could let Link puff in Phantom Hourglass by blowing into the microphone to blow out candles or to power those windmills, so the Whirlwind is basically the amplifier of that feature. Next to the obvious stuff like powering windmills or getting keys, you can use the Whirlwind to blow enemies around and clear poison gas areas.

The Whip
Seriously, the whip definitely looks cool. It will probably replace the Grappling Hook from the previous game, since you can use it to swing yourself across gaps or similar traps. But it also can be used as a weapon, which is good, because using only a sword all the time can become quite boring. And it doesn't seem to be as overpowered as the Hammer in Phantom Hourglass. Annnddd...

So, there are still four spots left. But there is a high chance, that some more classic items from Phantom Hourglass will return. Probably the Bombs, Bow & Arrow and the Shovel. However, I would like to see some new versions of these items. For example instead of a bow they could add a crossbow. Wouldn't be the first Zelda related game with a crossbow. Or something, that works as a shovel, but can do more, like the Mole Mitts in The Minish Cap. For example a pick axe. You could use it to "shovel" the ground, to clear a mine and to attack enemies. Multiple uses for one item, that's what we want to get, if there are only seven. What I would also like to see is a ball & chain, because swinging it with the Stylus could be fun.

The Phantom
Well, this is of course not one of the "action items", but still very cool and important. Controlling a Phantom in dungeons will be second main gameplay element in Spirit Tracks next to riding a train. The idea itself isn't new however, you could already control Phantoms in the multiplayer mode of Phantom Hourglass and you got dungeon companions in The Wind Waker. But it's common, that the main gameplay elements of a Zelda game are just advanced versions of smaller features in previous games. Like the masks in Majora's Mask, those were already featured in Ocarina of Time. Or the Minish Cap in the game with the same name was based on the Gnat Hat in Four Swords.

However, I believe, the idea of controlling a Phantom has a lot of potential. Especially if you do this in all the dungeons, because this would make the dungeons and their puzzles in Spirit Tracks all very unique. And the Phantom probably can be upgraded. In Phantom Hourglass there were red Swift Phantoms, who could walk much faster, and Gold Phantoms, who could teleport themselves all around the place. I at least expect to get those upgrades for my Phantom later in the game. And maybe some new ideas, like special items just for the Phantom (a ball & chain would be nice).

There's also a conductor's whistle, which is used to call the Phantom and which fits the train theme of the game. Make sure to take a look at the above video, it shows a lot of the Phantom gameplay.

Collectible Items

Next to the "action items" I'm also very interested in collectible items. Like heart pieces, gold skulltales or rings. I love that, no good Zelda game without a good collecting quest. But so far nothing is know about any collectible items in Spirit Tracks, so we can only speculate. Phantom Hourglass did have six additional heart containers, 64 ship parts and 60 Spirit Gems. I guess, Spirit Tracks will probably use heart containers instead of heart pieces too and the train will offer some customization similar to the ship parts in Phantom Hourglass.

My best guess would be, that the wagons theirselves are the "train parts". You probably get different types of wagons and carts for different purposes. For example Link could transport people with a passenger wagon and earn rupees by doing so. Or deliver a freight cart full of Goron bomb flowers to some mine. The cannon is also on a seperate wagon, so you probably have to get this one first. I think, in the end you will have like four or five different types of wagons plus the locomotive and you can unlock different skins for all those.

I will update this post, as soon as we have more information about the items in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks.

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