Saturday, December 12, 2009

Spirit Tracks Rail Diary: Day 2

I warn you again, these posts contain spoilers. If you haven't entered the fourth land of Spirit Tracks yet, stop reading now.

I played a lot since my post yesterday and right now I'm at the Goron Village, where I got a mine cart for my train. The Gorons seem to be much more interesting than in Phantom Hourglass, I mean there's a black priest Goron praying to a vulcano, how cool is that? And the Goron music track sounds a little bit more interesting than last time. But I'm disappointed, that we're getting just the same tribes, that we had in Phantom Hourglass. No Ritos or Zoras or new races. (Edit: with the exception of the Locomo, sorry I forgot them.)

But first of all, I HATE those kamikaze-trains. Gave me two more Game Overs by now. I was hoping, that as soon as I would get the cannon, I could just simply blow those things off, but turns out the cannon only slows them down. And they really take the fun from the whole train idea. They certainly add a level of challenge, but it's just a cheap kill and it destroys the freedom of travelling, because you always have to keep an eye where those killer-trains are going and map your route accordingly. But sometimes they take unexpected turns and then it's Game Over. Hey, and they cheat. In the underwater part they would run into another, so I thought they would crash together. But what happened? Nothing. Don't know if they just went through each other or if one train jumps over the other. The whole train travelling was the most controversial feature of the game, so you'd expect it to be the most fun part and not just simply annoying. Luckily later in the game it seems like those kamikaze-trains are gone, when you enter the lands from the Tower of Spirits. They are replaced by pirates moving on the land with tanks, but at least you can destroy those.

The dungeons were okay. The Blizzard Temple had this nice puzzle with the bells, I liked that, and the Marine Temple offered the Whip, a completely new item in the series. It has a larger range as a weapon than the sword, but it is weaker. I believe some inspiration for the whole Marine Temple part came from the Japanese manga One Piece. It's one of the most popular mangas over there, so I wouldn't wonder. But in the manga there were tracks going over water too and a sea train and those Whip-enemies in the Marine Temple looked exactly like those guards in the underwater prison in the manga, which is pretty fetting. I wouldn't say, this is pure coincidence, but maybe those guards are a figure from Japanese mythology, I'm not sure. But another inspiration definitely came from Indiana Jones. I mean a SNAKE whip (okay, this one also comes from Earthbound/Mother), traps with shooting arrows and rolling rocks. It was really obvious. And the entrance to the underwater tracks looked like the entrance to the Level 5 dungeon in Link's Awakening. Lots of nice references. However, overall the whole underwater part was as impressive as disappointingly short. I mean, the potential! Zoras, old Underwater Hyrule, ancient underwater treasures! But all we got is a series of tracks with two more of my favorite enemies in the game on them. Yikes. Nintendo sometimes really is an expert at wasting potential. But it was really beautiful, I have to say that.

Overall I think the new Hyrule is quite ugly. Especially the Snow Land. The best view you get in the train sections is the Tower in the background with the floating parts in the sky. This somehow reminds me of Majora's Mask, where you always could see the moon closing in. About the Desert Land, I wondered yesterday where this territory would pop up and if we would get a fifth map, but it turns out, that it's just part of the ocean map. Pretty much like the Rabbit Haven suggested. I wonder if I have to collect 10 Desert Rabbits as well. :D

The Tower of Spirits really offers different experiences in each section. It's almost like you're getting to visit a new dungeon every time. The second section had a fire theme and offered fire related puzzles. Overall it was pretty basic. The third section then was completely dark with no maps. It offered a new type of Phantom, the Torch Phantoms. They carry a flaming sword, much like what you got in Phantom Hourglass when you collected enough Power Gems. There's lots of backtracking in both sections, especially if you missed the Bombs earlier. The Bombs are aquired at Beedle's and so far they seemd to be an optional item, I only had to use them for sidequest related stuff. That may change later though. The fourth section then introduced the Warp Phantoms. They work like the Gold Phantoms from Phantom Hourglass, just not with the gold and not with the axe. It's so awesome that you finally can toy around with that system, which was your worst enemy in the previous game. You can't teleport freely, the Phantom Eyes are your warp points. Which actually leads to some clever puzzle, the one on floor 15F to be accurate, where you had to get your Phantom over the last sand pit. It took me like 30 minutes to solve that puzzle. But it's actually really easy, if you know, what you're doing. But I considered so many stupid things, I even tried to get the block from the other side of the floor over to the final part. Funny thing is, I tried to use the Whirlwind on the Phantom, but it didn't carry it far enough. Then I tried to get the Phantom Eye to the other side of the pit, but for whatever reason I didn't think of using the Whirlwind, I tried the whip and the boomerang, even luring it directly over there, which really wasn't a good idea. But at some point it made *click* and I felt like a genious and a total idiot at the same time. Smart puzzle. Made the huge, entire floor covering puzzle at the end of the section look like a joke to me.

What I noticed about the sidequests is, there isn't something similar to the secret seashells from Link's Awakening or the Spirit Gems from Phantom Hourglass. You know, something with a limited number, that you could find everywhere. Like in treasure chests, from people or even under bushes. Something, that really makes you look in every corner. There isn't this type of collectible item. There's the stamp stands and while some of them are REALLY well hidden, there's exactly one per place. The bunnies only appear during the train sections and the train cars can only be bought in Linebeck's store. Left are the optional Heart Containers, but most of them are gotten from minigames and that sort of stuff like in Phantom Hourglass, and the treasures. But the treasures are gotten on a random base. It just makes the whole back tracking feel to be not worth it. For example repeating the sections of the Spirit Tower only gives you treasures. It's not something you would notice at the end of the game, if you missed it. Of course you need them to buy those fancy train cars, but there are plenty of ways to get treasures. For example buying them in the Beedle shop, because he wants you to spent 20,000(!!!) rupees in his shop this time for the highest membership. And the only thing you will probably get for this (aside from the obvious Heart Container in his shop) is a compliment. By the way, for the stamp collecting Niko gave me the Ancient Shield, which is the shield from Phantom Hourglass. This is a very nice idea, some outfit changes. It doesn't do anything good besides from Link looking differently, but at least you have two different shields in the game. :D I wonder, what happens, if it gets eaten by Like Likes. Is it gone forever then? I hope not... And I wonder, what I will get next from Niko. The engineer's outfit would be a possibility and definitely a nice choice for an extra. I doubt, that this game will have a 2nd Quest like The Wind Waker, but that doesn't mean you can't have the different outfit while playing the game. There's another sidequest, where you ferry passengers around, which gives you Force Gems made of happiness and joy (lol?), that create new tracks, where you can find some of those warp points and more rabbits.

In addition I want to say that the Hyrule Castle Town turned out really nice. There isn't much inside the houses, just a store and this little Savage Labyrinth / Cave of Ordeals rip off, but the overall design and music is great and there's a nice chicken puzzle, where you can get some treasure chests on the roofes.

What gave me some trouble is the new rolling technique. It's praised as being an improvement over drawing those little circles, but I never had much problems with that. But I do have problems with the double tapping. It's easy to perform a roll now, sure, but it's not so easy not to perform a roll if you don't want to. I used to double tap / spam tap enemies in Phantom Hourglass, but if I do that now, Link performs a roll right into the enemies getting hurt. Nice. I really have to concentrate, that I only tap on the enemies once for every sword strike.

Right now I'm not so sure what to think about Spirit Tracks. It definitely won't turn into my most favorite Zelda ever. The Tower of the Spirits is a lot of fun right now, but the train sections become more and more a turn off. The sidequests are just okay, the best one right now seems to be the stamp collecting. Because it is original and surprisingly well hidden. And hopefully it will be rewarding. The bunny hunting isn't too much fun, the best part seems to be the Rabbit Haven itself, which is a miniature version of the whole overworld. And I don't care too much about those random treasures.

Well, two more dungeons and two more returns to the Spirit Tower left. Considering that I was playing all day and night since yesterday, this is not a bad quota.


Anonymous said...

You wrote that there were no new races, thats wrong :)
the lokomos are new ^^

TourianTourist said...

Ah, yeah... how could I possibly forget these guys? xD