Hello, everyone – Crab Helmet here, to introduce something big coming to ZU very soon. I speak of The Missing Link, a brand new article series from Zelda Universe. The Missing Link is, in essence, a revival of the old Behind the Rupees series. Many of you might remember a select few top writers from around ZU gathering together to write insightful articles about every aspect of the Zelda series. After an incredibly long wait, we’re ready to do it again – and better than ever before.

To get everyone acquainted with the new writers in The Missing Link, we’ve prepared a roundtable article, in which certain site staff bounce opinions of each other in a general debate and discussion about a subject. This is more of a teaser than anything else, as I want to show you how these things work. Plus, I’m itching to get an article on Spirit Tracks out.

Today The Missing Link team will be discussing their first thoughts on the Spirit Tracks trailer. As you probably know, a new Zelda for DS has been announced, and while we know little about it, we are more than ready to discuss it. Here we go!

Crab Helmet:


The trailer starts with a dramatic intro. A black screen, mysterious and silent. Suddenly, the silence is cut through by the note of a steam engine’s whistle. Then, the sound of the steam engine itself, and we see an engine winding its way through a field, down along the railway tracks. The surroundings are pretty – a few trees scattered here and there, what appears to be a river in the background, a rock or two. In fact, the graphics engine appears to have been taken from PH.

We then switch to the front view of the train, and a somewhat familiar tune begins to play, adding to the tension. You can see the slightest curl of blond hair beginning to peak about from behind the front seat of the train. Finally, the camera zooms in once more to reveal…

Toon Link.

But not Link as we’ve ever seen him before. He has donned a suitable outfit for his apparent new role, that of a train conductor. I feel that it suits him immensely – the jaunty set of the red steam cap, the black overalls, the rolled up sleeves and gloves, and yet still bearing that wonderful grin we’ve come to know and love from Toon Link. He looks totally at home in his new form of transport.

The transport itself seems reminiscent of the Steamship in PH. It still has a cannon placed just behind the driver’s seat in which Link is placed, and still merrily steams away. In the next few scenes, we see on the over world map Link driving along a series of interconnected railways.

This both excites me, but also worries me. The train is a whole new method of transport, and shows that Hyrule is capable of significant technological advances. It makes me wonder what else might be in this game. It also signifies this may take place in a time frame far away from any other Zelda, and involve many new and interesting things. It appears that, unlike in PH, you cannot “draw” tracks for this train, and steer it anywhere. I really hope that Spirit Tracks isn’t completely on rails (ja, bad pun). An even more linear game would be disappointing.

As if to soothe my worries, the trailer moves to a more familiar setting (and also confirms without a doubt it use the Phantom Hourglass engine, something which pleases me. After all, Majora’s Mask was built from Ocarina of Time’s engine, and I consider Majora’s Mask to be the best Zelda). We see Toon Link in a dungeon, throwing a strange shuriken-like leaf design which seems to function much like the Gale Boomerang from TP at an Octorok, stunning it, then proceeding to defeat it. It is immediately followed by Link using the seem device to blow Bubbles back at a what seems like a miniboss, a very tribal-looking monster, all leaves and masks, and after that, a shot of him using the Deku Guster (I’m allowed to dub things. :3) to retrieve a key.

This makes me a happy man. It seems that this “Deku Guster” is a multi purpose item which can achieve many things, something which has been missing from many Zelda games of recent times. Perhaps this well help to re-introduce non-linearity, or at least vary the item puzzles. (After all, there are only so many times you can shoot an eye.)

Now that I’m halfway through the trailer, I’ll pause to handle you to my follow Missing Linker, Hombre de Mundo.

Hombre de Mundo:


Hi, I’m Hombre de Mundo – your one and only Man of World – here to share my thoughts. As of now, very little is known about this new game, but that won’t keep us from talking about it.

As I just said, there’s little to no solid information about this game. Even the title is tentative, which means it might change at some point up until its release. We can only look at the trailer and the screen shots and try to make the most of it.

Let’s start with the obvious. This game looks identical to Phantom Hourglass, the other Zelda DS game released in 2007. Judging by the few snippets of game play it’s safe to say it pretty much plays the same, so if you liked Phantom Hourglass, chances are high you’re gonna like this one.

Of course, without new content there wouldn’t be much of a new game. Link can take control of what seems to be some sort of Shadow Knight and use it to turn on switches and fight enemies, like how you would control the Phantoms in Phantom Hourglass’ multi player mode.

There’s also the whole train driving aspect to talk about. First off, I’d like to say: Wow! Did any of you see this coming, having Link as a train driver?

From the looks of it, you drive your train much like you sail your boat in Phantom Hourglass, except this time you have to choose the best path from already set rails, you won’t be able to draw on the map and set any course you want.

As Crab Helmet said: while on the train, you use your cannon to shoot hogs and other things you’d rather see dead while waiting to arrive at your next destination. This leaves the player is unlikely to be able to go around Hyrule (or whatever land this is) as he sees fit, like in the traditional Zelda games. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in my opinion, so long as the destinations aren’t too small in size.

Overall, I expect an adventure alike to Phantom Hourglass. It will probably feel like playing Majora’s Mask after playing Ocarina of Time – an almost identical game when it comes to the core play mechanics, but very different in terms of storyline.

While I hardly think Phantom Hourglass was as good as Ocarina of Time or The Wind Waker, I liked it and I don’t mind getting a similar game at all. I hope Nintendo throws in enough refreshing ideas and enough difficulty to make this title feel fresh and somewhat original.

But how close to Phantom Hourglass is this game in terms of storyline? Will it have the same Link? Is the Zelda we see in the trailer really Tetra? Who’s the villain of this game, what’s threatening Hyrule? Is this game even taking place in Hyrule? There are so many questions we can only speculate about, so a sane man would leave this out and wait for more information. I am not a sane man. I’m a Zelda Theorist. As such, I’m going to share with you some observations.

First of all, this game takes place on land where there is a castle and a functional rail road. Link and Zelda are still kids, so the chances of this being the same Link and Zelda (Tetra) from Phantom Hourglass seem small. But Nintendo likes to slap reality in the face at times, so who’s to say? But it does seem unlikely since this new land has villages and a castle in it, so for a kid Zelda to come in and demand to be the princess of and already existing kingdom… not likely. Nor is it likely that they built the castle, seeing as how building a castle usually takes enough time for kids to grow up.

This could just as well be a sequel to Twilight Princess or The Minish Cap, for all we know. It doesn’t even have to be a sequel or a prequel, but a stand-alone title. One interesting thing is that – if you look at the map – there seems to be a big tree in the woods. Deku Tree?

We’re all speculating at this point and until Iwata or Miyamoto decide to reveal more information, that is all we can do for now.

Crab Helmet:


I’d like to pick up on Hombre’s point about those who enjoyed PH, similarly enjoying ST. This doesn’t necessarily mean, for all those of you who consider the Kakariko Well half-empty rather than half-full, that if you disliked PH, you’ll dislike ST. In fact, ST will probably by far out-do PH, simply because the Zelda team has had an opportunity to see what does and doesn’t work on the DS in PH, and will now be able to remove all the bad things, and amplify the better stuff, for ST.

Continuing with my analysis of the trailer, we see Link use a mysterious metal-clad ally, reminiscent of the Phantoms of Phantom Hourglass, passing through what would be an impassable blaze to Link, in order to reach a switch.

The applications of this are enormous. Imagine, fully integrated co-op, with the secondary player controlling this warrior. It could finally make a really good 2 player mode, without having to resort to basing the entire fundamentals of the game around it, as in Four Swords and Four Swords Adventure.

Even as it is, it seems an excellent idea. It could allow for some really complex puzzles – previously, we just had Link all on his lonesome, leading to one dimensional puzzles. Now you have twice as many aspects to incorporate! Zelda has used partly two-player dungeons before, but never for long, and usually with little depth. However, from the multiple parts in the trailer featuring this warrior, it seems this is fairly major, and I look forward to seeing how it works.

It gets better. The next few seconds show Link and this warrior tag-teaming to defeat enemies. Not only can this baby walk through fires and hit switches, he can fight! And he handily despatches an enemy before our very eyes. (A slightly less major revelation from this cut scene is that the Boomerang returns, but hey, everyone kinda expected that…) Finally, the metal-clad warrior exceeds himself by distracting a River Zora while Link runs round the back and slays it, in what appears to be a fairly in-depth manoeuvre. If they are making combat more inventive, I’m all for it.

Time for a bit of Zelda cliché, as we see Link humbly kneeling before Her Royal Highness, Princess Zelda, who appears to be reading a letter Link has given her. Well, this, for me, is a bit of a downer. This is Princess Zelda in all her “seen-it-before-in-at-least-five-games” glory. I like her when they vary her up a bit, as in Ocarina of Time where she made an excellent Sheikah, or in the Wind Waker, where Tetra provided an excellent character, but I feel Zelda needs to move away from repeating itself so much, and if Zelda is as mundane as she appears to be in this shot, I may have apprehensions about the quality of the story.

The next few scenes involve Link shooting stuff. Grand Theft Loco, or what? Well, as far as shooting Bullbo and Skulltula with a cannon counts. Nothing much of interest visually, although the music is beginning to reach a crescendo, and is excellent stuff – if the game’s music is all like this, I certainly will be impressed.

And now, a climax. Link versus a boss. Tall and intimidating, a giant stag beetle lurks in the depths of the forest (which means it is obviously the first boss of the game, because a forest temple is aaaaalways first…). Unfortunately, it really isn’t that exciting. Link shoots back projectiles with the item he appears to have just found in the dungeon this stag beetle resides in, before attacking weak spot, presumably three times. Use item, stun, hit weak spot three times. I have done this so many times now my fingers move on auto. I was really hoping for something a little more varied, and PH was one of the better games in that aspect, with some varied and unusual bosses, but hey, guess this isn’t it. Shame really, as the trailer ends now.

I’ll now hand you over to my third colleague, Holly.

Holly:


Hello, I’m Holly, and I’m also here to share my opinions on this game. There have only been roughly two minutes of footage, but I’m already interested to know more about this game.

I thought my friend was pranking me when I first started the trailer, but sure enough familiar looking graphics showed up and Link was poking his head out of the train. I must say, if anyone saw this coming they must have been a prophet, or worked on the game themselves. On that notion, I have noticed people have been complaining that this game will suck sorely on the fact of the train. In my opinion, it’s going to be just like Wind Waker again; seems bad at first but will end up being a good game. I just hope there will be enough exploring outside the the train besides dungeons, something that Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass lacked.

Next in the trailer we see the traditional game play appear. Even with positive thoughts, I was still happy to see this. The new weapon, the “Deku Guster,” looks like a mix between a pin-wheel and the Deku Leaf (actually if I got there first I would have called it the Deku Pin-wheel) and works the same way, just without the the ability to float. Then there is the Phantom or something close to it, appearing as an ally of sorts. (I even considered it being a person you just order around but it seemed unrealistic for someone to walk through flames >_>) This reminds me of the statues in Twilight Princess that you control, using it to solve various puzzles. Maybe something similar will happen here, where you only control the Knight for one dungeon? Too early to know though.

I agree with the other two in thinking this game will be like Phantom Hourglass game play wise, but I have no complaints in that. It will probably mean that they have already gotten all the game play problems out of way and are focusing on the story more. That means possible earlier release date for us. Hooray!

One thing I really want to know more about is the storyline. We get so little information about it from the trailer and the screen shots, (which I actually haven’t seen any of yet, must find some) but I have to agree with Hombre. This is likely not Link and Tetra from Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass. While Nintendo has followed logic (hence the train amongst other things), they would have at least grown up the kids a little more. Plus by the way Tetra acted in Phantom Hourglass, I doubt we will be seeing her in a dress any time soon.

I think this is a stand alone title, with what little we have seen so far. So far with the plot, I think that this Link was most likely a train conductor or something close to that before he met the Zelda in this game, when he delivers that message to her, and whatever is in the letter causes the game to start properly. Just a random guess, so don’t go quoting me on that. Then there’s the villain of this story, I have no idea who they might be but whoever it is, I just hope they take an active role in the villainy in this game.

Well, that’s all I can think of so far. Hopefully we will be find out more through the months to come.

Hombre de Mundo:


I’d like to take a moment to address an oh-so debated issue. Is Zelda being watered down and are they going to repeat the same old formula? Will old Zelda fans who have played a lot of Zelda games find Spirit Trackers interesting and refreshing, or send angry letters to Miyamoto telling him to stop making Zelda’s for their grandmothers?

Personally, I’m on the fence with this. Miyamoto has said that the Zelda franchise needs some fresh ideas and concept, which is much welcomed. However, he has also stated that he doesn’t want things like difficulty levels – which I personally think is completely retarded. You cannot make every gamer enjoy the same difficulty, it’s just not possible. So yeah, I do have worries for this game. Looking at the boss fight (a giant wooden beetle it seems), you use your dungeon item to stun the boss, and then it’s just hack n’ slash. As a concept, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that pretty much every Zelda boss in history is built up this way, so it won’t take long before we figure out exactly what to do. Repeat 3 times and we defeat the boss. It really doesn’t become much of a challenge.

On the other hand, Phantom Hourglass made great use of the two screens when boss fights are concerned. Remember the boss that went invisible and one of the screens showed the Boss’ point of view, rushing towards Link? I did not want that battle to end. So I hope to see more of those types of bosses that have unique style and ways of beating them, something that makes players think “wow, I didn’t see this coming!” just like we all thought when we saw Link on a train.

Overall, I think most of us will be surprised of what’s in store for our hero this time around and I have a positive feeling about this game, even though I’m still sceptical of the Zelda team and Miyamoto and I’d rather have Retro Studios develop Zelda games… but if Miyamoto can come to his senses and bring us a fresh Zelda experience, I’m game.

Crab Helmet:


I’m afraid I’m going to have to risk cutting this short, to avoid it losing it’s relevance. Fear not, later additions of the Missing Link will be longer and meatier, and may involve guests chosen from the forums (sound fun?). I’ll round it off, by agreeing with Hombre. Yeah, this could be another rehash of a Link to the Past. But for now, I’m going to be optimistic. It could go wrong, but it could go so, so well. Zelda games don’t have to be home console blockbusters with beautiful 3D graphics. They can also be executed on the hardware of a hand-held with true style and panache.

The next issue, will deal with what we’d like to see in the story, what we’d expect from the story, what we predict about the story, and what we’d like to set on fire, throw away the ashes, and bar Miyamoto from going anywhere near. In other words, it’s all about the story. =P See you then!