Roundtable: It’s the Final Countdown!
A part of The Missing Link series of articles
So, this is it. Within less than one day, Spirit Tracks will be released to the world. As a Zelda community, we’ve received probably the vast majority of the information we are going to receive prior to the release, in the form of trailers, commercials, interviews, and reviews. It’s time for the roundtable crew to provide you with a final summation of our hopes and fears for the upcoming title.
So, what do I think? The first thing I’d like to pick up on is the use of items in Spirit Tracks. It’s been confirmed that there are six items, and we’ve had all but one of those confirmed – the Boomerang, the Bow, the Whirlwind, the Snake Whip, and the Spirit Pipe. The final item is most likely some sort of Bomb, seeing as Link has had access to Bombs in almost every single one of his appearances. Now, this is very low number of usable inventory items for a Zelda game – in fact, the lowest number in the series. Some people may be alarmed by this, but I actually find this encouraging. In Twilight Princess, many items failed to see usage outside of their respective dungeons, causing some truly innovative ideas like the Spinner and the Dominion Rod to go largely to waste. It also meant there were very few complex puzzles – most simply consisted of using the item at hand on a target.
In contrast, with only six items, Spirit Tracks will be forced to use all of them constantly. There won’t be any opportunity for items to fall by the wayside. It also means puzzles will have to be more complex – because there are so few items, puzzles that simply require basic usage of the item would become much too repetitive. Instead, there will almost certainly have to be points where items are used in conjunction with each other, or in particular sequences, or even as part of a larger puzzle.
This also means there may be many more equippable items, as opposed to inventory ones, like the Titan’s Mitts from A Link to the Past, or the Zora Armour from Twilight Princess. I think this would be a great aspect to bring back, because it feels like an advancement on Link’s strengths, rather than just a new addition. He doesn’t just get new abilities, but also improves his old ones! Making him stronger, or swim better, or run faster (the Pegasus Boots from various games) is an excellent way to flesh out the game, because it provides items that can enhance Link generally, as well as solve specific tasks. If there are enough varying types of equip item, they might also allow a slight amount of customization to the series – while I may equip Link with the Red Tunic and the Dash Boots, Holly might use the Blue Tunic and the Flippers, and Hombre the Green Tunic and the Iron Boots.
What do you think, Hombre?
Hombre de Mundo:
I think that – first off – I would not use the Green Tunic and the Iron Boots. Second, I think it’s a really great thing that we will only use six items in Spirit Tracks. Phantom Hourglass did very well with only a few more items and while I don’t exactly adore that game, it felt like nothing was really missing, item-wise. My favorite item in Spirit Tracks would have to be the Rope Snake (yes, I know it’s just called the Whip), not only because it makes me think of Link as Indiana Jones swinging over dark pits, but also because it’s a nice cameo from Mother 3.
I’m also very interested in the Spirit Pipes and how they will be used, except for making tracks appear. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the Spirit Pipes is Link’s new instrument. You’ll play the instrument in front of a Lokomo, who I assume teach you the song you’re going to play in order to restore the Spirit Tracks that will take you to the next dungeon. But I’m thinking this new instrument can do a lot more than that, like all Link’s instruments. If you think back to Ocarina of Time, the instrument was used for a lot more than opening the door of time. It was an essential tool for Link’s progression in the game, creating storms, teleporting him and fixing signposts (maybe that wasn’t as important as the rest, but it sure was fun). Teleporting especially is a common function of Link’s instrument and I’m sure Link will once again be able to play an enchanting tune making him and his train disappear into the heavens to appear wherever in Hyrule he is needed.
Speaking of the overworld, I must say I’m disappointed that Spirit Tracks doesn’t feature an open overworld. You won’t be able to stop your train and take a walk in Hyrule Field, you’ll stay on the train until you reach your destination, just like in Phantom Hourglass. I know many fans thinks this takes away from the exploration factor that we all know and love about Zelda, and I guess that’s true. On the other hand, seeing as you will be able to place your own tracks later in the game, you will be able to ride around cliffs and caves, discovering new secrets.
I would like to say that having the Blue Tunic and the Flippers in one game would be awesome idea. So is having six items. As mentioned before, there were a lot of items in the newer games that had a lot of potential but they weren’t used much outside their respective dungeons. I do hope to see like in the Oracle of Ages/Seasons games that you use more then one item on the bosses, and the item you get in the dungeon might rarely have been used in the boss. These days you know almost exactly what to do the moment you see the boss, which is a shame, because there are some real enjoyable looking bosses out there.
I’m also very interested at how the train system and the overworld will be like.Like Hombre said, it is similar to the boat system in Phantom Hourglass, just with land instead of sea. That being said, there appears to be more activity this time around, at least to me. I personally can’t wait to make my own tracks and explore the overworld my own way. Who knows, maybe there are hidden caves, or places that have hidden treasures, ones that you would never find if you don’t try to explore by yourself?
Another thing I would like to talk about is the story. I am very happy with it so far. I mean, who would have thought that Nintendo would finally give Zelda a proper role beyond getting kidnapped, turned to stone, or not in the story besides a minor mention? That was the thing that got me truly interested in Spirit Tracks. Not only does Zelda leave the castle out of her own will to solve a problem, she (kind of) becomes a playable character! If you’ve been keeping up with all the trailers you would know exactly what I’m talking about, if not I won’t spoiler the rest for you. There are, of course other interesting parts of the story. The mysterious Lokomos, a villain who does more then sit in the background plotting, and some characters that I would never expect to show up again. I don’t know how well the gameplay is going to be, but the story is going to be very interesting to say the least.
Yes, I’m really looking forward to the story as well. It’s already done something very few Zelda games ever do – show a character’s “death”, even if it may not be as permanent as it seems. To top that, the death in question is none other than Princess Zelda! Nobody saw that one coming. In a way, it’s almost a shame that they revealed it to us. After all, can you imagine the internet uproar if we found out whilst playing? Perfect opportunity to wind up the old hype-o-meter.
Another reassuring fact is the total absence of our old friend, Ganondorf. While he’s been a mighty villain in his day, he is becoming somewhat tired now, and I’m quite glad to see him retired from public view. Besides, Chancellor Cole probably has the most amazingly hip design of any Zelda boss ever. A seemingly-Irish leprechaun demon? You cannot tell me that is not fantastic. While Malladus’s design as a giant evil train with an overly large nose is not quite as exciting, it raises some interesting questions, such as how on earth is the final battle going to work (unless Malladus is some kind of Decepticon)?
To add to that, the Lokomo. Assuming that the land which the Link from the Wind Waker found is the land which later appears in the 2D titles, this means we have a race, the Lokomo, who seemingly disappear. Perhaps it could be a plot point? It may just be wishful thinking on my behalf for a timeline that makes sense, but it’d be an interesting plot twist. Even so, I feel the Lokomo offer plenty as it is – a part creature, part machine race is exactly what Zelda needs to freshen it up after the somewhat tedious monotony of Gorons, Zoras, and Deku.
Overall, Spirit Tracks seems like it will be fun, and since the game is just a day away from release, all that’s left to do is to play it.