On the whole, I try everything I can to be a positive person. When I write for this site, I try to focus on all the happy or heartfelt things. But alas, life is not always sunshine and rainbows as it were, and there are things in the Zelda franchise that annoy me or that I find, in blunt terms, really stupid. For today’s Realm of Memories, I’m going to talk about one such “stupid thing”.
Realm of Memories is a series where we reflect on our absolute favorite moments in The Legend of Zelda games. These could be the times we first fell in love with a game, were moved by the events of the story or actions of a character, felt triumphant when overcoming a tough boss or challenge, or we had an experience so unique that the adventure truly became our own. The Zelda series has touched our lives in many ways, and just as Hyrule has endless stories to share, so do our writers!
I was fortunate enough to get a Nintendo DS during its launch year for Christmas. So fortunate in fact, that I ended up with two of them since my mom and dad didn’t talk to each other about what they were each getting me. And of course, I played that system constantly and loved it dearly. While the games I did have were enjoyable, I knew that a new handheld Zelda was going to be the highlight of the system for me, and I waited with bated breath for any information on it.
Finally, Phantom Hourglass came out and I was ecstatic. I don’t fully remember how or when exactly I ended up getting it, but naturally, I was hooked on it –at least for a while. There were some elements like having to revisit the same dungeon over and over again, and the fact that said dungeon had a time limit that annoyed me (as someone who tends to take their time in games). But I pressed on anyway since I liked the rest of the game enough to keep on playing to the end.
And then the game asked me to press the sacred crest against the sea chart.
For the rest of that day, I spent all my time trying to figure out what the heck to do. Do I have to just tap on the sea chart in that specific part to get something to light up on the sea chart? Was there something in a previous room I missed? I even went so far as to actually try and tap on the top screen, thinking maybe there was some hidden function with the top screen I didn’t know about (spoiler alert: there isn’t). I was just running out of ideas at this point. I even went so far as to leave the dungeon, thinking I somehow missed an important item and scoured the world thoroughly trying to find something to solve this infernal puzzle.
Finally, I gave up and I consulted the internet on this one, something I typically do as a last resort when playing a Zelda game. The solution to the puzzle seemed so obvious and yet stung at the same time; close the DS and put it in sleep mode with the proper chart open. This was the first time playing a Zelda game that I felt a huge amount of annoyance. There was no way I was going to figure that out because it was absolutely immersion breaking. You have to think outside of the game itself to solve that puzzle, and even back then it just annoyed me. This is the one puzzle in the whole series that just irritates me when I think about it. Nothing kills my immersion more than when a game that isn’t inherently trying to be meta wants you to do something meta, in order to do something as a part of the core experience.
Once my mood gets soured on a game though, it tends to linger for a while. The rest of the game felt sort of like a chore to play after this, and the game started to wear out its welcome for me. Going back to the Temple of the Ocean King started to grate, and the sailing was getting really repetitive. I very distinctly remember yelling into my DS, “I really want that item!” late at night and waking up my parents (who proceeded to scold me on a Saturday night for waking them up for yelling), only for the game to prompt me to yell it again much to my chagrin. At that point, I just blew into the microphone a few times because I didn’t care anymore. I wasn’t about to get grounded over Phantom Hourglass either.
If you can’t tell from this article, I don’t like Phantom Hourglass all that much. I appreciate it for taking advantage of the then-new concepts of the DS, but it just left me feeling unfulfilled, and frankly, I don’t even remember much of the game at this point outside of a couple things which I talked about earlier. It left such a bad taste, I still haven’t even played Spirit Tracks, if only because it looked like it was going to be another Phantom Hourglass. And if that’s the case it may very well be a long time before I play it, because I’m not likely going to play Phantom Hourglass again anytime soon.