- The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
North American box art
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD Publisher(s) Nintendo Director(s) Daiki Iwamoto Producer(s) Eiji Aonuma Artist(s) Naoya Hasegawa
Composer(s) Toru Minegishi
Series The Legend of Zelda Platform(s) Nintendo DS Release date(s) NA December 7, 2009
AU December 10, 2009
EU December 11, 2009
JP December 23, 2009
Genre(s) Action-adventure Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer Rating(s)
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, released as Zelda no Densetsu: Daichi no Kiteki (ゼルダの伝説 大地の汽笛 Zeruda no Densetsu: Daichi no Kiteki , lit. "The Legend of Zelda: Steam Whistle of Earth") in Japan, is the fifteenth installment of Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda series. Developed by Nintendo for the Nintendo DS handheld game console, it was released worldwide throughout December 2009 after Nintendo president Satoru Iwata announced the game at the 2009 Game Developers Conference.
The game features a cel-shaded art style similar to that of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. Link, the protagonist of Spirit Tracks, travels across the game's overworld using a cannon-equipped steam train much like the steamboat in Phantom Hourglass. The player is also able to control Phantoms, one of the more difficult enemies from Phantom Hourglass, and play an instrument called the Spirit Flute.
Spirit Tracks takes place approximately a century after the events of Phantom Hourglass. Link, an apprentice now ready to become a qualified train engineer, travels to Hyrule Castle to receive his engineer's certificate from Princess Zelda. Zelda asks Link to smuggle her out of the castle so she can investigate the Tower of Spirits, where she believes something has happened to cause the disappearance of the Spirit Tracks. On the way to the Tower of Spirits, the tracks disappear from underneath Link's train and the tower breaks into hovering pieces. The group is ambushed by Chancellor Cole, who reveals himself to be a horned demon pretending to be human, and a mercenary named Byrne. Cole uses dark magic to separate Zelda's spirit from her body and departs, taking Zelda's body with him. Link wakes up in Hyrule Castle and sees Zelda's disembodied spirit, who is only able to speak to him. She asks Link to accompany her back to the Tower of Spirits.
At the tower they meet Anjean, a Lokomo, who explains that the Spirit Tracks carry energy from four temples to the Tower of Spirits and are used to imprison the Demon King Malladus, an ancient foe that terrorized the first settlers of the land. Cole is trying to resurrect Malladus, and needs Zelda's body because only a body of royal lineage can house the spirit of Malladus. Anjean says that the Spirit Tracks can be restored by retrieving rail maps from the tower, asking Link and Zelda to seek out her fellow Lokomo to power the Spirit Tracks to restore Malladus's binds. As Link and Zelda restore energy to the tracks, sections of the Tower of Spirits are rebuilt, which allow them access to a new map. After obtaining the fourth map, the pair are intercepted by Byrne. Byrne approaches Link to kill him, but is interrupted by Anjean, who reveals that Byrne was her failed apprentice. Anjean teleports Link and Zelda to the tower lobby, allowing them to escape and restore the last set of Spirit Tracks. Link and Zelda return to the tower to retrieve Zelda's body, but are blocked by Byrne, who says that they are too late and that Malladus is nearly resurrected. The two overpower Byrne and follow him as he escapes to the top of the tower, where Malladus successfully entered Zelda's body. Byrne asks Malladus to grant him the power he's always wanted, only for Malladus to turn against him instead. But as Malladus has yet to fully adapt to his new body, Cole takes his master away on the Demon Train while Link and Zelda carry the injured Byrne to safety.
At Anjean's direction, Link and Zelda retrieve the Bow of Light, which is the only weapon that can expel Malladus from Zelda's body. However after retrieving it Anjean reveals that she does not know where the Demon Train is. Byrne informs them of the Compass of Light, which is hidden in the Tower of Spirits and can be used to find the train as he and Chancellor Cole did. Using the compass they find a portal near Link's home town which leads to the Dark realm.There, they battle the Demon Train and Cole, removing Malladus from Zelda's body. Zelda is initally unable to reenter her body and Malladus attempts to repossess Zelda, but Byrne intervenes so Zelda's spirit to rejoin her body. Enraged as he destroys Byrne for his interference, Malladus devours Cole and uses him as his new body in a unstable possession, though Malladus is intent to destroy everything before being fully rejected. Link and Zelda weaken Malladus using the spirit pipes and destroy him by plunging Link's sword into his forehead. After the battle, Anjean reveals that Byrne's nature as a Lokomo would allow him to reconstitute a physical form, though with no memory of what has happened. Now that their duty to protect the kingdom from Malladus has been completed, Anjean and the other Lokomos ascend into the heavens as Link and Zelda watch, holding each other's hand.
Spirit Tracks continues its style of game play from The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, in which players use the stylus to control Link and use his assortment of weapons, items, and vehicle albeit with a few game play tweaks. The game is divided into an overworld, which Link traverses using the Spirit Tracks, and towns and dungeons which he travels by foot. The player alternates between moving about the overworld and exploring towns and dungeons in order to complete the game's main story, but may opt to take in side quests for further rewards. In both the overworld and in dungeons, the player is able to make notes on their current map as an aid in puzzle solving, for further reference, and continuing the story. On the overworld, Link is able to direct his train across the land, with the ability to control speed and forward or reverse direction, to turn at track intersections, and to blow the train's whistle to scare animals off the tracks. The player is able to automatically set a route for the train by drawing on the Spirit Track map, though not all locations are immediately available in this fashion. Later, Link is given a cannon that he can use to defend the train from attacks. Link also eventually gains a cargo car, which he can use to move goods from one town to another for additional bonuses. Some missions require Link to transport a passenger along the rails, and require the player to keep the passenger happy by following the signs along the side of the tracks in order to successfully complete the mission. As the game progresses, the player opens more of the map. In towns and dungeons, the player controls Link using the stylus, directing the character where to go. The stylus is also used to perform attacks and dodges and to select special items, such as bombs and a boomerang, used for combat and puzzle solving in order to progress further in the game. Certain items, in particular Zelda's pan flute, require the player to blow into the DS's microphone to simulate playing of the instrument. In the case of the pan flute, successfully completing songs can unlock new songs with magical properties, reveal hidden secrets, heal Link, or restore more of the Spirit Tracks. In certain dungeons, the ethereal Zelda can inhabit Phantom Guardians that patrol the levels. Once Zelda has possessed one of these, the player can direct the Phantom along a stylus-drawn path or to attack a creature, to help, or simply follow Link. Several puzzles of the game may require the player to manipulate Link and the Zelda-possessed Phantom to complete a goal. In towns, the player can have Link speak to its residents, buy goods at local stores, and learn helpful tips.
Unlike The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks does not feature Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection multiplayer. However, up to four players can play via DS Download Play, using only one game card, and one game system per player. This multiplayer mode is non-canonical, as all four players play as different Links, each with different-colored tunics (a style used in The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures). Each player attempts to collect as many Force Gems (of varying sizes, value and number) as possible within a set time limit. Opposition includes the other players; a varying number of non-partisan Phantoms, who will attack any player on sight; and the play stages themselves, with environmental hazards. Results of the most recent game played will show up on a bulletin in most in-game towns and cities. "Tag Mode", an item trading system, is also available between local players.
Spirit Tracks features major changes from Phantom Hourglass. While Phantom Hourglass required the player to traverse through the entire dungeon again and again, Spirit Tracks uses a spiral staircase to access upper floors (although the game still features a central dungeon). Also unlike Phantom Hourglass is the lack of the "curse" that the hourglass protected Link from for a limited amount of time (although the safe zones are still used to hide from the phantoms).
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks was directed by Daiki Iwamoto and produced by Eiji Aonuma. Half of the staff responsible for its predecessor, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, was involved in this game's development. While Aonuma was a regular director of The Legend of Zelda series, he works in the role of a producer for the Nintendo DS Zelda titles. Due to the quick development time of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time which took noticeably more time to complete, Aonuma commented to the development team that they could complete Spirit Tracks quickly. Where Majora's Mask took a year, Spirit Tracks was completed in two. Its Japanese subtitle is Daichi no Kiteki (translated to Train Whistle of the Wide World in English). One of the earlier subtitle ideas was "Pan Flute of the (something)"; however, they found that it would both be too long and would be inappropriate, since the pan flute isn't a main item of this game. They settled for Train Whistle in place of Pan Flute, which allowed them to use a subtitle that embodied both the train theme and the pan flute, the latter being a whistle. They had difficulty in determining what the "something" in the title should be. The English title Spirit Tracks was decided before they had finalized the Japanese name. Upon examining it, they determined that since spirit means soul, they could call it Train Whistle of the Soul. However, the team felt that it sounded too creepy, with Aonuma suggesting it sounded "haunted", not in keeping with its premise, which Aonuma describes as being about "running a train across wide-open spaces". They asked for suggestions from the staff, and as a result, they came up with the current Japanese title. They decided to call the pan flute "Whistle of the Wide World" afterward, which was renamed to the "Spirit Flute" in English. They also named various areas in the games similarly, using "Wide World of the Ocean" as an example.
The graphics were chosen, similarly to Phantom Hourglass, as a result of the decision that toon shading would be best to deliver the games. Aonuma commented that with realistic graphics, it would make the characters poorly scaled to their surroundings, adding that though possible, it was not ideal.
Iwamoto felt that Spirit Tracks should not be too "The Legend of Zelda-like", citing an argument that occurred that the train was not a good fit for the series. This argument had several people wondering if the train should not be changed to something else. However, Iwamoto and others convinced the staff to stick with this idea. Aonuma felt that the team had created new ways of playing, while retaining several elements from the series. Aonuma commented that because the puzzles were designed by a designer who was formerly a programmer, they felt different to him. The multi-player mode was included due to long-time series director Shigeru Miyamoto's enjoyment of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords.
The ability to control a Phantom, an enemy in both Spirit Tracks and Phantom Hourglass, was decided to be included at an early stage in the game's development. The development team also focused on Princess Zelda especially. Related to her alter ego Tetra, Iwamoto chose to exclude her in this game due to her prevalence in previous games as a partner to Link. In deciding the partner, he came to the conclusion that the partner should be female since they would be adventuring together. While they began to design a new character, they figured that not including Zelda would not be as fun; as a result, Iwamoto asked permission to use Zelda, which Aonuma allowed him to do. The Spirit Flute was brought up early in the game's development. Because the microphone capabilities were featured so prominently in the game, the team decided to incorporate it into the flute. Aonuma felt that the inclusion of Zelda as Link's partner in both storyline and gameplay was his favourite part of the game, commenting that Spirit Tracks highlights her personality and characteristics better than other titles in the series.
Aonuma suggested that they not use a boat in this title. Because he wanted to retain the sense of seeing land become clearer as Link approaches it, he had to find an appropriate replacement for the boat. He cites a book called "The Tracks Go On", a book loved by his son, for inspiring the inclusion of a train. He discusses how in the book, children construct railroad tracks, also doing things such as creating tunnels or bridges when they find mountains or rivers. Aonuma felt that this book felt like it would fit with the series, though he did not tell the other developers about it. He later suggested that they use a train, and allow players to lay the tracks themselves. However, the latter idea was described as a "nightmare" by Aonuma, due to how players would not know where to lay tracks and how the story had to restrict players from going to certain places. Developing the train travel system took roughly one year to complete. The mechanic was fixed by making it so that the train tracks were always there, but had disappeared, requiring players to repair them. The development team's reaction was mixed; while some found it fun to expand them, others thought that doing such a thing may result in a loss of freedom in the world exploration. In order to allow players to avoid obstacles or enemies on the tracks, the team included a feature to allow players to go in reverse and switch tracks.
Release and promotion
The music of the game was composed by Toru Minegishi, Manaka Tominaga, Asuka Ota and Koji Kondo. Minegishi wrote the main overworld music and shared the work on field, character and event themes with Tominaga. Kondo contributed the ending theme, while Ota was responsible for some of the music in the multiplayer mode.
When it was revealed, the fan reaction to Spirit Tracks was stronger than the reaction to the Nintendo DSi reveal beforehand. In his impressions, IGN's Colin Moriarty found the storyline to be "compelling" with an "interesting premise". He felt that the gameplay was much like Phantom Hourglass, the plot is enough to get him "jazzed" about Spirit Tracks. IGN UK's Emma Boyes, in her impressions of the multi-player mode commented that how players can lose the majority of their Force Gems in one hit makes the mode have tension and balance. She called the single and multi-player modes a "huge amount of fun". IGN's Mark Bozon commented that it had a lot of "déjà vu" as well as several great additions to the series. He commented that the controls for Princess Zelda were simple, though her "constant chatter" and "slow movement speed" caused the game to slow down at some parts. However, he felt that it was overall a good addition. IGN commented that Spirit Tracks was set to be a "worthy sequel" to Phantom Hourglass. In discussing its potential appearance at E3, IGN's Craig Harris felt that if a playable demo wasn't featured for it, Nintendo would show an "absolutely epic trailer that will bring fanboys to tears in the same way the company did with Twilight Princess in 2004". They awarded it Best Action game for the Nintendo DS at E3 2009, as well as runner-up for best DS game E3 2009 and best handheld game at E3 2009.
GameSpot's Sophia Tong commented that it was "well on its way to being a worthy sequel" to Phantom Hourglass, adding that the ability of the characters to "convey the mood" of the game was well-done enough without using voice acting. She also praised its improved visuals over Phantom Hourglass. Fellow GameSpot writer Tom Mc Shea commented that it looked as "charming" as its predecessors. Crave Online's Erik Norris called it "hilarious and awesome". He praised the change from sea to land, calling it a "guaranteed must-buy". GamesRadar's Brett Elston questioned the inclusion of train travel, considering how much criticism sailing received. However, he noted that it would be a strong addition to the series, though only if they were "no more obnoxious than sailing". In his hands-on of Spirit Tracks, Eurogamer's Christian Donlan described the train travel as "natural", calling the railways a "perfect fit" for the cel-shaded world of Spirit Tracks. He called it "another chunk of simple delight; another sweet-natured adventure". It was nominated for best-of-show at the 2009 gamescom.
The Daily Telegraph included it as one of the top 20 most anticipated games of E3, calling its cel-shaded visuals "beautiful" and "innovative" touch-screen controls. Ars Technica's Ben Kuchera praised it for how it exudes a "very pleasant mood and feel". He adds that he has always anticipated it, but the Phantom and train mechanics give it a "flavor of its own". He also commented on the E3 2009 trailer, stating that fans of the series will "be in heaven". Kotaku's Stephen Totilo criticized the use of the microphone for items, specifically the "Whirlwind" item, commenting that it would make it difficult to play on the subway with dignity. In his "sneak peek" at Spirit Tracks, Toronto Sun's Steve Tilley called it one of his "must-have" video game for the holidays, calling it both "very Zelda-y" and "very fresh". The Independent's Michael Plant called it "hotly-anticipated". Wired named it the third best portable game at E3 2009, with Gus Mastrapa praised it for its "killer dungeons" and "challenging puzzles".
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks has received positive reception, holding an aggregate score of 87 and 86.92% at Metacritic and Game Rankings respectively. This makes it the 19th best Nintendo DS game and the 748th best video game. Nintendo Power called it a "fine" Nintendo DS game and one of the best handheld The Legend of Zelda titles, commenting that fans of the series would get it either way. Games Master called it "delightful" in spite of how similar it was to Phantom Hourglass. NGamer UK called it a "Christmas romp". Games(TM) commented that while it was a "fine addition" to the series, it didn't do anything new for the series. IGN's Mark Bozon commented that while it can "drag on from time to time", praising it as superior to Phantom Hourglass as well as praising it for its bosses, dungeons, and challenge. Computer and Video Games' Mike Jackson commented that while it "doesn't rewrite the rules", it was "engrossing". He also called it an exception to the DS' library in 2009, which was otherwise not exciting.
Official Nintendo Magazine's Fred Dutton agreed with it being familiar, calling it a "wonderful game nonetheless". 1UP.com's Jeremy Parish commented that it "doesn't simply coast along on its legacy", calling it a "fine game in its own right". Game Revolution's Blake Morse called it a "fun take on Zelda games", as well as praising how Princess Zelda accompanies Link. However, he criticized the stylus control issues and when the train rides take too long. Eurogamer's Oli Welsh called it a "tigher and more rounded game" than both Phantom Hourglass and even "most modern games for grown-up consoles". He also commented that the environments are "sometimes shockingly basic", while the characters were "so detailed, so expressive, so exquisitely animated". GamesRadar's Dave Meikleham called it "one of the best Zelda games yet", calling its control scheme intuitive. He adds that the best use of the DS' controls were its items, specifically citing the Spirit Pipes which make use of the DS' microphone. Fellow GamesRadar writer Brett Elston praised the overworld theme, commenting that it put him in an "adventurous mindset", as well as calling it similar to the overworld themes of Phantom Hourglass and The Wind Waker.
Nintendo World Report's Neal Ronaghan praised the addition of the train and the quality of the dungeon designs, though criticizing the lessened exploration and control issues, though he specifically praised the Phantom controls. PALGN's Jeremy Jastrzab commented that while it doesn't stray from its predecessor much, it features "genuine improvements" over it, citing specifically the flute as a major addition to the gameplay. However, he commented that it wasn't right for a portable game. GameTrailers commented that it "addressed the shortcomings" of Phantom Hourglass, calling it "one of the better outings in the series". GameSpy's Brian Altano praised the game's dungeons and bosses as "some of the most imaginative" in the series. He also called it "one of the series' shining moments". However, he criticized the train travel, saying that it makes backtracking tedious. GameSpot's Randolph Ramsay called the dungeons "exciting and well-designed", while also praising its side-quests, boss fights, multi-player, and Phantom gameplay, which he says "adds new depth to the series". Video Gamer's Wesley Yin-Poole praised the controls for Link and Zelda, as well as the visual quality of the characters. However, he criticized the train mechanic and its "tired features", commenting that the series needs changes to structure and gameplay rather than visuals.
Game Informer's Andrew Reiner commented that he has not seen a game that "fluctuates between highs and lows as frequently" as Spirit Tracks. He called it his least favourite title in the series, praising its controls, while also praising the inclusion of Zelda's effect on the gameplay. However, he criticized Zelda's character, describing her as "teenage-angsty Hannah Montana than the calm-yet-troubled princess I knew in previous series iterations". He added that this makes the adventure "taken off course". In a second opinion, fellow Game Informer staff member Phil Kollar similarly called the game mixed, comparing its reception to the NES video game Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. He adds that while glad that Nintendo did something different, it hurt the game more than it helped. RPG Fan's Kyle E. Miller commented that he went into Spirit Tracks with "low expectations", expecting a similar reaction to Phantom Hourglass, which he described as "far from amazing". However, he still found the title disappointing due to the train mechanic, which he states was a "foolish" idea by the developers to build a game around. He adds that while the dungeons and puzzles are good, it all feels "a little tired, brief, and empty", calling it "most likely the series' worst entry". Giant Bomb's Jeff Gerstmann also found it disappointing in some ways, though he added that the flaws were offset by "terrific puzzle design and a great, fun story that feels noticeably different from the standard "save the princess" saga that series fans are used to seeing".
GamePro's Aaron Koehn praised it for its use of the DS' capabilities, calling the game's offerings a "deep experience". However, they criticized it for taking too long to get going in the beginning and for doing little to differentiate itself from Phantom Hourglass. RPGamer's Adriaan den Ouden praised the gameplay, commenting that it was "refined" from Phantom Hourglass; however, he criticized its travel as "slow and tedious", also calling the side-quests "weak delivery subquests". Ars Technica's Ben Kuchera, however, praised the train travel, calling it a "solid length" game and praising it for its touch screen usage. He did however criticize it for its slow beginning and lack of innovation. Stephen Totilo praised the characters and towns, commenting that the characters have "good senses of humor". He also praised the train travel, commenting that while it feels long to use the train sometimes, it can be fun if players multi-task. He called it one of the five best-looking games for the DS. However, he criticized some aspects of it, specifically its flute item, which he says can be unusable if players are playing on a train for instance. IGN UK's Matt Wales called it a "stunningly presented package", praising the graphics as "packed with personality". He called its soundtrack one of the "franchise's best audio offerings in ages". The Daily Telegraph's Nick Cowen called it both one of the best DS games of 2009 and the best video game for all ages of 2009, calling it "challenging and fun" and "chock-full of side-quests". The Daily Telegraph also included it as the ninth best Christmas gift for teenagers, while Cowen and fellow writer Tom Hoggins included it as their honourable mentions in their top 10 list of video games for 2009.
The Guardian's Adam Boult commented that while it wasn't a "huge leap" from Phantom Hourglass, it is "brimming with innovation", strongly recommending it. While he admits that train travel seems restrictive compared to Phantom Hourglass, these restrictions are eventually "put to good use", making traveling an "engaging challenge". Fellow The Guardian writer Greg Howson found Spirit Tracks to be enjoyable, though criticizing the execution of the Spirit Flute. He listed it as his second favourite DS game.
USA Today's Jinny Gudmundsen called it an excellent game for kids who "enjoy the intellectual challenge of puzzles inside a captivating fantasy story filled with interesting characters". She also commented that kids are able to control both a hero and a heroine. The Independent's Rebecca Armstrong called it "endlessly inventive" with "new features galore", citing its usage of the microphone for items. She also called it "pacy, absorbing and very, very playable". The Sydney Morning Herald's Lou Kesten stated that while it was not a "landmark" title in the series, criticizing the microphone usage with the flute as "one of the most irritating uses of technology that Nintendo has ever devised", it was still a "worthy addition to the canon".
Awards and nominations
Spirit Tracks was nominated for best handheld game in the Game Developers Choice Awards. It was given the GAME Award of 2009 in the BAFTA through a reader's choice nomination. Nintendo Life named it runner-up for best Nintendo DS game of 2009, and its readers chose it as their runner-up for best game of the year. It was nominated for several DS-related awards, including best action game, visual excellence, sound excellence, best story, best multiplayer game, and game of the year. It was the readers' choice in every category except for best multiplayer game. IGN, however, named it only one of the runners-up in all of these categories.
Spirit Tracks ranked second in its debut week in Japan, selling 291,496 copies. The next week, it fell to third place, selling approximately 126,000 copies. It fell to fifth place the following week, selling approximately 49,000 copies, and falling to eighth place next week, selling approximately 22,000. For the first half of 2010, Spirit Tracks ranked as the 14th best-selling game in Japan, selling 376,054 copies with total sales at the time at 696,994.
Forbes' Brian Caulfield anticipated that Spirit Tracks would strengthen DSi sales for December. IGN predicted that DSi sales would remain steady, due to Spirit Tracks in part. Nintendo listed Spirit Tracks as a title that will have appeal to a wider age group in its financial report. Former Nintendo employee Cammy Dunaway used Spirit Tracks as a show of its holiday contenders in 2009. Spirit Tracks was anticipated to be the best-selling video game of December 2009 in North America by video game sales analyst Michael Pachter. GamePro predicted that Spirit Tracks would be the fourth best-selling game of December, expecting sales in excess of 725,000 copies. For its debut week, it ranked number one for Nintendo DS games. It retained its position in the following week. Spirit Tracks debuted at 12th place in the United Kingdom's video game sales chart. It was the fourth best-selling DS game in the UK. During the financial year ending March 31, 2010, Spirit Tracks sold in excess of 2.61 million copies.
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- The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks instruction booklet. USA: Nintendo. 2009.
The Legend of Zelda series Main gamesThe Legend of Zelda • The Adventure of Link • A Link to the Past • Link's Awakening • Ocarina of Time (3D) • Majora's Mask • Oracle of Seasons/Ages • A Link to the Past & Four Swords • The Wind Waker • Four Swords Adventures • The Minish Cap • Twilight Princess • Phantom Hourglass • Spirit Tracks • Skyward Sword Related games Universe MediaBook · Category · Portal
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