Choo choo! It’s a look at Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, which launched on the handheld DS in 2009.
One of two Zelda DS titles, we picked up Spirit Tracks as a last hurrah on the Wii U’s closing down sale. As you can only play this Legend of Zelda in a very specific way. Thusly, grab your stylus and let us choo choo!
Choo! Choo! and Adventuring in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
When we got the excellent Wind Waker (2002) for the Wii U a decade ago, it introduced us to the world of the stylus. Remember those?
They’ve kind of fallen out of favour now for finger gestures on devices, but around 2010 they were all the rage. And Nintendo used the concept across its consoles, starting with the Nintendo DS (basically, that generation’s Game Boy).
The same game is set 100 years after Wind Waker, making a trilogy of cell-shaded Zelda titles to complement 2007’s Phantom Hourglass.
But in this take on Zelda, Nintendo introduced… a train!
Yes! It’s great fun in that thing, you can ramp up the gears, brake, go into reverse, or hoot that choo choo horn. All with the touch of a stylus!
Travel is a huge part of the Zelda gaming world, with Epona the horse being the most popular choice in most of the games.
But the Wind Waker trilogy shook that up with boats, oceans, and trains. Which is a nice touch, especially with the DS’s stylus control system.
To be clear, in this game you don’t control Link (the protagonist in green) with the control pad. You use the stylus to touch the screen and guide his movements, whilst looking at the dual screen of the DS/Wii U to observe the game’s map.
Now, Nintendo’s problem with Spirit Tracks and Phantom Hourglass is it could only really port the games to the Wii U. Unless you own a DS/3DS, you’re not going to be able to play Spirit Tracks any time soon. It’s not coming to the Switch as a port.
The Wii U’s distinctive GamePad allowed the port to happen, as it also has a stylus and the double-screen element allows the gameplay to flow. It’s weird, doesn’t work at all well, and we don’t care—we finally got to play Spirit Tracks thanks to it.
So, yes, in terms of the plot the game is 100 years after Phantom Hourglass. This time out, Link is working to pass his exams to become a train engineer.
He travels to meet Princess Zelda to receive his pass certificate. But an evil SOB posing as Zelda’s councillor turns out to be evil. He promptly kidnaps Zelda and whips her away into hiding. It turns out he’s the demon Malladus! DUN DUN DUN!
A disembodied, ghostly Zelda then reunited with Zelda to act as his guide. All with the aim of restoring peace to the land, basically so the trains can run on time.
And of those trains, you get some fancy train-based battles. Like this!
Of the game, we’ve got to say we really loved this one. As you’d expect from this storied series, it’s oozing charm and packed with fun stuff to be doing.
Adventuring, puzzle solving, and meeting the cast of intriguing characters. Using the train is just awesome, we must say, and you even get a choo choo whistle with it!
Graphically, it shows its age a bit now. This was a handheld title from 14 years ago, after all, but there’s a much better soundtrack than the disappointingly mediocre tunes in Phantom Hourglass.
Fancy, huh? To note, Spirit Tracks was developed for the DS whilst Nintendo was also busy working on The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (2011) for the Wii.
Very busy, then! Each game had a different director, with Daiki Iwamoto working on the DS title. And a mighty fine job he did, too.
This one will prove difficult for you to play now. Really, you best bet is to get a second-hand DS if you’re desperate to complete the Zelda set.