There has been a lot of talk about portable Legend of Zelda games lately. Between the upcoming release of The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and recent additions of Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages to the 3DS eShop, the 3DS is becoming a great system to play Zelda on. But I had one portable Zelda game I had to cross off of my to-do list before I get to Oracle of Seasons or Ages, and that is The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks.

Although this game isn’t as out there as some of the other portable Zelda games (I’m looking at you, Link’s Awakening), it was still different enough to make it interesting and fun, all while continuing to deliver the fun and challenging puzzles that we have become accustomed to from 2D Zelda games.

Almost every Zelda game seems to have a different gimmick of some sort and this one has a couple different ones. The first of these is a new way to get around. No more boats for Link this time around; we get to drive a train. The game actually starts with Link going to the castle to get his engineering license so he can drive his own train. This trip to the castle is also when Link meets Zelda for the first time and explains how he gets wrapped up in this adventure.

The second interesting change is in the dynamic between Link and Zelda. Every game has Link somehow saving the world and usually rescuing Princess Zelda in the process. But this time only Zelda’s body is taken and she flies around as a ghost accompanying you on your journey. Zelda being a spirit actually allowed for some fun, new gameplay experiences to take place. The most fun thing Zelda could do was possess Phantoms, which are basically big living suits of armor. Once she is in control of a Phantom, she can do things like attack enemies, carry you on her shield or walk over spikes.

The story was good as well. It is fairly standard Legend of Zelda stuff: Somebody wants to bring an evil king back to life to destroy the world and Link has to stop it. The only thing stopping the evil king from coming back are the “Spirit Tracks” which are magical railroad tracks covering the world. So to break the lock, massive chunks of the Spirit Tracks and the Tower of Spirits were destroyed. Link must then reassemble the Tower, causing sections of the Spirit Tracks to come back and giving you new places to go and explore. Also, since Zelda is with you as a spirit, you are essentially playing just to save her body. I’m sure feminists would love to hear about that.

This game used more of the DS’s features than I would have liked it to. Link can only be controlled via stylus and you can’t control him using any buttons. I wouldn’t mind stylus controls as an option that I could turn off or just using them for specific items like the boomerang, but I didn’t like being forced into stylus controls this hard. Although I would have preferred button controls, the game did work perfectly fine with the stylus. The only exception to this was the final boss battle. The required sword movements were just too specific and easy to mess up with the stylus.

My single biggest problem with this game was that I had to use the 3DS’s microphone a lot. Your musical instrument this time around is the Spirit Flute, and it is awful to use. You have to blow into the microphone while changing notes with the touch screen. This was just awkward to hold and some of the later songs in the game took me several tries to do properly. I’m not sure if the mic sensitivity on my 3DS is any different than it was on the DS this game was developed for; that might have been a factor.
Overall, I’m glad I played this game. Annoying/infuriating controls aside, this was still a very fun game and a worthy entry into the Legend Of Zelda series. Now I’d love to play some more portable Zelda, but Shin Megami Tensai 4 is coming out soon, so I just won’t have time. Damn shame.