The most recent Legend of Zelda game, Spirit Tracks, is standard fare for any Zelda fan. It sticks to the tried and true formula that has been around for years. That’s certainly not a bad thing as proven by games like Darksiders which can stick to the formula but make some intriguing changes in order to make it feel fresh again.  There are much more pressing issues with the most recent entry in the Zelda franchise.

Hit the jump to read on about my issues with the newest Zelda game.

One of my main issues with the game is the lack of unique weapons. As usual, weapons like the Boomerang, Bombs, and Bow and Arrows all make an appearance. The Whirlwind operates just like the Gale Boomerang from Twilight Princess. It can be used to uncover items from under leaves, stun enemies, and blow out torches in order to solve puzzles.  In the previous DS Zelda entry, Phantom Hourglass, the player simply had to blow into the microphone to perform essentially the same functions as the Whirlwind. I can’t help but feel like this is a waste of the already limited weapon capacity in the handheld Zelda titles. The whip seems to suffer from the same problem as the Whirlwind. This weapon seems to operate like the oft used Hookshot, or more closely, the Grappling Hook from Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass.

The Zelda games are well known throughout the gaming community for having intriguing, imaginative puzzles. By having these reskins of old weapons without providing any additional functionality seems like a horrible missed opportunity. The only weapon that really felt unique to me was the Sand Wand. Sadly, this too feels like it wasn’t used to its full potential. It’s obtained so late in the game that it doesn’t really have time to introduce any truly unique ways to be used outside of the same type of puzzles that were utilized in the same dungeon that it was obtained. Simply creating sand columns to create a stepping stone or stopping a rolling pillar in order to make a bridge just didn’t seem very interesting. Maybe it’s simply because I’ve played so many Zelda games at this point or because I’m just older and can recognize solutions the puzzles presented, but the puzzles and weapons offered up by Spirit Tracks just didn’t seem to stimulate my mind like so many Zelda games have in the past.

I wish the weapons were the only problem with the game however. With both Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass, I never had a problem with the boat mechanic. The ocean and islands in Wind Waker were just so astoundingly beautiful and great to look at that every time I took a ride in the boat, it was a feast for the eyes. I never once got that feeling from Spirit Tracks. Obviously the DS isn’t going to be able to be anywhere near as beautiful as a console can be, I still thought the textures and environment in Spirit Tracks was pretty bland. There were no truly standout locations in the games that just would have caused me to slam on the brakes and simply admire the geometry. That’s a huge disappointment considering one of my all time favorite gaming moments is when you take the first step into Hyrule Field in Ocarina of Time. This game severely lacked the awe factor.

The forced restrictions imposed by being limited to the tracks really took away from the joy of exploring the over world. Tracking down heart pieces, grottos, and other nooks and crannies has always been a staple of Zelda titles. Losing that aspect of the game made it feel a lot less like a Zelda game. It made the world feel so much less lived in. Each town seems to be separated by miles of empty, lifeless space. Not to mention the towns themselves tend to only have about 1 to 7 people in it. The NPCs are boring and extremely cookie cutter. Say what you will about Tingle, but at least he was memorable.

This was a game full of potential that sadly became a game full of missed opportunities. These problems have made this entry in the Zelda series one of the weakest entries since the series’ inception.