Link will play a harp in Skyward Sword

Eiji Aonuma has announced that Link will have the chance to play a musical harp in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. The Zelda producer told Nintendo Power that the harp will almost identical to the one played by Sheik in Ocarina of Time. Players will use the harp to find “something important” and will be controlled by rhythmic strumming (via MotionPlus).

Aonuma said: “The harp is sort of the central instrument that you’ll see this time. With a lot of previous Zelda games it has been about inputting specific notes to compose things. Given the nature of what a harp is, and the fact that it’s an instrument that one strums, this time we’re using the Wii MotionPlus to really make it based on the rhythm of strumming to get across the musical element.”

Other details leaked in the interview include:
– The game is now nearing the final stages of development.
Shigeru Miyamoto is helping on the game’s finishing touches.
– The localization of Skyward Sword will begin shortly.
– The plot has a large focus on the creation and forging of the Master Sword.
– Skyward Sword will feature a handful of full orchestrated songs.
– In The Legend of Zelda timeline, Skyward Sword is set directly before Ocarina of Time.

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The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

I’ve finally powered my way through Spirit Tracks and managed to get a review uploaded to the ThumbSticks website. The game exceeded my expectations and features some fantastic dungeon puzzling, so I highly recommend it to anyone who owns a Nintendo DS. There doesn’t appear to be that many high profile DS games to get excited about this year, so Spirit Tracks is well worth looking into. The preview for my review is below, but you can read the full article by just clicking on the ‘more’ button.

Nintendo has kept the future of Link surprisingly quiet over the past six months. With the next dedicated Wii Zelda still a long way off, fans of Hyrule have been treated to two hand-held offerings to fill the void.

Phantom Hourglass was released on the Nintendo DS in 2007 and now gamers have been treated to Spirit Tracks. With little marketing and an identical engine, players have been understandably sceptical that this sequel is just an unoriginal stepping stone to tide us over. So does Spirit Tracks fly like the bullet train or splutter like the London Underground? (More)

Having never finished the Gamecube title The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker, I just picked it up at my local CEX for the bargain price of £4. I’ll be doing a retro review of it next, so look out for my initial impressions here on my blog. Until next time!
JetSetNick

Spirit Tracks Nostalgia

There’s something ever so friendly and familiar about starting a new game on The Legend Of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. Whether it’s inputting your custom name for Link or visiting the Castle of Hyrule, everything feels as it should be. It’s as if your returning home after having spent a long vacation overseas. Normally I would criticise a game for resting on its laurels and refusing to improve its design structure, but somehow Nintendo makes it appealing. Many of the ‘Big N’s’ other portable franchises do the same; for example, in Pokemon you always will begin by receiving your first creature from Professor (insert random tree name here) in his laboratory. Logic yearns for me to hate the lack of creativity in these game designers but I wouldn’t want it be any other way – because it’s still incredibly fun.

The sense of nostalgia and familiarity taps perfectly into the mindset of Zelda fanboys like myself. Link is an elderly hero in the video game universe, dating back farther than most modern protagonists dare. Nods of approval in updated sequels such as Spirit Tracks act as a homage to the classics preceding it; a gaming insider’s reward for our loyalty to the house of Mario. Yet whilst the core remains the same, Eiji Aonuma walks the tightrope of originality by offering fresh gameplay mechanics, gadgets and puzzles. The first dungeon in Spirit tracks is memorable and spooky, but evolves with the whirlwind device that requires you to blow into the microphone. Traversing the world of Hyrule summons the same iconic imagery of adventure, only this time it’s aboard a train rather than Link’s trusty steed. It’s still the classic Triforce that we love and expect… just updated.

I’m a little way through  The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (I’ve just entered the snow kingdom), but I’m already enjoying it as a portable outing. My brief session on Phantom Hourglass left me admittedly uneducated on the raw power that a Zelda title can churn out of the Nintendo DS. The size of the over world matches the scope of most rival RPG’s on the system, but trumps them by opting for a full 3D environment. By utilising the cel-shaded design that originated on the Gamecube’s Windwaker, Aonuma has cleverly managed to strip away all the detail and still retain delicate visuals. The art direction is  perfectly suited to the title’s family audience, the wide array of colours and pastels conjuring a binary scene to the grim atmosphere in Twilight Princess.

Some of the cut scenes are a little ropey due to the minimal voice acting and heavy use of text boxes. This has become a running convention in the Legend of Zelda series though and will probably be maintained for many sequels to come. Suddenly giving Link some unexpected vocal chords would understandably shock and alter the voice that gamers have been forced to imagine over the years. The soundtrack is beautifully composed, with cheerful country pan pipes running as a theme throughout. Balanced between chiptune and a full blown orchestra, it does an effective job of updating Zelda’s classic audio themes.

Until I’ve finished the title I won’t offer a full written review, but I can vouch that it’s certainly one of the best Nintendo DS games that came out last year. Whether you’re a veteran of Hyrule or a complete newcomer, the scale and care that has been put into this game is well worth your attention.

JetSetNick