After two long years, The Legend of Zelda series will be making its way back onto the Nintendo DS in December as The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. Spirit Tracks is the second DS title in the series and takes place 100 years after its predecessor, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.
"This unique situation...makes Zelda a much more tangible part of the story instead of just being present for a few minutes in the beginning and ending of the game"
The events of Phantom Hourglass left the players with Link and Zelda sailing off to look for new lands. They were eventually successful in their search and named the new country Hyrule, after the long lost (and flooded) kingdom from which Zelda descended. A new kingdom was established and all was well until an evil Demon King arose and spread terror across the land. The Demon King was eventually sealed away and bound using massive shackles... shackles that would eventually be used by the people of Hyrule as the Spirit Tracks upon which their locomotive transportation system is run. Evil Demon Kings don't stay dormant forever, though, as Spirit Tracks starts off with betrayal in Hyrule and the mysterious disappearance of large segments of the Spirit Tracks. Young Link is very soon thrust into the middle of the conflict and finds himself on a quest to secure the anchors of the Spirit Tracks to ensure that the Demon King cannot awaken.
In Spirit Tracks, players will again find themselves in control of a young Link. In this incarnation, Link is an engineer in the Spirit Tracks system. Veterans of Phantom Hourglass will immediately observe the similarity in style between it and Spirit Tracks. Excepting a few control tweaks, Spirit Tracks looks as if it will be almost identical to its predecessor. Where Phantom Hourglass had a boat upon which the player explored the world, however, Spirit Tracks puts the player on a Spirit Track train. While players won't be able to design their own tracks, more paths will open up as the game progresses, allowing access to other areas. Additionally, it appears likely that the train will be upgradeable in a similar fashion to the S.S. Linebeck in Phantom Hourglass.
While they haven't all been confirmed, most of the standard Legend of Zelda tools (such as the confirmed boomerang) are likely to return, along with a few new entries. Among the new, known tools are the whip and whirlwind tools. The whip will be able to act as both a tool and a weapon, allowing Link to not only swing across pits but also attack opponents. The whirlwind tool will cause Link to let loose a vortex of wind as the player blows into the DS microphone. Perhaps the biggest new addition to Link's repertoire is the ability to take control of Phantom Knights scattered throughout various dungeons. These statues are able to not only attack enemies, but can also walk through various obstacles including fire and lava. The Phantom Knights will be controlled by a player-traced path, meaning that some planning will be required to take the most advantage of the statues.
Major introductary spoilers aside, Link will once again be joined by a helpful companion. In Spirit Tracks, however, the companion will be none other than Zelda herself... or at least her spirit. This unique situation will allow for some interesting gameplay mechanics (something has to control the Phantom Knights) and makes Zelda a much more tangible part of the story instead of just being present for a few minutes in the beginning and ending of the game.
All in all, Spirit Tracks looks like it will be successful in delivering a solid portable entry into the Legend of Zelda series. While it doesn't look like Spirit Tracks will be adding anything earth-shakingly new to the series, it is certain to offer all the puzzle-dungeon delving that players have come to expect from the series. Look for The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks when it releases on December 7.