A trip the Nintendo's booth today yielded the opportunity to try out the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for the Nintendo DS. Somewhat unexpectedly, only a multiplayer level was being shown. Despite the initial disappointment, this RPGamer decided it was time to do his duty and defend RPGamer's honor on the field of battle.
Anticipation began to mount as the DS searched for available opponents. A short wait later, and one appeared. Then, a field full of three phantom guards, some force gems, and Link was presented on the dual screens. One player began as Link, and it was his goal to run around the level and pick up the force gems, evading the phantom guards, and return the gems to the base.
It would not be so simple however, as Link cannot see the phantom guards while he is searching for a gem. Their positions are revealed when a gem is in his possession, but the gem weighs him down and reduces his speed, depending on the point value of the gem. From that point, the game plays out similarly to capture the flag, with Link's goal being to get as many gems back to his base while avoiding the guards.
When a guard finally does catch up with Link, the round ends and the players switch places. The new Link can continue to search for other gems to return to his base or steal the gems off the original Link's base.
Meanwhile, the other player controls the phantom guards. They are limited in that they cannot move with the d-pad like Link can, but instead must draw a line on the map on the bottom screen of the DS, and then watch as the guards move as they directed it. At any time, they can draw a new line and the guards will start down this updated path. The phantom guards can usually see Link's location, except for a couple areas at the top, bottom, and center of the screen, where Link is cloaked. The top and bottom locations also have a Pacman-esque tunnel that loops around from the top of the screen to the bottom, further adding to Link's arsenal of misdirection. The gameplay descends into frantically drawing new lines and hoping one of the guards runs into Link to end the round.
RPGamer is proud to announce that its honor was indeed well defended in a 55-0 victory over a random conference attendee who didn't know what he had coming. We look forward to seeing what other multiplayer goodness Link will offer us as details on Phantom Hourglass continue to emerge. Stay tuned.
*3-8-07 UPDATE* Updated names from shadow knights to phantom guards per the terminology used by the game's producer. Also added mention of the cloak area in the center of the screen. Finally, clarified that the game supports only two players where one player controls all the phantom guards.