Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks — Bitterly Indifferent’s 2012 GOTY

new bitterly bannerLOZ Spirit Tracks

I’ll be honest: this whole post is going to be a big, sloppy love letter to Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, which was the best game I played (and finished!) in 2012. I’d even call it my game of the year. That’s right, it’s my GOTY, and if you’ve got problems then GTFO.

Spirit Tracks plays like three different games united under a similar theme. You explore dungeons as Link, you solve puzzles by controlling Link and Zelda simultaneously, and you get to drive a train. They all have their fun parts (and their tedious parts), but none of them overstay their welcome before switching over to another activity.

All Aboard
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This game has “Tracks” in the title and a big locomotive on the cover, so avoid it if you have a problem playing with toy trains. Your train is a key part of Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks — it’s how you travel on the overworld map, and all of your dungeon exploration (either on your own or with Zelda) is done in order to open up new sections of track and see new parts of Hyrule. The stylus operates the train’s controls, and you shoot at marauding enemies and switch tracks to avoid invincible opponents. You can also pick up passengers and deliver cargo to earn special rewards.

Tough to Recognize
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In Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, Princess Zelda has become a hulking brute with a powerful sword. Technically, she’s a disembodied spirit who can possess different hulking brutes depending on the obstacles in front of you, but it’s still a departure from the stereotype of helpless damsels waiting to be rescued. In these parts of the game, you use the stylus to control Zelda and Link simultaneously to solve puzzles, and the final boss battle uses both characters together to defeat the game’s ultimate evil — their teamwork is more fun and less of a hassle than it sounds.

Master Class
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Link’s solo adventures in Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks remind me of the way that the original Zelda set the standard for top-down adventure games — Spirit Tracks remains the gold standard that similar games should aspire to. Each dungeon’s puzzles are designed to be solved in at least two ways: first with your existing inventory as you look for the dungeon’s special tool that gives you new abilities, and then as a way to experiment with that item.

As the game unfolds, you can retrace your steps for a more complete experience, picking up hidden extras and unlocking new areas as you master new techniques. And the whole thing uses the stylus and both the top and bottom screens in a way that feels like a natural part of the game.

5-5Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is the perfect handheld gaming experience. It uses the full capabilities of the DS and combines three games in one to tell a story that’s classic Nintendo. I’ll be the first to admit that my standards have slipped after cavorting in the dumpster of free Android games, but I fell in love with (and beat) Spirit Tracks long before I became grand marshal of the parade of diminished expectations.

Is Bitterly right about trains? Leave a comment below, or hit me up on twitter and tell me about it. Don’t forget to join the Did Not Finish Facebook page (who knows when I will give something away on that bad boy.) Also, feel free to mock me via Email.

About B. Indifferent

Bitterly Indifferent is a belligerent hillbilly with a substandard internet connection. He is also a fan of retro gaming who has previously written about the state of games journalism and the intersection of games and family.