The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

Spotlight

VideoLegend of Zelda 25th Anniversary vid

Misty-eyed Miyamoto's Nintendo nostalgia.

Nintendo's Eiji Aonuma

Extensive video and text interview with the spirit of the Zelda series.

Key events

Iwata: Zelda dev an "exercise in suffering"

How handheld "parody" changed the series.

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has said that development of Zelda games is traditionally "an exercise in suffering" - but recognised that one game in the series, made in a completely different style and atmosphere, had a major influence on those that followed.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks isn't my game of the year. Demon's Souls is. In fact Demon's Souls is my game of the decade. If I could, I would be Mrs Demon's Souls. But I've written and blithered and shared and pored over so many words about bloody Demon's Souls over the past eight months that I'm completely spent and literally everyone in my acquaintance is bored to death of hearing me talk about it, so instead I'm going to write about my second-favourite game of the year.

UK charts: new Zelda off track

Modern Warfare 2 out-guns competition.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks has failed to break into the UK all-formats top 10, reaching No. 12 after one week on sale.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

It would be easy to use the railroad theme of this latest DS Zelda as a metaphor for how precisely formulaic Nintendo's adventures have become: shuttling their young hero along pre-ordained paths from one faithfully-observed tradition to the next, keeping to a strict timetable, unfolding like an engineering schematic as much as a fairytale. There'd be some truth to it, too. Never in the series' self-referential history has one instalment followed the structure and style of its predecessor so closely (and seldom so quickly) as Spirit Tracks does those of 2007's Phantom Hourglass.

But if you were to interpret Spirit Tracks' train as a sign of weary creative emptiness, you'd be dead wrong. It's the heart and soul of a delightful, irrepressible game. The train's urgent puffing sets the brisk rhythm and breezy tone, and jumping into it inspires the simple, stirring excitement of setting out on a journey that Zelda games have always done so well. Being a train driver is a childish fantasy for sure, but that's just it - it's evoked with such infectious joy as to keep this ageing series (not to mention its players) young at heart.

It helps that hero Link is reborn each time as a wide-eyed pup in a brand new land that just happens to have a Princess Zelda and a Hyrule Castle - although in Spirit Tracks, there are a few veiled references suggesting that it's set in the same world as Phantom Hourglass, a couple of generations down the road. That's as close as any Zelda game gets to admitting it's a sequel. This Link is off to see this Zelda so she can officially induct him as a train engineer, a heroic job in a society that revolves around magical train tracks that, the tales say, are chains created by the spirits to bind a great demon in his underground prison.

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Nintendo's Eiji Aonuma

Extensive video and text interview with the spirit of the Zelda series.

If you're going to start working in games development, you might as well begin on one of the greatest games of all-time. That was the rather serendipitous position Eiji Aonuma found himself in, hired by Nintendo to work on the momentous first 3D instalment of the Zelda series.

It's a minority view, but of all the great Zelda games the one I've enjoyed the most is Wind Waker. I found the divisive visual style utterly captivating, bursting with charm and revealing the perpetually tongue-tied Link at his most emotive and expressive. The scene in which he retrieves the Master Sword as colour bleeds back into the world remains one of the most enchanting sequences I've experienced in a videogame.

Link teams with Zelda in Spirit Tracks

Princess embodies phantoms, rides train.

Nintendo has revealed that the player-controlled phantoms in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks are actually occupied by the spirit of Princess Zelda.

Spirit Tracks train is upgradeable

Game set a century after Hourglass.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is set "about a century" after Phantom Hourglass and the train you ride around on is upgradeable.

New Zelda DS dated for Europe

Nintendo lays out rest of 2009.

Nintendo has stamped an 11th December date on new Zelda DS game Spirit Tracks, which puts the European launch just days behind the US.

Link's latest magical ability is the power to summon queues. Long queues, in fact. Queues that snake patiently around Nintendo's pristine white E3 booth while a lot of the other games on-show can be played with little or no waiting. After a strangely muted response to its unveiling at GDC 2009, the latest DS Zelda title appears to be picking up steam again: business as usual, then, as the mild-mannered pixie folk eclipse most of Nintendo's other offerings.

DSi-enhanced games to work on DS

Plus: new Zelda is probably enhanced.

Nintendo of America's Reggie Fils-Aime has said that games that take advantage of the DSi's additional new features will still probably work on DS and DS Lite.

GDC: Iwata unveils new DS Zelda

GDC: Iwata unveils new DS Zelda

Spirit Tracks, due out later this year.

Nintendo has unveiled The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for DS during Satoru Iwata's keynote address at GDC.

The game is due out "later this year", according to the Nintendo boss, who showed a video of it in action to satisfy "long time Nintendo loyalists". (You can check out the trailer on Eurogamer TV now.)

According to Ellie "Princess Diana" Gibson, who was on hand at the conference, a big DS logo was on-screen, not DSi, suggesting it'll work on the lot.

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