The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks Review

Nintendo’s evergreen hero doesn’t veer too far off track in this spectral sequel.

By Rupert Higham, December 12, 2009

Princess Zelda and many of the supporting cast have adopted a humorously snappy dialogue that keeps things entertaining throughout, though the main storyline as explained by the frankly rather silly looking anthropomorphosised  trains is generally less entertaining. 

Clearly the biggest departure from Phantom Hourglass is the exchange of the sail boat for the steam train and the resulting impact is far greater than an arbitrary choice of transportation. Phantom Hourglass took the severely limited and cumbersome sailing of Wind Waker and fashioned it into a playable and pleasurable way of exploring the flooded Hyrule, recalling the experiences of the great explorers of the New World. In an uncomfortably analogous North American way, Spirit Tracks evokes memories of the frontier expanding railroad – less about discovering new lands and more about fixing a predetermined route from one side of the continent to the other. 


Your spirit train in all its glory. The top screen displays the route of malevolent trains to help you avoid them.

If the whole ethos of Zelda had to be condensed into one word it would undoubtedly be exploration, and to be brutally honest, a world map that follows scripted routes and allows little in the way independent choices is massively at odds with that ethos. There is no doubting the romantic appeal of cutting through the mountainsides, steam bellowing from the chimney, tooting your whistle as you go, but the design choice of forbidding you to traverse the world map on foot has produced the least convincing impression of a Zelda world to date, feeling instead like a separate series of villages and dungeons strung together with disappointing linearity. 


Dungeon bosses are multi-screen filling monsters and require more work than the usual three hit standard.

If two paragraphs of solid critique sound a little harsh, it’s only because the consistently high quality of the series demands such scrutiny and regardless of the lack of freedom, Spirit Tracks is still an incredibly brilliant game. Once again the touch screen (not forgetting that ever so handy L button item shift) controls all the action and 95% of the time this is perfectly responsive and intuitive, though there are still occasions when the lack of d-pad precision leads to an unwanted jump and an untimely death. Graphically, little has changed since Phantom Hourglass, but the keen eye will observe a general improvement in sharpness and detail – the latter particularly apparent on the beautifully realised world map and no doubt afforded by the lack of interactivity.

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11 Responses to “The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks Review”

  1. Someone says:

    You guys screwed up.

    “At six dungeons deep and lacking the huge volume of side quests enjoyed by its predecessors, Spirit Tracks isn’t among the biggest Zelda games”

    It has way more sidequests than Phantom Hourglass and Twilight Princess. How can you give out a review if you don’t know what you’re talking about? I’m disappointed.

  2. Rupert Higham says:

    Seriously? Okay, this took me around half an hour so it’s not exactly comprehensive. Please feel free to add any to the Spirit Tracks section if you think I’ve missed anything out, which was not intentional. Please excuse the ugly formating, but this is copied from MS Word.

    Spirit Tracks:

    • 50 x rabbits
    • 20 x force gems
    • 13 heart pieces
    • 20 x stamp station
    • Treasure x 8
    • 40 parts for train
    • Minigames – Take ‘em all out, sword, training, rope race, goron target, pirate hideout arrow

    Phantom Hourglass:

    • 11 x sand of hours
    • 60 x gems (power, wisdom, courage)
    • 31 x treasure maps
    • 13 x heart piece
    • 6 x golden frogs
    • fishing quest
    • Trade Quest (6 parts)
    • treasure x 8
    • 40 parts for ship
    • 2 costumes
    • minigames – cannon game, shooting gallery, harrow island digging, sword training, maze island

    Twilight Princess:

    • bottles x 4
    • howling stones x 6
    • 45 x heart piece
    • 24 x golden bugs
    • Fishing quest
    • Cave of Ordeals (50 floors)
    • 3 x costume (not just superficial either)
    • 3 x bomb bag
    • 60 x poe souls
    • 20 x cat chatting
    • Minigames: Yeti snowboarding, rollgoal, Plumm’s river trip, Iza’s river rapids, goat herding, archery training, moblin jousting, goron sumo, star game

    Am I missing something here?

  3. josiah says:

    dont forget the sword skills on ph and st

  4. josiah says:

    oh and i dont know if you care but there are also three different type of quiver on tp but those are just upgrade wich ther are on ph and st to

  5. Rupert Higham says:

    Yeah, thanks josiah. The sword skills are present in all three games (TP gives you the rolling back attack, shield push, etc) and all three games feature quiver and bomb bag quantity upgrades.

  6. some person says:

    i found most zelda games to be far to easy they should realy make a incredibly hard zelda game but they were still all a fun afew days of my life

    • someperson says:

      yeah but twilight princess is long but ds or dsi games are very short but i dont know why.

  7. yoshirider82 says:

    i had to do walkthrough on tp

  8. some person says:

    that is vary sad

  9. someperson says:

    I got the legend of zelda spirit tracks for christmas as well as mario bros bowsers inside story. And two things came to my surprise that 1 link started in a train uniform and you dont get your legendary tunic from the old hero of Hyrule, witch we never figured out what happened to, you got a ordonary soldier uniform? and 2 you have zelda always at your side except for the brief running to the ceramonie to become a full engineer and when that wierd loking guy with the two hats captured her and knocked out your captain. Other then that it is a great game but the castles are sooooooooooooooooooo short and soooooooooooooooooooo easy.

  10. Brush says:

    Speaking of Bowsers Inside Story – have they reviewed that here, tis a great game.


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