Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Splice the mainbrace, shiver me timbers and set sail for pirate adventure in Link's watery Wind Waker sequel

Such a treasure chest of gorgeous new screens can mean only one thing - Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is due for release in Japan in mere weeks on 23 June, and we're giggling insanely at the thought of setting sail once more on the Great Sea in search of pirates, booty and... the missing Tetra?

Phantom Hourglass is the sequel to the excellent Wind Waker on GameCube, an adventure that saw Link reincarnated as a lad in a flooded future world where only the highest bits of land remained
as tiny islands in the vast expanse of water.

On his journey to reunite the 'Triumph Forks', Link met a fiesty pirate girl called Tetra, who bore an uncanny resemblance to a certain princess from long ago, and ended up sailing away with her in search of new lands and new adventures.

And that's exactly what he's found in this DS follow-up, which begins with Link and Tetra encountering a ghostly ship. Eager to explore, Tetra jumps aboard first. But bad things happen and Link winds up falling into the fog-shrouded waters as he attempts to rescue her. Washing up later on the shore of an uncharted island, he embarks on a quest to locate the pirate booty and maybe even find some treasure as well.

The game's nautical theme means a fair portion of playing time is spent travelling the high seas. Navigation is handled in a novel way, by plotting a path with the stylus and watching Link's boat follow this hand-written course across open water and through archipelagos packed with people to meet and dungeons to explore.

Pre-defining the boat's movement in this way enables you to concentrate on nautical combat, of which there's a lot more than there was in Wind Waker. Upon encountering a creature from the deep or a rival vessel, it's possible to draw a new course to circle the enemy, then stash the map back on the top screen and use the stylus to launch bombs. The landing points for some of the islands are guarded by mini-bosses that require exactly this sort of tactic.

Islands may harbour sub-quests, special items or small dungeons. The main objective is housed in a huge central dungeon that can be accessed from different points and requires multiple visits to unlock new parts - sort of like a puzzle-filled mini-overworld. The theme for the game is time - the hourglass seems to be the key to buying enough dungeon time to enable complete exploration.

Dodgy geezers
The shady-looking pirate chap on the left seems to play a major role in the story, and it appears that he'll be using Link to plunder the odd bit of treasure in exchange for... information? Another turn of the hourglass? It won't be long until we find out for sure in what looks set to be a full-scale Zelda adventure - albeit one that's aiming to attract new players to the series.

It's controlled entirely with the touch screen but still allows for a surprisingly wide range of moves. Link follows a little fairy character that appears under the stylus - the further away it goes, the faster
he runs. Circling with the sword drawn unleashes the good old spin attack, and other items can be selected by tapping the menu buttons in the corners of the screen. The map can also be used as a notepad and for drawing paths in an intriguing one-on-one online mode.