March 9th, 2007, 00:11 Posted By: wraggster
The last we saw of The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass was at the Electronic Entertainment Expo last year where Nintendo cobbled together a four level demo for the show. Since then, all has been quiet in the first touch-screen Zelda game. At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco today, the company prepared a new demo for show floor attendees which spotlighted a new mode in the upcoming DS game: battle mode.
The demo at GDC did not have any single player component. When players booted up a system and touched the screen to begin a game, the system would automatically search out a system also looking for a second player. When two systems connected, the battle began.
In this two player competition mode, one player controls Link while the other controls three armored guards. Players who assume Link's control do so via the established touch-screen mechanics introduced in the E3 demo -- Link moves in the direction of where the screen's being touched in relation to him, so he'll move faster if the screen's touched further away from his centralized position. Players who take control of the guard have the map on the touch screen and guide them via drawn paths. The task: collect Triforces scattered around an enclosed dungeon and bring them back to your colored area while avoiding the guards that wander the playing field. If a guard captures Link, their turn's over and control swaps between the players.
There's a surprising amount of strategy involved in this mode. For example, the "Guard" player can always see Link on the map, but Link cannot see the guards on the map until he picks up a Triforce. The downside to carrying a Triforce is that it weighs Link down, and moreso as the Triforce pick-ups increase in size. Some Triforces are tiny and worth fewer points, but only slow down Link's movements a little bit. Huge Triforce pickups are worth more points but slow Link down to a crawl.
Almost as if the designers took a cue from Pac-Man, Link can hit escape tunnels at the top and bottom of the map, which are also surrounded by a "safe zone." While in these zones, Link cannot be touched by guards since the guards can't wander into them. Link also disappears from the guard player's map while in these zones...but if Link's carrying a Triforce, the Guard player can still see that Triforce move...giving away Link's location.
On top of all this, there will be power-ups scattered throughout the dungeon. Red power-ups can only be used by the red player, blue pick-ups by the blue player. Red players can run over blue power-ups to destroy them and take them out of play. Power ups include giving Link or the guards an extra boost in speed, or allowing Link to take a hit from the guard. Guards can activate power-ups that turn blowers on within the dungeon that will block Link's path with enormous gusts of wind.
At the end of three Link and three Guard turns for each of the competitors, the game calculates how many Triforce points each player earned within the battle and decides the winner...and in the demo it's a very uneventful "Win" or "Lose" screen.
It's a pretty cool tease of a mode that will eventually make it into the final product, but Nintendo's still not talking release dates for Phantom Hourglass. Nor do we know if the multiplayer will be accessible single cart or if it will be an online mode. Visually the engine nor the Wind Waker toon style hasn't changed since we saw the E3 demo.
We'll have more on The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass as the game continues in its development cycle.
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