Although I originally had no intention of doing such this early, I did end up getting Phantom Hourglass. Toys R Us did ANOTHER buy 2-get 1 free deal and I have such trouble staying away from those. This time, my sister and I held a twenty minute cell phone caucus as we decided how to maximize our deal. Obviously it makes no sense to screw up a B2G1 deal with two $50 games and one $30 game. We ended up getting two copies of Phantom Hourglass ($35 each) and my sister picked up the Wii edition of Resident Evil 4 ($30). Should be awesome.
We did Zelda's online multiplayer right away. It's weird. And it takes forever.
It's cute, I guess. After selecting a map, one player plays Link who has to run around the maze hoisting gems back to his base. The other player controls three Phantoms in an effort to catch the faster Link. The trick is that the Phantoms are not directly controlled; you draw lines to put them on a path, and if those paths get near Link, he's dead in one hit. Sort of Pac-Manish, actually. Then you switch sides, and you each get, like, three turns on each team. That's why it takes forever. Any game design student can tell you that as soon as a game has different teams and makes players take turns playing them, that means there's no balance.
Although the odd bit is that I always felt like a loser no matter which side I was playing. As Link, I was prone to getting cornered, especially when carrying a heavy gem. As the Phantoms, I felt like I had no chance to catch Link. I can't say it was particularly fun. I acknowledge that it was my first outing, but the lengthy time commitment and not-really-Zelda gameplay did not inspire me to investigate further.
Nintendo still has not added Phantom Hourglass to the master online game list on their WiFi site.
You have to wonder why Nintendo just didn't toss in the Four Swords multiplayer, a proven winner. Maybe they're still hoping to turn that into a DS game on its own.
The only impetus to play the online Battle mode (does that Pac-Man game even have a proper name?) is that you can trigger events back in the main game. Completing certain numbers of "Big Plays" nets you some items in Hyrule. Big Plays range from "pick up ten items" to "catch Link three times." My sister and I purposefully tossed games against each other just to unlock enough Big Plays to get a Golden Smokestack.
Speaking of Hyrule, I'm waiting for the game to open up and let you truly explore the sea, and more and more I've become convinced that it's not going to happen. I'm at the second metal bit, on the ice island. Everything up to now has been very linear, with almost no sidequests to speak of (I have not found the frog king yet; that's about the only direct non-plot task that comes to mind).
Dungeons are fine and all, but it would be nice to have something to do other than "sail to next dungeon." I know a lot of people say, overall, that the game is too easy and that the stylus controls are dumbed down for Nintendo's new non-gamer demographic... but it doesn't strike me as any easier or harder than recent Zeldas, just a whole hell of a lot less featured. With no reason to go exploring on your own, you just follow the storyline from one plot point to the next. And so far, half the game has you going back to the same damn dungeon doing the same damn puzzles over and over again. Whoever thought that was a fun idea should be immediately sacked.
Wind Waker had that sweet photography thing, the bit where you had to follow the phases of the moon, those odd statue things you collected, little missions for multiple town members, the island with the sliding puzzle. Even Twilight Princess had the golden bugs, the flying/rafting shooting gallery games, the cucco paratrooping, Wii fishing (if you could stand it; I couldn't), and the ball rolling thing. Phantom Hourglass has a terrible search-for-treasure minigame and a thing with cannonballs.
Who knows, maybe the world will open up once I collect the third bafmodad.
There's plenty to like about the game. Love the papercut artwork cutscenes (only in the beginning of the game :( ). Love the return to 3D Wind Waker style. Love shouting at the big-eared baddies to kill them. Love the Wind Waker music. Love the sailing controls. Love the stylus control. I just feel like I'm not really doing much of anything.