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General Modern Spirit Tracks and Phantom Hourglass: "So Close, Yet So Far Away"

Azure Sage

March onward forever...
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These two DS games are very similar, yet there's a whole diferrent stigma surrounding them. Many people thought Phantom Hourglass was awful, and some thought Spirit Tracks was too technological. Between the two, I believe people generally liked Spirit Tracks better. This begs the question: "Why do people like Spirit Tracks so much more that Phantom Hourglass when they're so much alike?"​


The two have many similarities, ranging from gameplay mechanics to the general method in which you carry out your quest to even certain enemies and BGM. Even certain characters and races are the same in both games, like Niko and Linebeck, and the Gorons and the Anouki. In Phantom Hourglass, you had to journey to the Temple of the Ocean King in order to get the Sea Chart that will allow you to travel to the island where the next dugeon resides, then after clearing said dungeon, you return to the Ocean King's Temple to get the next Sea Chart, then the process repeats itself. In Spirit Tracks, the quest is exactly the same, only instead of islands you have towns, rail maps in place of sea charts, and the Temple you must return to after each dungeon is the Tower of Spirits. Both the repetitive temples contain the same thing as well: Phantoms.​

Now for the differences, not including the general plot, storyline and antagonists. Spirit Tracks requires you to travel across the overworld on a Train, which is, by the way, restricted to the train tracks. In Phantom Hourglass, you had more freedom of movement, as you are sailing the open seas on a ship. Also, in Spirit Tracks, Zelda herself is the partner character that travels with Link throughout his quest. On top of that, Zelda can posses the Phantoms in order to help you solve puzzles and fight enemies as you make your way through the Tower.​


Overall, the games are quite similar, yet they have their obvious and signifigant differences. So why do many people prefer Spirit Tracks over Phantom Hourglass? It may be because they believe Spirit Tracks was simply a better game, with a better storyline, and left them with a better experience. I believe that to be the case, and I also agree with it. I have to admit, the storyline of Spirit Tracks had me more intrigued than Phantom Hourglass's, which seemed kind of thin. Although, I still have to say that Phantom Hourglass was nontheless a good game. In my opinion, it comes close enough in comparison with Spirit Tracks to make me want to post this thread asking why so many people disliked it and found Spirit Tracks a much better game. In general, I believe this thread provides a good enough comparison to allow people to decide for themselves which is better(Spirit Tracks or Phantom Hourglass), and also to take a moment to understand why they feel that way.​


Last edited:
May 17, 2010
Middle of Nowhere, PA
Wow you put a lot of work into this let me start off by saying in my opinion i thought Spirit Tracks was better. Even though a lot of people complain about the train i thought the train was better than the boat, it was more fun and exciting. People also complain that it is too linear compared to Phantom Hourglass, i strongly disagree with that for it seems like It had plenty of parts where it can be misleading. overall i thought it improved on every one of Phantom Hourglass' flaws and had the difficulty all the Zelda games should have. The puzzles were great and frustrating at times but that is what makes it better to me. I love Spirit Tracks because of everything it had, i didn't like Phantom Hourglass so much because of the feel of it, it did not feel like a Zelda game to me.


Apr 29, 2011
I don't
I've never played ST so PH is better to me. Phantom Hourglass was a good game. The only problem with it is that the boat is slow. I haven't play Spirit Tracks but people say the train is slow. IMO it doesn't matter. Both games were good and cool additions to the Zelda series as a whole.


Happy Valentines Day!
Tim actually ASKED me this very question today.

I played through Phantom Hourglass for awhile, but then lost interest when I had to go through that repetivie dungeon. Again.

I picked up Spirit Tracks simply because it was a Zelda game, though to be honest it looked far too simmilar to Phantom hourglass in my eyes and didn't give it much of a chance beyond one pick-up because I had misunderstood the train controls. That was until a couple of months ago when me and Tim decided to pick it back up together....

All I can say is, I was proven dead wrong. It really is a magnificent game, and despite the "limitations" the tracks seem to have on the overworld, it ended up being one of the most liveliest Zelda maps in the series. Literally, there was not one major stop that the player didn't need to visit more than once (either in the main quest or via a side quest) even if it seemed like so at the beginning.

And while I hated the Phantom tower, I didn't mind the tower of spirits one bit. Don't get me wrong- it was incredibly challenging at times, and made me want to pull my hair out on several occasional. However, at least I was getting frustrated on fresh challenges and not because I had to make my way though a repetitive temple I had never enjoyed in the first place.

Another problem I had with Phantom hourglass was that besides the main temple... it was almost a simplifide version of Zelda gameplay. I am a huge fan of the 2-D handheld titles in the series, LA, OoX, and Minish Cap, and all those proved that Zelda could be just as big and epic as it's console brothers, and PH almost seemed like a step down from that. On the other hand I think Handheld Zelda made a triumphant return with Spirit Tracks, and the game felt like it took what PH was trying to do and perfected it.

Currently I'm on the very last leg of the game, can't wait to see what happens!

I do plan to pick phantom hourglass back up, but quite honestly that will only be after I've exhausted all the Zelda goodness this year has to offer first.


Apr 19, 2009
I'd like to add that while Spirit Tracks seems restricted because of the train tracks, in truth there is a lot more freedom then in Phantom Hourglass. What I'm getting at here is that while in PH you can sail and sail to your hearts content, there are such a limited number of islands, there's really nowhere to go outside of major gameplay where as in ST there are numerous stops for you to explore and waste away hours ignoring normal gameplay. Also, the spirit tracks in ST give nintendo a way of making the game very linear. However, I actually think it wasn't very linear at all you could happily go visit old abandoned stops for sidequests as oppose to going through the next temple. PH on the other hand promised so much freedom with it's open sea, but were forced into linearity by not owning the correct sea maps or needing to know the correct path through somewhere without getting sent back to the start.

In my opinion, the one thing that PH promised, like WW was freedom, but it failed to deliver. Whereas, with ST we had no expectations of being able to explore at our leisure but we got it anyway and that is the difference between to games. One promises something and doesn't deliver, the other just gives it to us as a bonus.

ST far out-ranks PH in my opinion but I think this is mostly because Nintendo rushed too hard to get out a Zelda for the DS as early as they could therefore there was no real padding, sidequests or anything at all other then the main story. This made the game feel shoddy and a little bit cheap. ST feels like Nintendo took their time making it. It's well developed, a perfect level of difficulty and the world is extravagant enough that you can become truly immersed in the game for long periods of time. I think part of the reason for this though is that by the time of the release of ST, the DS had truly matured, whereas with PH the controls were a bit shoddy and the games were a tad sketchy, the difference between Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks is like the difference between Red Steel and Red Steel 2 the gameplay is just a lot smoother.


ᴀᴘᴘᴇᴀʀs ᴀɴᴅ ᴅɪsᴀᴘᴘᴇᴀʀs
Jun 23, 2010
Herts, England
I personally prefer Phantom Hourglass over Spirit Tracks, the former I played for days in a row until I finished it while the latter was played once and hasn't been touched again. I'm not even sure why I prefer PH over ST, maybe it's because they are similar in terms of gameplay and I simply want to avoid more of the same.

I wasn't a fan of the 'guide Zelda' mechanic, just getting through the very first task lowered my interest in the game, although I should say that i've enjoyed this same mechanic in other franchises.

The train was annoying for the simple fact that you essentially have to dodge everything, sure you can fire but that's only effective for so long. And yet I liked the 'hide and seek' idea when it was actually Link and implemented for the sake of puzzles.

Can't personally say that I was a fan of ST's rather extended use of the mic feature either. I seem to have terrible luck with buying a DS/Lite which requires my face to be right up to it for the action to register.

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