There have been many incredible titles for Nintendo's handheld, exacerbating it's success to make it an unstoppable force in the market. There haven't really been many games that have made that WOW factor yet though have there? Sure, castlevania was awesome, but didn't use the DS very well, new super mario brothers was a brilliant game, but again fell down on DS useage, and the fact that we'd all seen it before, and FF3 was a superb remake, but again, didn't really do anything new with the DS hardware except extrapolate the game into 3 dimensions! Our good friend link is here to change all that, in a direct sequel to his adventure, "The wind waker".
Your first impression upon booting up the game will be that Nintendo have pulled some sort of cruel trick and that the visuals won't be this good for the rest of the game...but they consistenly delight. The worlds are a sort of 30 degree inclined viewpoint with 3-D environments (a la 'Contact.tm'), and are lavishly detailed and varied. You'll visit creepy dungeons with nasty choking purple mists and all manner of foul creatures stalking you, fiery mountains that spew molten rocks everywhere, huge overcast labrynthine graveyards, and of course, the incredibly vast and gorgeously animated ocean. All the characters in the game drip with personality too, thanks to incredible detail and a hugely expressive range of animations...link especially, whose face when he gets pushed around by Linebeck (your new friend!) will reduce you to laughter every time. The animation and text is beautifully done, and isn't just engaging, but also hilarious (Again, see Linebeck!)
Something that many WW players did not like was the sailing. Good news: It's here again, but better. You can now sail the whole width of the world in under 3 or 4 minutes, and the islands are more densely packed into the world map meaning you now go between them quicker. While doing so, you have to adjust your route (To avoid rocks, bombs, enemy ambushes etc), fight off sharks, octopi, and even cannon firing pirate ships, leap obstacles, salvage treasure from the depths of the sea, and duel angry sailors. The ocean seems much more exciting and less sporadic than that found in the WW.
The main meat of the game is usual zelda affair, for those of you who don't know, you travel into dungeons, gaining fantastic new equipment to help you beat the boss, travel to the new dungeon, rinse repeat. What makes the difference here then? Well, several things;
The stylus control system is used to fantastic effect. Whether you scribble notes on your map (to note heart piece locations, bombable walls etc), slash at enemies, or draw paths for your boomerang, it controls intuitively and beautifully, and rejuvenates the series completely! Also put to good use are the microphone, dual screens, and even "other" little features.
The only thing that may put hardcore zelda fans off is the phantom dungeon. The main meat of the game's "dungeoning" takes place in this huge 40+ level dungeon, which you complete about 5 floors of a time, before returning to the surface to get more sand for your hourglass (Your descent through this cursed place is timed...stay too long, you die, simply as). You have to redo all the floors next time you come back, but the new equipment is your saving grace, which opens up unseen shortcuts you missed on your last descent. All in all, it's really not a problem!
Summarising, I would have to say this is the best game on the DS, with stunning visuals, oodles of character, and the most intuitive and engaging controls ever. Not only is it the best DS game yet, it should hold it's head high as one of the best Zelda games ever made. You owe it to yourself to play this game.