Escape and Alfonzo
Busting out of Hyrule Castle doubles as a tutorial for the new Link/Zelda control dynamic. Naturally you handle Link as usual, but you’re able to switch to Zelda, draw a path for her to follow, and then either run with her or let her execute your order. In this case, you need to draw her a path that keeps her out of guards’ eyesight, which also means you need to distract them by making noise or talking.
Above: The Tower of Spirits, your current destination
Once out, you bump into Alfonzo, who is not only Link’s teacher in all things swordy, he’s also a former castle guard that knows Zelda personally. He insists on accompanying the two of you on this secret quest to discover why the Spirit Tracks are disappearing. When you arrive, spiraling clouds manifest overhead and lightning shatters the tower into several pieces, instantly destroying the very tracks you’re riding on. The train tumbles, your party is thrown out and Cole, always suspicious, is already on the scene.
Chancellor Cole revealed
Above: How can ANYone trust this guy?
Turns out those two hats cover demonic horns, and Cole’s actually a monster bent on reviving the evil presently trapped by the Spirit Tracks. This involves abducting Zelda (for her royal bloodline or mystical power, we imagine) and using her body as conduit for said evil. With the tracks trashed, Alfonzo injured and Zelda missing, Link returns to the castle to discover everyone in a panicked frenzy.
Before long, Zelda reappears, but only Link can see her. As luck would have it, Cole only needed her body, so her spirit is floating freely around the landscape. Long story short, you and Zelda have to reunite the Tower of Spirits, get her body back and stop that big baddie from taking over the world. It’s a fittingly “Zelda” type of story, told with a snappier translation and dialog than we’ve seen in any Zelda to date.
The Tower of Spirits
Remember the Temple of the Ocean King
from Phantom Hourglass? It was a lengthy dungeon that you had to reenter throughout the game, with the ultimate goal of descending to its final floor. We didn’t mind it too much, though it was easily the most contentious aspect of the game. In Spirit Tracks, the Tower of Spirits acts like the Temple, only each floor is its own area, and even though you’ll return a few times, you will not be replaying the same floors over and over.
Above: Zelda, in spirit form, will aid you in the tower
In the above map, you’ll see two knights patrolling this floor of the tower. Once you sneak behind and disable the first knight, Zelda can possess it and distract the other while you do typical Link things like hit switches, grab keys, find hidden items and so forth. After a brief bit of dungeoning (our term, btw) you’ll reconnect the base of the tower, which causes one section of the Spirit Tracks to reappear, thus granting you access to new points on the map.
Now, with fresh tracks laid out, Link and Zelda set out to find one of the many temples scattered around that can help repair the rest of the tower, one floor at a time. Normally this would involve hopping on the train and exploring anything you happen to see along the way (including side quests and towns), but we were skipped directly to the game’s first temple.
Above: Once tracks are laid out, you can explore at your leisure
This will be the general structure for most of the game. You go to the tower to spawn new Spirit Tracks, which allow you to travel via train to new areas. Once there, you search for a temple, beat it like any other Zelda-style temple to repair one floor of the tower, then head back for a bit more access. Eventually you’ll reassemble the whole thing, and ideally block the evil spirits from returning. Oh and probably fix Zelda too.