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Phantom Hourglass is the only Zelda game I quit all because of that darn Temple of the Ocean King

August 05, 2018 3 min read

Between my DS, my 3DS, Wii, Wii U, Switch, PlayStation 4, Vita, Steam, NES Classic, SNES Classic, and the three Xbox 360 Burger King games I just bought off eBay, I have a backlog of roughly 350 titles. I don’t want to know how many hours of play that translates into because it’ll only remind me I’m in the waning years of my life and death steps closer to me every day. I know that’s not the biggest backlog you’ve heard of, but for me, it’s certainly close to insurmountable. Unless I have a drastic increase in free time, I don’t see how I’m ever going to finish all those games.

It’s completely my fault it’s grown this big. Not only do I keep buying games I really have no intention of playing – why the hell did I buy Xenoverse 2 – but I also have a nasty habit of quitting games the moment something better comes along. As I’m sure many of you do. People just don’t finish games anymore. There are, however, a few franchises I insist I complete every game I start. Mario, Dragon Quest, Kirby, God of War, Splatoon, and The Legend of Zelda. I may not do it all at once – I’ve been working on Dragon Quest VII for 3DS since it launched – but I play the games on a regular enough basis to see them to the end in a timely manner. That’s been true of those series with one exception: The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.

I know I’ve bitched about this game before, but when I thought up the concept of this week’s Destructoid Discusses question, I figured it would be a great opportunity for me to get it all out on the table. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is, all things considered, the greatest video game I’ve ever played. It’s difficult to keep saying that year after year with all the great new titles being released, but every time I boot it up my mind, body, and soul are instantly transported to the Great Sea. That’s how it’s always been for me.

To say I was excited for Phantom Hourglass is an understatement. I was champing at the bit, foaming at the mouth, absolutely, totally driving myself crazy in anticipation in the lead-up to that game. I get to sail the sea as Link…on a handheld? Yes, please and thank you. You bet your ass I pre-ordered that bitch and on October 1, 2007, I dropped everything else I was doing at the time for another trip to a flooded Hyrule.

The first hour of the game was everything I’d hoped it would be. The graphics were colorful, the controls were tight, and the picture book recap of the adventures of Toon Link and Tetra was outstanding. Even my first run through the Temple of the Ocean King to save Linebeck was great fun.

Then came the second trip.

And then the third.

And then the fourth.

Yes, I do understand how tired this argument is, how many people hate the execution of this dungeon. This temple is no bueno. But back in 2007, I did everything I could to get past my deep seeded hatred of the Ocean King and just complete the game. After all, I’ve played lousy Zelda temples before. Twilight Princess’s Temple of Time, Zelda 2’s Great Palace, Oracle of Ages’ Jabu Jabu’s Belly; all mediocre in their execution. The big difference is I didn’t have to return to any of those dungeons.

I made it through three full trips to the Temple of the Ocean King before I had my fill of it. When faced with yet another go, roughly three weeks after I first started playing the game, I closed my Nintendo DS and gave up out of pure frustration. I couldn’t take it anymore, couldn’t take one single step into that goddamn dungeon. So I stopped playing.

Did I eventually beat it? Yeah. After two years, though I was still annoyed at the whole experience, I picked up where my save file left off to complete it in time for The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. Turns out, I was roughly 30 minutes away from the end of the game.

Spirit Tracks did the concept much better and is, overall, a superior title, though its dungeon themes are largely rote compared to other games in the series. Phantom Hourglass remains the only Zelda game I’ve never bothered returning to for a second run. I may, someday, but I don’t think I’ll ever get over the fact the Temple of the Ocean King frustrated me so much I actually stopped playing a Zelda game.

Phantom Hourglass is the only Zelda game I quit all because of that darn Temple of the Ocean King screenshot