A Legend of Zelda release is my drop-everything game. I grab it on day one and dive right in, no matter what else I'm playing at the time. Whenever someone asks me to name my favorite game of all time, my brain impulsively rephrases the question as "What's your favorite Zelda game?" (It's Wind Waker, by the way.) Such is my devotion to the series, I even imported and played Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland. God help me.
For a mix of legitimate and admittedly sentimental reasons, I love the Zelda universe and the design formula these games rely on. Despite my awareness that the series has grown increasingly conservative over the years, the magic still works on me. The game design nut in me knows the series must evolve to survive; but the Zelda nut in me delights in receiving the sacraments.
For me, it's a bit like watching Roy Hobbs hit that climactic home run at the end of The Natural. I know it's coming, and I know it's formulaic Hollywood melodrama, but I eat it up every time because the setup and delivery are so perfect. You can dismiss such manipulation as tripe or you can give in and let the story wash over you. Call me a sucker, but I choose the latter. Engagement is a choice. If a game/film/novel makes it worth my while, I'm in.
And that's the thing about Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. It makes partaking in the Zelda liturgy feel like a thing worth doing. Despite the familiarity - Edge Magazine aptly describes it as "the narcotic realms of pure ritual" - the game delivers such a blissful combination of whimsy and rock-solid gameplay that once you've crossed the threshold and learned your first song on the Spirit Flute, there's no turning back.
It's final exam week here, so my writing has been limited lately by end of semester work (and I've been playing and judging a pile of IGF games I can't talk about yet). But who says teacher can't fire up the ol' DS while students slave over blue books? Heh heh.
I have much more to say about Spirit Tracks and several other interesting, lower-profile games I've played recently. I hope you'll stay tuned.