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Appraising the Art of Combat pt.9

If you've been following this series up until now you deserve a pat on the back. Also, you've probably noticed that I've mentioned The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks battle more than once. Like Super Mario Galaxy 2, Metroid: Other M, and Professor Layton there are some games that I really enjoy, but fail to blog about in a timely manner. Spirit Tracks is one of those games. It's beyond fantastic, and the multiplayer battle mode is neat as well. Though I beat the game in early 2010, I've continued to play the Spirit Tracks battle ever since. See video below. 



The fact is, Spirit Tracks battle is the perfect game to represent the different aspects of combat discussed in this series. It can be played 1v1, 3-for-all, and 4-for-all. If you add some house rules you can even play teams, 2v2. It has phases, interplay barriers, and depth, yet it does it all with comparitively few complexities. Fewer complexities (game rules) means new players can become competitive within a few games. Fewer complexities also means I can list the most of the rules/intricacies within a single blog post. So here they are:


  • Links mechanics: MOVE, ROLL, PICK (up bomb), THROW (bomb). Those who prefer the D-pad controls don't know what they're missing. The DS touch screen controls allows for necessary analog precision. You can tip toe, walk, and run with ease. You can MOVE with fluid, smooth, continuous motions instead of in choppy, cardinal directions. Accurately THROWing bombs is as simple as a tapping the desired spot. Thus the mechanics design is mainly intuitive and direct
  • Bombs can only be PICKed from specific bomb-plants on the stage. When holding a bomb, you can't ROLL thus you sacrifice a bit of speed/maneuverability for power. Also when holding a bomb, it can be knocked out of your hands if another Link ROLLs into you. Bombs are the only way to directly attack another player. Bombs burn on the spot where they explode with hazardous fire. 
  • If you ROLL 3 times in quickly succession, Link will temporarily dizzy himself. If you ROLL into another Link, you both get knocked down with equal frame advantage upon standing (and no invincibility frames). 
  • Force Gems drop from the sky periodically, out of hurt players, or from items. Each drop is preceeded by a sound effect and/or indicated on the map. 
  • Phantoms (large sword wielding enemies) spawn and roam the map. Whether they run into you or strike you, the hit knocks link down for what feels like forever (3.5 seconds). The hits also knock 1/2 of your gems out. They have a vision cone. If they spot you, only a few things can shake their pursuit. 
    • 1) If you get hurt including bomb hits, lightning strikes, and falling into pits. 
    • 2) If you drop the Phantom into a pit by cleverly maneuving around a trap door. 
    • 3) If you move from one floor to another (Phantoms can't handle stairs). 
    • 4) If you break from it's vision for a few seconds. 
    • 5) If you move close to another Link player, the target marker will move from your head to the other player's. 
  • Standing on pitfall switches open up trap doors across the stage. The same switch opens the same set of doors every time.  
  • An item ball drops periodically at the position of the player with the fewest force gems (points). As the roulette spins, if the player gets hurt, the item will cancel. There are 4 possible items. 2 are very dangerous to the other players. 1 is dangerous for all. And the last is good for all. In this order they are...
    • Thunder: Player becomes invulnerable to bombs and Phantom attacks and is surrounded by a yellow aura. If other players are within the aura when this powerup runs out, they are struck by lightning losing a large amount of gems. 
    • Invincibility: The player becomes invincible to bombs and Phantom attacks. Mere contact with other players is equivalent to a Phantom hit. 
    • Pitfall: New hidden trap doors will appear in the stage. Only the item holder will have these spots revealed on their map. For every one else, they get a brief peak at the spots.
    • Force Gem: Some force gems will rain down near the item grabber. Sometimes just a few. Sometimes enough rains down to make a losing player take the lead. 
  • Phases. Early: force gems drop in small groups periodically. A single phantom roams. Middle: force gems drop in larger groups and more phantoms roam the map. Late game: even more phantoms are introduced into the map and items begin to drop. 
  • There are 6 levels in the game. 1 standard. 2 ice. 2 fire. 1 stealth. Each level scales in size and tweaks a few game rules depending on the number of players in the match. 


 Here are some extra facts for fun. 

  • Getting hit by a bomb or falling into a pit costs 1/4 of your total gems
  • Phantom hits cost 1/2 gems and stun Link for 3.5 seconds
  • 6 seconds after the bomb explodes it's corresponding planet grows another
  • The thunder item last for seconds
  • The force gem item can drop 3-20 gems 
  • 2-3-4 players = 3-3.5-4 minutes matches
  • After grabbing the item ball the roulette spins for 4 seconds
  • It takes ~12 seconds for a dropped gem to disappear


 In part 10, we're defining "metagame" and looking at the metagame of Spirit Tracks Battle. 

« Appraising the Art of Combat pt.10 | Main | Appraising the Art of Combat pt.8 »

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