Similarities and differences to Phantom Hourglass
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks uses the same graphical style and engine of its predecessor, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. Because of this, their control systems and graphics are almost identical. Some character models and sprites return in this game: the boat engineer from Mercay Island reappears as the Bridge Worker, Linebeck as Linebeck III, and, of course, Link, whose only major differences are his sword and shield (and, indeed, the fact that he is a different incarnation of Link to the Link of that game).
Other elements have been changed and refined since Phantom Hourglass:
- Instead of separate icons on the touch screen for Menu and Items, they all appear under the single Menu icon.
- While moving Link, a roll is now performed by a double-tap instead of drawing small circles.
- The Spirit Train replaces Linebeck's boat as the main form of transport between locations. While a route can be drawn for both, their control systems are otherwise completely different. Similarly, Princess Zelda replaces Linebeck as Link's travelling partner, and does more to aid Link in his quest.
Spirit Tracks, like its prequels Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass, has an almost-definite place in the otherwise vague Zelda timeline. Numerous references to those two games, characters from those games being mentioned as ancestors of the characters in this game, and the appearance of Niko as an elderly man, place this game in the "Adult Timeline" (following on from the events of Adult Link's time in Ocarina of Time), approximately 100 years after those two games. It is, however, set in a different land than the other two games. At the end of Wind Waker, Link and Tetra left to find a new land to replace the Hyrule of old that was destroyed in the Great Flood. This game is set in the land they found, settled in, and named "New Hyrule".