I have beat this game, although not 100% completed every single faction of it. And, quite frankly, I don't see how this can be done unless there is a LOT of secret stuff out there I managed to avoid. Also I have to admit this naughty-gamer-secret: this is the first Zelda I've ever finished. And by "finished" I mean "actually played for more than 10 mintues or since I was 7 years old". Because I played the original NES Zelda, but I didn't have intentions of beating it, ever.
So back to the review.
Story 8/10: The concept is that you have to rescue Zelda. I know - shocking, right? Who would have thought that Link would have to go out and rescue the princess? For being a strong-independent-woman type, she certainly knows how to get herself into trouble. There are also alternate universes in this story line, and pirates. Therefore an 8/10. It would get a 10/10 but, well, every story is basically the same in the Zelda series, so they can't get the 10 on everything. Maybe if they mix it up. Make Zelda have to rescue Link? (Umm..Super Princess Peach?)
Graphics 9/10: Ok, so as I previously mentioned, I have not been an avid Zelda player. Buuutt, I believe the graphics for Hourglass are born out of the Wind Waker style. I thought it was pretty impressive, and fairly adorable. I like the look of the game on the play screen and thought it moved smoothly. I liked the movies. The best part is that there isn't a significant difference between the movie quality and the game quality, so the overall effect is a higher-quality graphic feel.
Sound 9/10: When doesn't Zelda have a great soundtrack? You're wondering how I know? Well my husband is a Zelda fanatic, so I have listened to many a game being played. And they are marvelous because the music doesn't get annoying. It becomes more of a background soundtrack to what you're just doing. This game has that same musical finesse.
Gameplay 8/10: Being fairly new to the genre of Zelda and the idea of having to return time and time again to the same locations to move forward with the story, that was initially annoying. I got (mostly) over it, and actually started to have fun with it. Although some factors never got less annoying. Like having to replay the Ocean King's Temple over and over... They finally give you ONE portal where you can skip floors, and I fully expected another for skipping to a different floor. This did not occur.
I love playing with the stylus and think that it is so smooth and natural compared to the d-pad/a & b button method. I also REALLY appreciated the drawing on the map function in this game. Many a time have I had to stop playing and not been able to figure out what the heck I was trying to accomplish when I come back to the game. On this you can simply write a quick reminder and problem solved! I also loved this feature because it made it easy to mark where you knew you'd have to come back when you had bombs or your grappling hook, for example, and made the Zelda concept of revisiting locations over and over slightly less tedious.
Zelda is good about offering mini-game features, and Hourglass continued that trend. I enjoyed sailing the ship, guiding the treasure arm, playing the cannon/arrow mini-games. They are nice breaks from the story and the same dungeon after dungeon playing scheme.
Overall 9/10: This is a keeper. I would suggest this for anyone to play. It's not too RPG or confusing. I think that it was a great introduction for me into the Zelda games. Next maybe I'll tackle Twilight Princess? Although I feel that it will definitely be harder. In my limited DS experience I feel that the games have been...dumbed down? Or that they are just very small. My one complaint on Hourglass was that I finished it in maybe 15 hours? I don't know, it only took a week. I completely expected more game time. (And yes, I still can play to 100% the game, but you know what I mean.)
Buy/Rent: As always, I'm a buyer. I don't know how much 're-play' factor this game has, since once playing it you know the secrets...but it does have continued play in that I think it will take FOREVER to 100% it, and it does keep a time record, so you could always play to try and better your own records. Also - oh I forgot - there is online capability. I didn't find it that stimulating, but if you like the gameplay then obviously this game would have a lot more of a replayability factor for you.