Sailing was the big thing that some folks felt dragged down Wind Waker significantly. It's much easier and less time-consuming here, so that issue is pretty much nonexistent. However, that doesn't mean the game is totally devoid of pacing problems. The main culprit is the Temple of the Ocean King, the very first dungeon you enter, and one that you will have to come back to several times throughout the game. It's not a bad dungeon by itself, and in fact is probably the most overtly challenging of them all due to the fact that the phantoms that walk its halls are invincible and the temple itself will literally suck the life out of you. To make it through, you need to stand in a safe spot or have the Phantom Hourglass handy (an item that protects you for as long as there is sand at the top of the glass).
The problem is that each time you come back, you have to bust through the same levels you beat the previous time around to get to the next section of the temple. Items you acquire later in the game, such as bombs and the hookshot, make getting around a bit easier on subsequent visits, and at the halfway mark of the game, you do get a save point that lets you bypass the first half of the temple and skip down to the second half. Regardless, you'll still be replaying those later levels as the game goes on. It's just one of those tedious things that feel like artificial lengthening of the game more than anything else.
Nevertheless, apart from that one fault, Phantom Hourglass' main quest is a deeply engaging adventure that gives you plenty to do throughout. You can probably finish the quest in about 14-15 hours if you don't hunt around for all the various uncharted islands and sunken treasure chests scattered about the world, but you should, because there's some neat stuff to find.
Once you're done with the game, there is actually a multiplayer mode you can check out. If you ever played Pac-Man vs. on the GameCube (or, more recently, on the DS in Namco Museum DS), this mode might seem slightly familiar to you. One player controls Link, and the opponent has control over several phantoms that can be guided by drawing paths for them with the stylus. Link has to try to collect as many triforce shards as he can and bring them to his base, though he slows down considerably while carrying shards. If a phantom reaches him, his turn is up, but if he reaches a safe zone, the phantoms lose sight of him. This goes back and forth with players taking turns on each side for multiple rounds, and the player with the most shards at the end wins. It's not a spectacular mode by any means, but it's amusing enough as a distraction, and it can be played online against players worldwide. In the few games we tried against mostly Japanese players, performance seemed quite solid, with no noticeable lag.
The graphics, on the other hand, are extremely noticeable. It might be hard to believe that Nintendo would be able to shrink down a game as gorgeous-looking as The Wind Waker, but that's just what it has done here for the DS. Of course, some sacrifices have been made. Character models aren't quite as sharp or colorful, and the world itself isn't nearly as large. But you still inhabit a sizeable world, and everything in it looks spectacular. From the goofy animations and facial expressions of the characters, to the beautiful scenery as you sail around the ocean, this is top-tier work as far as graphics and artistic design on the DS are concerned. One thing to note is that when you're wandering through islands and dungeons, everything is handled with a sort of top-down perspective, not unlike some of the older Zelda games. All the characters and environments are 3D, but the fixed camera angle does a great job of framing the action.
There isn't any voice acting in Phantom Hourglass, but you do get plenty of funny and enjoyable text dialogue to read through. There are lots of memorable characters in the game, and the lack of voice samples isn't much of a hindrance because the expressions on their faces and the great dialogue get the point across. The soundtrack isn't exactly the most memorable of all Zelda scores, but there are plenty of familiar-sounding tunes to accompany each sequence that fans are sure to appreciate.
Ultimately, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is a superb effort and pretty much what you would want from a first entry in the series on the DS. It's got a few pacing problems, and those who demand traditional control schemes will probably be turned off by this game's control methodology. But really, even if you're convinced you hate the notion of touch-screen controls, you owe it to yourself to give this game a try. Phantom Hourglass implements its control mechanics so seamlessly into the standard Zelda game design that it's hard to imagine anyone not appreciating it on some level. There are few games on the DS that take advantage of the touch-screen technology as well as Phantom Hourglass does. It's a must-play for any DS owner.