Small Link, Huge Adventure. A Review Of The Legend Of Zelda: The Minish Cap
It’s all a question of perspective. Imagine walking down a street and seeing a small rock, to an ant it’s a mountain. Further down you see a discarded cola can, to a fly it’s a dark cave. Now imagine you’re the ant. The Legend Of Zelda: The Minish Cap does exactly that. Puddles become lakes, pebbles become boulders and bugs become fearsome beasts in Link’s quest to save the princess once again.
The story opens with Zelda and Link heading off to the Picori Festival which only occurs once every 100 years. After taking in the local celebrations the duo heads to Hyrule Castle to see the main attraction, a sword fighting competition, the winner of which gets a chance to touch the sacred Picori Blade. This is where things turn sour. This year’s winner is the sorcerer Vaati who uses his powers to break the sword and turn Zelda to stone. The King then sends Link on a mission to meet the Picori (who like to be called Minish) in an attempt to repair the sword. Along the way Link meets Ezlo, an odd talking cap who agrees to help Link in his quest. Together the two travel to various dungeons and temples unravel the secrets of the Minish and discover the truth behind Vaati and Ezlo’s true origins.
The story is a pretty standard tale for the Zelda series and doesn’t take the series in any new and bold directions. However there are plenty of diverse characters to meet during Link and Ezlo’s travels and they all have something interesting to say which truly makes this version of Hyrule feel alive and vibrant. Some will even send Link on side quests or offer to trade items with him to expand his inventory.
Anyone who’s played Link’s Awakening or one of the Oracle games will feel right at home playing Minish Cap. The controls are virtually identical, the ‘D-pad’ controls Link’s movements and like the prior handheld games both ‘A’ and ‘B’ can be assigned different items that don’t have to include Link’s sword, which is used to get over certain obstacles, like performing a long jump with Pegasus Boots and Roc’s Cap or completing a puzzle by lighting all the torches while running once again with the Pegasus Boots.
Many items from previous games make an appearance like the bow, boomerang, bombs and flippers, their also joined by brand new ones like the Gust Jar and Mole Mitts. Another new addition is the partner system, first introduced in Ocarina of Time; by pressing ‘Select’ the player can get hints from Ezlo as to how to proceed through a certain area or where to go next.
The biggest new addition to the Minish Cap is the kinstones. Throughout Hyrule Link will find kinstone halves which he will have to fuse with a resident who has the other half. By fusing kinstones; secret passages are opened, new side quests are made accessible, treasure chests pop up and very rare golden monsters are located. Once Link has successfully fused two kinstone halves the location of the secret is marked on the map so all the player has to do is head over to that spot and claim the prize.
One thing that has changed is the difficulty. When compared to the other Zelda handheld games that preceded it, Minish Cap is by far the most accessible, the game doesn’t present a huge challenge in the combat department as most enemies fall quickly to Link’s sword and don’t give out huge amounts of damage. The puzzles also are a far cry from previous instalments; most have been recycled from older games, so that many times you’ll find yourself knowing exactly what to do before you even try the puzzle. That being said, there are some challenges in both the combat and puzzle sections that will leave you scratching your head.
A major disappointment is the lack of multiplayer. With The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past / Four Swords also being released for the Game Boy Advance it’s a mystery to me why Nintendo and Capcom didn’t include cross game compatibility for the Four Swords mini-game like Nintendo did for the Mario Bros. Arcade game in their Super Mario Advance series and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. This would have made it slightly less of a hassle to get enough people together to play Four Swords since now two games would have featured it.
A major draw back from the Zelda series being tied to the 8-bit Game Boy and Game Boy Color for so long is that all 3 games ended up looking like one another. Try as they might, using the same graphics engine for all 3 resulted in the Oracle games looking almost exactly like what we saw in Link’s Awakening. So when Minish Cap arrived on Nintendo’s 32-bit handheld it was a huge breath of fresh air.
The graphics are some of the best the system has to offer, their sharp, well drawn and very colourful. If you haven’t played this game on a Game Boy Advance SP+, Micro or Nintendo DS Lite I suggest you try it out to see just how visually stunning this game is. It even looks good when blown up to fit on a full size TV via the Gamecube’s Game Boy player.
The environments are all unique and easily distinguishable. Theirs almost no need to look at your map to see where you are, just by looking at the screen you’ll know, no matter where you are in the game.
The animations also stick out as being particularly good. Link walks with a bounce in his step, Goron’s attack walls with mighty punches, capes float in the wind and cat’s pounce. All with a joyful cartoony look that brings the game to life and adds personality to everyone you will meet along your journey.
The music is the only kink in the presentation’s armour. While Koji Kondo’s legendary overworld theme is present, the other tunes are for the most part re-hashes from other games and don’t seem to convey the epic feeling the series is known for. The sound effects are for the most part well done. Some like Vaati’s menacing laugh especially stick out. However for every cool laugh theirs about a hundred annoying ‘hayaas!’ from Link as he rolls and swipes his sword, which after a while will have you turning down the volume.
Gamers know that when they pick up a game that’s title starts with: The Legend of Zelda… that they are buying quality, and Minish Cap is no exception. At roughly between 7-15 hours in length (depending on experience) Minish Cap is a rather lengthy handheld game. With 5 main dungeons, and a plethora of side quests, including the many kinstone fusions, this game will defiantly keep you occupied on the go. Unfortunately that’s all tied up in the story. There are no extra modes or even additional difficulty settings to warrant multiple playthroughs.
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is among the Game Boy Advance’s top games, which is no easy task considering the amazing software line-up the system was able to accumulate over its life span. Where the game suffers is that it doesn’t do anything radically different, the story, gameplay, it’s all been done before. However what it does do it does masterfully, everything comes together in the end to create a game that lives up to the high expectations of the Zelda name. It may deal with shrinking you down, but this game has a big heart.