Review by LordShibas
"The Best Zelda Game Since A Link to the Past?"
My patience with the Zelda series has finally paid off. After playing game after game in the Zelda series that I disliked, I finally found one that I really enjoyed. In my opinion, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is one of the best Zelda games ever made. I had high hopes going into it since Minish Cap was vaunted as having gameplay very similar to A Link to the Past. Minish Cap plays just like A Link to the Past and on top of that, it sports a nice graphical upgrade, a fresh storyline for the Zelda series, and new items for Link to use.
Link now has the ability to shrink down to a tiny (Minish) size and go about his business. When you are Minish size, an entirely new world opens up to you and the puzzle solving really gets a jump start due to the different scenarios that Nintendo has created. Early on in the game, you will only need to shrink in order to pass through a small tunnel or get to a certain area, but later in the game, you will be switching back and forth multiple times to access certain areas or obtain an item.
Minish Cap also has a fresh storyline which does not include Ganon at all. This was another thing that I really liked about the game. Ganon has been replaced with the ominous Vaati. He's a mysterious dark character that has evil intensions for using the Light Power which grants the user's ultimate wishes.
Aside from collecting the standard heart pieces, Link now has the option to search for Kinstone Pieces, and Mysterious Shells. Kinstone Pieces come in all shapes and sizes and you can fuse them with Kinstone pieces of NPCs all over the place. Not only can you fuse with NPCs, but when you shrink to Minish size, you can also fuse with any animal in the game. So you can go into someone's house as a Minish and fuse with their dog, their cat, or you can go out into the field in Lon Lon Ranch and fuse with cows. It doesn't make much sense, but it's still fun and a great way to kill time and get some decent rewards as well. The preponderance of possible Kinstone fusions is staggering, and you can literally spend hours and hours just running around trying to fuse Kinstones with people and animals.
The Mysterious Shells are not quite as interesting as the Kinstones, but they are worth a mention. Basically you will find Mysterious Shells all over the place. Sometimes one at a time and sometimes in large quantities. These can be redeemed at a shop in Hyrule Town for figurines. Figurines are basically pictures of the characters and enemies in the game. It's almost like a bestiary with NPCs included. The pictures will tell a little bit of information about the character. So it's more of a trophy type system that doesn't benefit you much in-game, but it's another way to add some replay value to the otherwise short game.
Yes, the game is fairly short, and there are 6 dungeons to go through including the first one which is not very long. Plowing through the main quest can be done rather quickly, but it's so easy to get distracted by the Kinstone fusion system that sometimes you may forget what you are supposed to be doing for the main quest. This happened to me many times.
So without further ado, let's see how the game scores and see why I liked this game so much better than the other Zelda games I have played.
The graphics in Minish Cap are pretty good overall. You play the game from a top-down perspective, much like A Link to the Past. It shares some of the whimsical feel of Wind Waker, but it does not seem to be as over the top. The animations are good and the backgrounds do a good job of making each area feel unique.
When you get into the Minish areas, the graphics are even more emphatic. It seems that extra special care went into the Minish areas. When Link is Minish size, the world around him becomes much bigger and more daunting.
Some of these areas feature details like sleeping people in the background, which Link must sneak by, very detailed books, as Link scales a large bookshelf, and various other household objects which are painted with a fantastic presentation.
I was impressed with Minish Cap initially, but the graphics really take off when you are in the Minish areas. Overall, it's a great looking game.
Sounds and Music 8/10
Minish Cap features the return of many classic Zelda tunes, including the Dark World, overworld music, which I love. Even some of the dungeon music is ripped straight from A Link to the Past and redone in a great way.
On the down side, some of the dungeon music is rather blah and loops pretty frequently, but for a GBA game, it's quite impressive.
The sound effects are standard Zelda, and will sound just about right. No voice acting, but I don't really expect it from the GBA.
The main story is rather tenuous, but gets the job done. The story starts out as Hyrule Castle is holding a sword fighting tournament in a yearly festival. The winner ends up being a mysterious man named Vaati. After winning, he is presented with the Picori blade, which he destroys and then begins to run amok. It will be Link's job to restore the Picori blade via fusing it with the standard four elements and stopping Vaati.
I found Vaati's presence to be a nice change of pace for the Zelda series and it was nice to play a Zelda game without the mention of Ganon. Details and information on Vaati will be quite sparse throughout the game, but there are key scenes which will push the story along further. However, the story is nothing really special, but it gives you an ultimate goal to strive for.
Since you will get little detail about the story, it's sometimes hard to figure out what to do next. Getting to the next dungeon for the next element is usually your goal, but there are usually pre-requisites to get to them, and sometimes the way forth is as vague as shrinking down to Minish size and visiting a certain NPC 2 or 3 screens away. Once you have the information, then you can proceed.
I chose to give the story an 8 since it's something fresh, but it's not really given the attention it deserves during the course of the game. I was also extremely disappointed with the ending, the final dungeon, and the final battles with Vaati.
The gameplay in Minish Cap is much like A Link to the Past, which is a good thing. The top-down perspective feels very familiar and you will have no trouble getting into the game. You now have two item buttons which can be swapped out at any time. While one of them will more than likely always be your sword, the other can be changed by going into your menu.
Link has a few new items at his disposal. The first is the Gust Jar, which allows you to suck up pretty much anything, including enemies, items, and many other things. Then you can fire it back out for varied results. Sucking up one enemy and firing it at another is pretty cool, and it can also be used to disarm enemies in certain situations and make them defenseless. The puzzles involving the Gust Jar range from sucking up keys from unreachable places, to pulling stretchy mushrooms towards you, and using it to propel yourself across ponds on lily pads when you are Minish size. A nice addition to the game.
The next noteworthy item are the Mole Mitts. They are gloves with claws on them which allow you do dig into certain walls and explore. These are fun to use, but they are mainly used for finding hidden items and don't really augment the gameplay in any way.
The Cane of Pacci lets you flip items upside down. You can use it to create Minish portals out of tree stumps and pots, or you can use it to overturn certain enemies and then wail on them when they are defenseless. Another cool addition.
Link will venture though 6 dungeons which vary in length, and some offer a decent challenge, but most are pretty easy.
The boss encounters are pretty good and offer some clever usage of you special items. Instead of having a boss battle where you simply run up to the enemy and hit him with your sword over and over, you may need to disable a boss with arrows, shrink down to Minish size, enter the boss via a tiny passage, equip your Mole Mitts and dig around inside of him until you find his weak spot, and then let him have it with your sword. Boss battles like this are quite memorable, but they can get a bit tedious.
Other than that, you will be searching for heart pieces, Kinstone pieces, and trying to fuse your sword with the elements. As I previously said, there is sometimes a lack of direction in the game, which can leave you wondering around for a good long while, but you should be able to find your way soon enough.
Link now has Ezlo as his guide, who is a cap with special powers. I liked him much better that Navi and the other fairies that Link has had previously. He will offer advice and throw out some funny quips ever now and then, but he's not always talking, which is why I liked him. Ezlo ends up being a major part of the story later on.
Minish Cap plays great, and this game really makes me wish they would produce a DS game with a similar control scheme.
Longevity and Re-playability 7/10
The game has plenty to do, but the main quest is rather short and can be knocked off in a few days if you don't get sidetracked with the Kinstones and various other things. However, if you take the time to get involved in the Kinstone system, the game will last quite a bit longer.
The main quest is pretty straightforward, so there is not much room for deviation. Aside from doing the side quests, I don't see much of a point to re-visiting this game, even though it's quite remarkable.
Minish Cap really surprised me. I was not expecting much at all, and it turned out to be my second favorite Zelda game ever. I'm guessing that a lot of people may have passed on this game due to the presence of the DS, but this is one game that Zelda fans should definitely check out. I had a lot of fun with it.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/06/08
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (US, 01/10/05)
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