Review by Toblerowned
A great addition to the Zelda series.
The Minish Cap was released in 2004 for the Gameboy Advance. Although it's taken some criticism over it's length, difficulty, gameplay, game concepts and unusual style in general. Some Zelda veterans also think that it infringes on the specific mix of action and adventure that has made Zelda unique, creating something sub par by Zelda standards. Although these may be right, to some extent, I think this game deserves a commendation. Nintendo took the risk of tweaking the formula, having a smaller overworld when compared to ALttP as it is, but the sense of it has been all but lost.
The Minish Cap is refreshing to play. Straight into it you're given the legend that preceeded the game. It's in no way one of the more classic legends. You're not told about the Master Sword or the Sacred Realm in the legend. Instead, you're told of another mythical hero, the Hero of Men, the embodiment of Wisdom and Courage, who drove out the evil scourge with a golden light and a mythical sword. The mood of the game is set straight away. You know it's not the typical adventure.
The game is set in Hyrule. Many speculate pre Ocarina of Time Hyrule, as evidence suggests. The game begins with Zelda going to visit Link, who lives with his grandfather, so they can go together to Hyrule Town for the annual Picori Festival. They then depart together to Hyrule Castle to see the winner of the sword-fighting tournament, who is allowed to touch the sacred Picori Blade. The winner, Vaati reveals himself as a sorcerer and fires magic at the chest, breaking the Picori Blade and releasing the evil bound to the chest.
The Minish Cap's story telling gets a near perfect. Right off the bat you're given Hylian lore, which you know is relevant to this adventure. A large portion of the game's story is unravelled in the first few minutes of playing. More story is provided throughout the game, and again at the end. It runs smoothly. You can associate with the characters, who are more indepth than that in some other titles. This includes Ezlo, an odd hat shaped creature which accompanies Link from near the start of the game, and acts as a guide throughout the game. He's also a central figure to the game's story, and his character development is done well. Ezlo also gives Link an interesting quirk.
Link begins the quest hatless. Ezlo serves as his hat when they meet, and other than giving Link advice gives him the ability to transform into a Minish. This can be performed at specific portals, which can range from a chipped tree stump, to a mushroom and an upside down vase. With this, he shrinks to microscopic size, and in doing so can be maneuvered into holes and cracks, to areas otherwise inaccessible. While in Minish form, Link is extremely vulnerable to water and can be damaged by animals, while also having the ability to talk to the non aggressive animals.
Graphics are some of the best seen on the Gameboy Advance. They fully exploit the power of the GBA and provide you with a attracting overworld while, not all that large, certainly has some depth to it. Animations and sprites are done well, and suit the landscape. Then again, being one of the later, if not latest 2D Zelda titles, it was expected of it to be truly outstanding in this department, and complete with the limitations of the Gameboy Advance, it still achieved in being a captivating visual game.
Character depth and development is achieved well throughout the game, applying mostly to the central story characters, Link, Ezlo and Vaati. Link has the traditional development seen in all Zelda games; he begins the quest an inexperienced boy, and after enduring the game's trial he's matured and gives the sense that he's older. Ezlo has an interesting personality and maintains his character without any drastic and unlrealistic changes.
The items are an interesting combination, bringing back some older items with little surprise, such as the bombs and the bow, while also providing some interesting newer items such as the Gust Jar, capable of sucking and blowing air for a number of practical and explorational purposes around Hyrule. Upgrades are also back, such as the typical bomb bag upgrade. Your sword may also be upgraded in an peculiar way, and each upgrade while increasing strength also gives you an odd ability with increasing effect with each upgrade.
Many people criticise the length of The Minish Cap, with the number of dungeons featured being the main issue. Although it may seem as though it is lacking, The Minish Cap contains some sizely side quests, one being Kinstone fusing. Kinstones may be found in bushes or dug up, and can also be found when buying pastries from the baker. Each piece is coloured either blue, green or red, and is shaped like a semi circle with a break through the diameter. If you find the appropriate partner, you can fuse pieces to make a full Kinstone, which then unlocks a secret grotto somewhere on the overworld. These can be explored and looted, the treasures ranging from ruppees, or another kinstone piece, and rarely, a heart piece.
One concept tested in this game was the Tiger Scrolls. Throughout the game, (mostly) hidden sword masters throughout Hyrule can teach you skills that you can use at your disposal. Although original, The Minish Cap didn't do much to exploit this concept, with many of the techniques being very rarely used and coming second to the ordinary hack and slash. Although it didn't really take off in The Minish Cap, the concept was used again in TP, and was proven to be more of a success. So in some ways, The Minish Cap pioneered the concept of hidden skills in Zelda.
Mysterious shells, first seen in Link's Awakening return in The Minish Cap, but with a slightly different use. Players can bet them at a secret grotto in Hyrule Town to win figurines; small rectangular blocks containing a picture of something in The Minish Cap, ranging from characters, to enemies, and also to various shops in Hyrule Town. Players insert the shells into a machine, which gives the player a percentage chance of getting a new figurine. With each new figurine won, the percentage to get a new figurine is decreased, and as a result you may choose to invest more shells for a greater chance of winning a new figurine. This is badly done, as with each shell invested only gives an additional 1 percent chance to obtain a new figurine.
The thing that sets The Minish Cap apart from some of the other games in the series is it's unique storyline, and the synergy created with it's slightly more unusual adventure elements which mixing in optional quests with exploration, mixed with the action elements that make the game fast paced, filled with plenty of choice of techniques when engaging enemies, and the interesting selection of old and new items. It's debatably one of the most story orientated Zelda games, atleast in the 2D titles, with the story unfolding throughout the game, and different, ancient Hylian legend being added to the previous legends. Althogh having a smaller overworld, this is overcome by the extent of the exploration that's evident in it, and no exploration is lost with that back set. The visuals are excellent, ultilizing the potential of the Gameboy Advance.
The Minish Cap is that type of game that you either like it or hate it. It's a game that's strayed off the traditional circuit, and many are split at whether this was for the better or for worse. Although The Minish Cap is unorthodox by Zelda standards, it stills retains that Zelda feel and although lacking in some areas excels in others that made Zelda games what it is today. The Minish Cap, possibly the last game of its kind in the Zelda series, gets an 8/10.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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