Review by Rango
"It's not about length. Minish and Humans alike would get a full adventure out of this."
Let me start by saying that this game is not necessarily as stripped in length or depth in comparison to any of its predecessors. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap truly is a solid title that beats with the heart of a classic Zelda game. Specifically, being the only other 16-bit Zelda title in the series, it's hard to mistake that Flagship tried their best to capture the hearts of many A Link to the Past fans. There is a soul in every Zelda title and Minish Cap managed to make that special commitment to give the players a feel of the past.
The game starts with a backstory telling of the Picori, a new tribe introduced in this game. The Picori, also known as the Minish, are a race of microscopic people that apparently played a role in Hyrule's history, and they were proficient in crafting blades. You'll start the game as Link, the hero we all know and love, and Zelda, and the two are on their way to Hyrule Castle. Once there, a sorcerer known as Vaati (the same Vaati from Four Swordsand Four Swords Adventures) petrifies Zelda into a statue. The King, which bears a striking resemblance to the one from Wind Waker, chooses Link to rescue her. On his way, Link meets Ezlo, a talking hat that resembles a bird, and the two travel together while Ezlo helps Link with advice and the ability to shrink. The story of the game follows the simple structure that fans have grown accustomed to in Zelda titles, and also seems to take an original turn, in part due to the characters.
The game's nods to past titles is a major high point of Minish Cap. To start with , the overworld's theme sounds like it's right out of A Link to the Past, and this will make any player feel at home. Several tunes from the previous Zelda titles will make their triumphant return, some of which will emanate with a wonderful quality of sound that even makes a GBA's speakers sound good. Rearrangements of songs, such as the caves and Hyrule Castle from ALttP, the houses from Ocarina of Time<, and the dungeons from The Legend of Zelda will make a triumphant return and make their place at home here. Not to overlook the new material, however, this game has a healthy array of new music that will quickly grow onto many players. Minish Woods, for example, has a forest feel to it that you might not have heard since ALttP. The high majority of areas in this game have their own original theme, and this gives Minish Cap a great place in the soundtracks of the Game Boy Advance and the Zelda series in general.
Not only is the arranged soundtrack integral to the game's nostalgic factor, but you will see many familiar faces from across the series. The King of Hyrule, as mentioned previously, was only one of the people you will recognize from a past title. Other people, such as Malon, Talon, Karlov the Sculptor, Sturgeon, Dampe the Gravekeeper, and others, to include the Goron race, will make their appearance in this game, helping Link along the way. If you have played Four Swords, you will quickly recognize the character models take on that same type of appearance, something reminiscent of Wind Waker. It takes a cartoon appeal that suits the 2D Zelda games very well, giving it the land of Hyrule much life in all of its areas. The graveyards are dark, but they are lively in that they create a gloomy feel while paying attention to the detail of a cemetery. Minish Woods is a lush green forest that has a mystical atmosphere to it, adding in lakes and sunlight into this area. The game has done an amazing job of detail in its visuals.
As to be expected from a 2D Zelda title, the good hack-and-slash and puzzle-solving action plays its integral part in the series. Each dungeon has its items and it's up to you to use them to advance through the game. New additions, like the Mole Mitts, let you dig through the ground. Fun note: Flagship, developer of this game, also made Kirby Squeak Squad. Kirby also has an Animal ability which gives him big claws and the ability to dig through the ground. You also get a Gust Jar that sucks in air, items, and can be used for weaker enemies in battle. The selection of items is pretty good in the Zelda game, but I have a gripe that you don't really use these items outside of their respective puzzles. It's not until you get the Roc's Cape that you would really need anything other than your sword, shield, or Pegasus Boots outside of using them in puzzles. Sadly, it's really the only time you'll need your items and that hurts some of the game's value of innovation since games like A Link to the Past, Majora's Mask, and Wind Waker were creative in their use of items. Giving you a Magic Meter, there was a lot more to work with in those titles and many different ways to fight. For example, would you rather hack your opponent with a blade or burn it with a Fire Rod? Maybe you could use the Magic Cape to avoid it altogether? It is a rather sad feature that your item selection does not go far beyond the basics without being made mostly for the puzzles, but perhaps it is also just a selective nature among players and some will prefer the basics.
On the bright side, though, Link's selection of abilities goes to the next level of a 2D Zelda title. Not only is this the first 2D Zelda where Link can actually roll, this is also the first one, since Zelda II, where you learn different sword techniques. Evolving over Zelda II's emphasis on combat and the ability to learn new techniques, Link is now able to visit different swordmasters and gain a new technique. These vary from your classic Spin Attack to new techniques like the Rolling Stab. This system was also emphasized in Twilight Princess, adding to the battle options among enemies there.
The main flaw with the game, however, does not take it to its length, its depth, or its item selection. Unlike Zelda titles made by Nintendo, Flagship has a tendency to throw the player out on their own when they're heading to a dungeon. There is a reason for this, however, and it's that the puzzles are left best to the dungeons while getting there is the fun part of exploring and fighting your foes. There aren't marks on your map that designate a location to your next dungeon, there aren't NPCs that will point you in the direction of your next destination (even that lazy old hat on your head speaks nothing more than the obvious of what you need to do as opposed of how to get there), and furthermore, the times that there are marks on your map, it's mainly for a general location while you figure out how and where to go while there. The sad part is that they mostly stuff you with some boring puzzles in comparison to the challenges featured in previous titles. One prime example is collecting three books for a librarian, which are scattered in Hyrule Castle town and one in Lake Hylia. As opposed to getting to the next dungeon, you may find yourself bored, even tired, of trying to find these select people and retrieving the books from their location. Another involves climbing a mountain and watering plants to make them grow. Once again, however, it feels much more like a tedious chore than it feels like a fun, challenging puzzle. Unfortunately, this is a huge core portion of the gameplay and it seriously drags the fun factor of the game as it tries your patience in ways best left in dungeons.
Another flaw in the game's pacing comes in the form of the blade you carry. Each time you clear a dungeon, you are forced to return to a sanctuary and power the blade up. Why the player is not granted this at the end of the dungeon is less a question and more imperative. This step would have been a great way to avoid unnecessary repetition, frequently returning to one designated area that takes at least five minutes to return to.
Because of these two flaws, Minish Cap cannot shine with the potential that it was blessed with by minds who enjoy the feeling of a legendary classic on the SNES. Getting lost frequently becomes routine between dungeons and, outside of a selective riddle, you're not going to get much direction to where you need to go. However, those of you who don't want to be told where to go and happen to enjoy roaming around the countryside, then you will have no trouble enjoying this game to its fullest. Even though enemy combat is on the simple side, as most enemies won't do more than 1/4 or 1/2 heart of damage, it is still fun using your techniques on them, solving dungeon puzzles, and making advancements in the story. Fusing Kinstones, a system which unlocks hidden rupee chests, is a pastime in the game that will quickly grow on the player, but it really does not factor itself in as a necessary part of the game, save for rare occasions. Thus, the meat of the game's joy comes in the form of the visuals, audio, and core gameplay of a classic Zelda while our annoying stickers come in the form of getting lost and frequent returns to a place not necessary to tread to, but at the same time is.
In spite of the annoyance I have in getting lost, I recommend this to any Zelda fan as a priority. Some people don't mind getting lost and they will enjoy getting into a Zelda title made for the fans that simultaneously appeals to anyone into adventure games. Even if you're not familiar with the Zelda series, this is an ideal point to explore since it's a prime example of a good 2D Zelda title if A Link to the Past is not available. While I would have loved to give the gameplay more credit, I can't help but feel wondered by their attempt to charm classic fans of the series and add new environments which bring much life into the land of Hyrule.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 07/14/08
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (US, 01/10/05)
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