Review by Tenshi No Shi
Easily Link's best portable adventure.
I love how Nintendo continues to put out the familiar, "classic" style versions of their popular franchises while still evolving to keep the games fresh. Take this game for example- Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap looks and plays as if it were born and breed on the Super Nintendo, but it is, in fact, a wholly new game. Yet just two years previous to Minish Cap, the GameCube played host to Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker which was a decidedly different approach to the franchise with its visual aesthetics and 3D graphics. Continuing with the success Flagship (a Capcom company) built with the Gameboy Color hits Oracle of Ages & Oracle of Seasons, then again with the Gameboy Advance port of A Link to the Past, we are presented with this, the latest adventure of one of Nintendo's most sacred icons.
Interestingly enough, Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap appears to be a prequel (of sorts) to the Four Swords story that Flagship started with what was nothing more than a multiplayer mini-game on their port of Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Taking place before Four Swords Adventures, Minish Cap introduces us to Vaati, a power-hungry sorcerer wannabe who turns Princess Zelda in to stone, hoping to force the King in to giving him the Golden Power. To stop Vaati and break the curse placed on Zelda, Link must reforge the legendary Picori Blade, which means seeking out the mythical Minish...
As I mentioned already, Minish Cap looks a great deal like its Super Nintendo ancestor, though improvements have (obviously) been made. For one thing, the colors seem a lot richer, so the sprites stand out a great deal more (and look less pastel) than A Link to the Past. The animation is also a step up, with a look that closely mimics Wind Waker in not only visual flair but the actual animation as well. The backgrounds are where you'll notice the greatest improvement. Environments are much more detailed, with better use of lighting and shadows to create a richer backdrop. There are also much larger objects in the back and foregrounds, especially when Link shrinks, so I think that helps to create more detail that the Super Nintendo wasn't capable of.
What could I possibly say about the audio of a Legend of Zelda game that you don't already know? The soundtrack kicks ass and the audio effects great- Does any of that come as a surprise? I do have to give major kudos to Capcom for subtly crafting a score for Minish Cap that retains the familiarity of many of the classic Legend of Zelda tunes while adding fairly unique overtures to it, creating an experience that treads on your nostalgia while taking a new path at the same time. I'd have to say this is probably one of my favorite Gameboy Advance soundtracks yet, which says a lot because I typically hate the audio on most Gameboy Advance games.
I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record here, but A Link to the Past is really the best comparison I can use here when describing how Minish Cap controls. Actually, that's not really fair since, like the Gameboy Advance port, Minish Cap doesn't have access to the same number of buttons found on the Super Nintendo controller. So instead think more along the lines of Link's Awakening and you'll have a better idea of what to expect. If, somehow, you've missed out on this game, you can assign various tools and weapons to either the A or B buttons depending on the situation that you face. It wouldn't be called the Minish Cap if, somehow, this item wasn't used as a crucial gameplay feature and so, scattered throughout the land, there are various points at which you can shrink and grow Link to access otherwise blocked avenues of exploration. I won't say this is one of the most innovative play mechanics to come down the pike, but it certainly adds an interesting twist to the game.
There's nothing I can say about the game's design that you can't already deduce on your own having read my review up to the point- It is a classic Legend of Zelda game in every possible respect. The tried- and-true formula of collecting items to solve puzzles to beat bosses to collect more items has never worked better than in the Legend of Zelda series and Minish Cap continues with that tradition. Actually, the nice thing about this game is that it does manage to reshape the mold a little, with a slightly less dungeon-based structure in favor of a more natural flowing world that affords you the chance to explore a little more. I also like how Flagship subtly worked this in to the little corner of the Zelda universe that they've created by making references to Four Swords.
There are actually some rather ingenious little secrets tucked away in the Minish Cap universe. Sure the obvious is a reward (of sorts) for collecting all the figurines, including the ones that become available after you beat the game. However, one of the more interesting bonuses involves sacrificing one of your more precious items. The reward is worth the risk, when instead of getting back what you gave, you receive an upgraded version that will help you out a great deal. If you fancy yourself a treasure hunter, Minish Cap will keep you busy with the Kinstone fusions as a great many of them open up new areas that lead to rewards that range from Rupees to Heart Containers. Finding and collecting everything in the game is almost a game in itself (and I, as a Zelda fan, wouldn't have it any other way).
The great thing is, as Zelda fans, we win no matter which route Nintendo takes, and nothing proves this more that Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap. The classic look and feel of the game blended with the play mechanics of some of the later entries creates a recipe of fun for old and new fans alike. If this titles isn't already in your library, you owe it to yourself to add it without haste
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (US, 01/10/05)
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