Review by SuperPhillip
Reviewed: 01/09/12 | Updated: 01/11/12
Big Things Come in Minish Packages
Capcom is no stranger to the Zelda franchise. Their first effort was the terrific pair of Game Boy Color titles in The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages. Then they helped to co-develop the Game Boy Advance port of my favorite 2D Zelda, A Link to the Past. Flagship, the main company within Capcom that assisted in the creation of the above mentioned games, might now be defunct, but their memory lives on and continues to do so. Their final game is perhaps their most fantastic masterpiece-- forgive any hints of hyperbole-- The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. This big adventure performs well on the small screen.
It is the day of the Picori Festival in Hyrule, and Princess Zelda meets with our hero Link at his home. Link's grandfather asks him to deliver a sword to the king as the prize for the festival's swordsman tournament. After seeing the sights and sounds of the festival, Link and Zelda meet up with the king and Link delivers the specially honed blade. The winner of the tournament, Vaati, arrives and uses the sword to open a box that unleashes monsters all over Hyrule. Vaati is power-hungry and turns Zelda to stone. Leaving the scene in ruins, Vaati vanishes in search of a fabled light power. Meanwhile, the clad in green boy Link agrees to search in the Minish Woods for the Picori people, small denizens of Hyrule that can only be seen by children, who can help him figure out how to restore Zelda to her natural stoneless state. It is there he meets a talking cap named Ezlo, one of the most entertaining and humorous companions Link has ever had. Ezlo was transformed into a cap by Vaati, and wants nothing more to right all of the wrongs of his former apprentice. The story is unobtrusive, charming, and delightful overall.
The Minish Cap follows the standard Zelda formula, so those wanting a fresh experience should look into Majora's Mask or Skyward Sword as they mix things up better. However, for a tried and true structure, you cannot go wrong with Minish Cap. The formula goes like this: you venture through an overworld finding clues on where to go next, you talk to NPCs, you do quests both optional and mandatory, and you enter treacherous dungeons full of monsters, puzzles, and traps to receive elemental pieces to power up your sword.
The main mechanic introduced to The Minish Cap is only possible thanks to the titular headgear and your faithful and ever-complaining partner Ezlo. Certain objects like tree trunks, vases, and rocks can be stood upon. A crack in the center (and the power of the Minish Cap) can shrink Link to Minish size. Formerly inaccessible areas can be reached in small form, and plenty of puzzles require you to switch between both sizes to clear obstacles and areas. You can explore the rafters of houses, pass through paths infested with Minish-sized monsters, and enter rooms too tiny for regular-sized Link. However, it is important to note that even the most normal-sized nonthreatening enemy can be dangerous in Minish form. Also, household cats don't take too kindly to the Minish people. Such prejudice!
Hyrule is divided up between many sections. There's Hyrule Town in the center of the overworld which you will be continually returning to for new items to buy, mini-games to play, and NPCs to help, the Minish Woods to the southeast, Lon Lon Ranch and Lake Hylia to the east, Castor Wilds to the southwest, Mt. Crenel to the west and northwest, Veil Falls to the northeast, and a myriad of other unique areas. Monsters such as Octoroks, Moblins, and Chu Chu call Hyrule their home, too, so take them out when necessary.
There are six dungeons total in Minish Cap, a meager amount compared to other 2D Zeldas like Link's Awakening, A Link to the Past, and the Oracle games. However, in this instance it is quality over quantity. Forgive the cliched phrase. You will be trekking inside the deepest of dungeons, searching for keys, looting treasure chests, fending off monsters, solving puzzles-- some of which are spread out among more than one room, and battling bosses to the death. As is customary for every Zelda, there are small keys that unlock doors, big keys that open the doors leading to the boss, treasure maps that show the layout of the dungeon, compasses that reveal the locations of treasure chests and where the boss resides, and treasures, from rupees to important items. These items include things like the Cave of Pacci that flips certain enemies and objects over on their back, the Flame Lantern that sets flammable objects on fire and lights torches, the Gust Jar that blows away dust on floors and spider webs as well as sucks up enemies and objects (one puzzle has you sucking up a grounded mushroom to fling you to the other side of a chasm), and Roc's Cape that is similar to Link's Awakening's Roc's Feather, but it allows you to glide after leaping into the air. Meanwhile, puzzles consist of small things like clearing out a room full of enemies to larger challenges like hitting every switch with one well-timed swing of your sword.
At the conclusion of every dungeon comes a boss encounter. These are the meanest of the mean and the deadliest of the deadly when it comes to enemies. Some fights are large versions of normal enemies, but to a Minish-sized hero, they're gigantic. As is tradition, the item you acquire in the boss's dungeon is generally needed to fight the crooked creature you are facing off against. For instance, the first battle has Link taking on a giant Chu Chu. With the Gust Jar found in the dungeon, you can suck up the slime at the base of the boss. This causes the green Chu Chu to lose its balance and topple over, setting you up to slash it repeatedly with your sword before it stands back up and the process starts all over again.
Most dungeons award you with an elemental fragment (Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water). When returned to the Elemental Sanctuary in Hyrule Castle, your sword gets upgraded. You can then stand on specially marked panels, charge up your blade, and produce copies of Link. These copies are paramount for pushing large blocks out of the way that a lone Link couldn't do by himself. Additionally, you earn a full Heart Container for beating the dungeon's boss. This ups your health by one heart.
Speaking of which, there are an abundance of Heart Container pieces hidden throughout Hyrule. Collecting four gives you an increase to your heatlh. Some are found sitting in caves and dungeons, some are handed out by NPCs for helping them out, and some are unlocked by performing a Kinstone Fusion. Kinstone Fusions are the main side quest of The Minish Cap. Throughout Link's journey you'll no doubt come across Kinstone pieces (either blue, red, or most commonly and found dropped by monsters, in blades of grass, or in bushes, green). When you come across an NPC with a bubble over their head, you can press the L button to start a fusion. You must piece together two Kinstone fragments that fit together to complete a fusion. The effects are immediate. Sometimes a cave or a passageway will open, leading to a Heart Container or other treasure, sometimes a certain NPC will react differently, sometimes a golden enemy (a faster, harder version of a normal enemy) will spawn in a select location, while other times a treasure chest will pop up in the overworld for you to find and open. It's an enjoyable side quest, and there are nearly 200 different fusions to complete.
Another side quest consists of collecting Mysterious Shells, found in treasure chests, purchased in Hyrule Town's shop, and discovered in the wild through cutting down grass and bushes. These can be traded in the figurine shop. Each time you get a new figurine (these are dioramas, characters, monsters, bosses, etc.), the probability of you earning a new figurine the next time to pull the switch to receive one goes down unless you pay more Mysterious Shells. Perhaps a certain goodie will occur if you collect all 130+ figurines...
While we're talking about certain goodies, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is certainly a nice looking game. The 2D art style looks well, the environments are detailed and pleasing to glance at, and the characters mesh well with the world. Everything runs at a steady framerate as well. The music of Minish Cap is full of memorable melodies, remixed classic tunes, and a mass amount of original works. It may sound tinny to some, but I found it to be quite spectacular all-in-all. Patches of voice work in the form of grunts, yells, and gibberish are natural parts of Zelda games, and that tradition continues with this title, too.
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is a tremendous portable entry in this illustrious franchise. There is little in the way of filler, the dungeons are remarkably designed, there is an extensive amount of side content in the form of Kinstone Fusions, figurine collecting, Heart Container finding, and sword ability upgrades, the characters (especially Ezlo) are charming, and the world is a joy to explore. If you own a Game Boy Advance, The Minish Cap is a must-have game for your collection. If for some reason this game is to ever be for sale on the eShop's Virtual Console service, this should be one of your definite downloads. Just like viewing Hyrule between regular-sized and small Link, your enjoyment of this hand-held Zelda will all be a matter of perspective.
[SuperPhillip Says: 9.5/10]
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (3DS Ambassador Program) (US, 12/16/11)
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