Review by DKamikaze

"Oh Nintendo. How could you?"

It happens. Every so often, a great gaming company destroys your hopes and dreams by releasing a game which is well below their usual standard. I think we can come up with some here for comparison. I mean, Resident Evil : Outbreak for one. Good series, just one downright awful game. Silent Hill 4 - again, nice series, shame the fourth installment was only average. Even Final Fantasy had that little hiccup called, "Final Fantasy 8"... so there, even the best do it.

And now, Nintendo have gone and abused their most bankable franchise. Welcome, one and all, to The Minish Cap. A game which defies expectations, but for me - for ALL the wrong reasons.

It starts off a lot like Wind Waker started off (perhaps that should have been the first clue that this was going to have problems), with a nice artworky storyboard about the Hero of Legend blah blah. Without ruining the story, essentially Zelda gets petrified (that is, turned into stone) and once again - it's up to Link to save the day and stop an evil force from getting hold of the Sacred Light (aka Triforce). Not that there's anything WRONG with that - it harks back to the days of "A Link To The Past". But this game tries to get far too deep in terms of storyline and that is it's first fault. It's not a strong storyline to begin with, which makes it even harder to stomach towards the end of this game. It's same old, same old, and should have been done better.

One of its strengths lies in the fact it plays like pretty much any other 2D LoZ game ever has, just with prettier graphics akin to Four Swords - from which Nintendo clearly borrowed some ideas. Sword combat gets a reinvention with some cool sword techniques to pull off - the problem is, you never NEED to use the majority of them - they are cosmetic only, and once you've pulled them off in the training sessions, the likelihood is you're not going to use them again. (Except Whirlwind Attack and Sword Beam. But they're classic.) Even the added "roll" feature from Wind Waker is nothing more than something there for no particular purpose except one of the sword techniques.

I guess I should expand on how sumptuous the visuals are. While clearly taking a page from Wind Waker, and Four Swords, it is vivid, colourful, and beautiful. I couldn't spot a graphical flaw in this game, it is eye candy and make no mistake. But we saw it in Four Swords, which takes the impact off a little. Still, no mistaking that it's graphically a real looker, if still a bit too adolescent and anime for most peoples taste.

Sound-wise, err... well... we've kinda heard it all before. A few new tunes here and there, but the vast majority are a staple of the series and quite honestly, I see no reason why they should have changed the music much. The overworld music is still as ridiculously catchy now, as it has ever been. Perhaps a testament to how good the music has been in the Zelda series.

But now, it is time to hit hard on this game - that is, "Longevity" and "Difficulty", on which it fails on both accounts to even match it's ancestors. Minish Cap is easy. It's actually, TOO easy. And anyone who's played any GB Zelda game, or "A Link to the Past", could whip this one around in less than a week. Not once does this game throw up anything resembling a challenge - pretty much all the ideas, we have seen in any other Zelda title and sadly, that doesn't feel like a good thing this time around. It's all too simplified and childlike, and for an adult fan of the series, I felt this title was at times rather patronising.

So, what IS new in this game? Well, first up is the "Big VS Small" feature. You can shrink down to the size of a Minish (Very, very small) and explore new areas of the land. All the areas are obvious, either marked circles, marked with raised flowers to indicate a concealed pathway, marked with a bit of dirt... in short, this game does not offer "exploration" like other games do. In fact, this is the smallest Zelda game of all I think - even without warp stones that your Ocarina Bird chum (yup, back to "A Link to the Past" for that idea) can take you to, you can very quickly get from one point to another. It's all so constrained, dumbed down, cramped.

Also new, and this is one GOOD thing, is trading Krinstone pieces. These are pieces of discs/coins, which you can trade with others to make a complete version. This then alters things in the map - either adding chests, activating platforms or portals, or even putting down a Golden Monster for you to kill for lotsa rupees. There's a LOT of trading to be done, but the sacrifice for this is the loss of the "Trading Game", which we have all come to know and love in our Zelda titles. And eventually, you do notice it's not there. The one element I would have been most pleased to be reused, was the one element that got shafted. It's just not right Nintendo, not right at all...

But only five (Including castle) real true Dungeons (Well, you could argue there are seven so I guess it's what do you define as a "dungeon") mean that there really isn't much to DO here. It's short. Very short. In fact, I'll go as far as to say, TOO SHORT. It's all still amazingly routine anyway, since we've come to expect the fire dungeon, the ice dungeon, the wind dungeon and the earth/normal dungeon, as well as the a-typical Castle... the same old rules apply here as they have always done. But perhaps, never have they been so obvious to the player. Not helped by blabbermouth aka your cap giving you a running commentary at times.

A moment, now, to compare it to it's fellow siblings - A Link to the Past, Links Awakening, and the Oracle titles. Does Minish Cap come anywhere close to the quality of these titles? Nope, nowhere near.

The problem with this title I feel, is that it takes a lot of already conceived ideas, and a lot of influence from Wind Waker (arguably not the best Zelda title anyway), and couples it with a story which is a bit weak and done to death, and poses little that is fresh and exciting enough to get the old Zelda fans engines revving for joy. It's just "Same Old Zelda", and somehow - that isn't enough this time around. Which is surprising, since I can still sit down and joyfully play A Link to the Past, and Links Awakening, without a second thought.

This title also lacks magic. Even Wind Waker had it, to a certain extent. A really nice compulsiveness to it - Zelda games have been compulsive titles, they have challenged, they have intrigued us and taken us to new places. Minish Cap lacks any of this magic, and sadly, it suffers as a result. It's too much stale, old material and not enough fresh, compulsive new content to really whet the gaming appetite. It's complacency at it's finest and best, and Nintendo should be rather ashamed of themselves for this one.

This game could have been much more. So much more. But it just falls short on everything it tries to do, and ends up merely in the shadows of its classic brethren. An "F" for Nintendo on this effort. It's not bad enough to get an "Ungraded", as it is still enjoyable in its own particular way and you can play it through once, at least. But there's not much replay value here, apart from trading Krinstones. There's nothing here in spirit to elevate Zelda: Minish Cap anywhere above "Average".

And I loathe the day I have to use the words, "Zelda" and "average" in the same sentence - or even, the same review. I never wanted to be disappointed with this game. But I did feel let down, and it's done. Some will love it's simple simpleton charms. But as a long-time Zelda fan, I expected better.

Still, there's the 'Cube Zelda to come soon... they can't ruin that one. It's just not possible... (I hope...)

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 11/15/04

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