Review by Rottenwood

"Heir To The Golden Throne"

I might as well be right up front with my blasphemy: The Minish Cap deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as Link To The Past. Yes, yes, I know that Link To The Past is a perfect masterpiece from gaming's Golden Age, and that The Minish Cap is a - gasp! - portable game, and subcontracted to Capcom no less. But I simply can't deny the fact that The Minish Cap is incredibly fun, impeccably produced, and yet another reminder at how valuable 'old school' gaming still is here in 2005. There are very few games that I simply can't put down these days, but this was one of them.

I was not without skepticism when I purchased the game, despite being a dyed-in-the-wool Zelda fan. I knew that Capcom was developing it, and while they're a wonderful company, their previous Zelda efforts for the Game Boy Color - Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons - didn't exactly blow me away. They were solid Zelda installments, to be sure, but something was missing - it was like experiencing a Zelda cover band, as opposed to the real thing. But practice makes perfect, and Capcom seems to have finally found the rhythm: The Minish Cap just FEELS right. The whimsical fantasy of the Zelda series is in full effect, and sets the table nicely for another grand adventure in Hyrule.

As you probably know already, the main hook of The Minish Cap is that Link will be experiencing two worlds this time: the 'regular' world, and the tiny world of the Minish, which he can access by shrinking down to pixie size at certain magical locations. Link accomplishes this feat by wearing a strange being named Ezlo on his head, who has been cursed and transformed into an odd shape - a shape that almost perfectly resembles Link's traditional floppy green hat, wouldn't you know. Ezlo also serves as Link's tutor (or YOUR tutor, really), and he provides the occasional bit of silly comic relief. In any event, once you've shrunk down to Minish size, it's a whole new world. You can talk to the tiny Minish folk that you can't see in human form, and you can fit into tiny holes and caves which may lead to hidden goodies. You'll also occasionally battle monsters like Octoroks, who are cannon fodder when you're normal-sized, but huge and imposing when you're a wee Minish - a very cool touch. You'll even play a few dungeons as a Minish, but other than the occasional huge beastie, they handle the exact same way as the normal dungeons do.

The game's story is pretty basic Zelda fare, otherwise. Vaati is running amok again, being all evil and such. Zelda gets turned into stone, Hyrule gets cast into chaos, and as usual, it's up to Link to find a bunch of shiny baubles and save the day. It ain't Shakespeare, or even remotely original, but there is comfort in the familiar, I suppose. As always, Link will trek across a grand overworld, crawl through a handful of nasty dungeons, battle lots of monsters and solve plenty of little puzzles. Eight gazillion Zelda games have been sold since the series first appeared - do you think they'd break up a willing formula? Most longtime Zelda fans will be happy to know that the game looks, handles, and feels like the beloved Link To The Past - hey, they don't call the GBA the 'portable Super Nintendo' for nothing. This game would've fit in quite snugly back in the SNES days, and if you miss those times (don't we all, once in a while?), The Minish Cap is a wonderful little time machine.

While the game features the usual traditional Zelda items - bombs, the boomerang, and so forth - there are some new toys that I enjoyed immensely. My favorite new trinket is the Gust Jar, which is basically a portable vaccuum that can suck up debris, rupees, and even small enemies. It's great fun to suck up a little beastie and then shoot him back into his pals, or better yet, the Gust Jar can pop the heads right off of skeletons. Delicious. The Cane Of Pacci is also good stuff, as it can flip things upside down - sometimes essential, always amusing. Capcom does a terrific job of balancing the Zelda tradition with just the right amount of new content.

But while the new items are great, the game's real major innovation is Kinstone fusing. Kinstones are basically magical charms that, when combined, make something beneficial occur somewhere in Hyrule - a hidden cave opens up, a treasure chest pops up in the woods, or maybe even a new character appears. Of course, the fusing process isn't quite so simple: you'll only find half-pieces of Kinstones in your travels, and almost every other character in the game has their own half-piece - so it's up to you to find the right match and fuse the two pieces together. There are only about a dozen piece-types, so it's not quite as complicated as you might expect. Actually, it's really quite fun, and fusing can lead to some high-quality rewards: extra bottles, bigger bomb bags and quivers, and some heart container pieces to boot. Minish Link can even talk to animals and fuse Kinstones with them, which is silly fun - although it did make me feel bad about all of the chicken abuse I've done in Zelda games over the years. Well, not really.

The Minish Cap has spotless production values - not surprising, as it's a beloved Nintendo franchise, but it's still nice to revel in the eye and ear candy. The game just looks fantastic - possibly the best-looking title on the GBA to date. Rich textures, lovingly crafted enemies and characters, nifty little touches like clouds and fog - it's all good, baby. I loved being a Minish in the human world, and being dwarfed by books and shoes - it really helped me feel like I was a tiny little creature in a world of humans. The music is equally excellent, with the Minish Forest track being the standout - simply gorgeous, especially when you consider the GBA's less-than-stellar sound output capabilities. The game recycles many songs from previous entries in the series, but I doubt diehard fans will mind that very much, and newcomers to the series (all six of them) will enjoy the chance to fall in love with these old chestnuts for the first time.

The craziest thing about The Minish Cap is that this is a PORTABLE game - something this good would be a revelation on a home console, but to have it wherever you go is something special indeed. Some of the game's little sidequests, like Kinstone fusing and figurine collecting, are more fun by themselves than some of the other titles on the GBA. While the 3-D Zeldas have been terrific for the most part, my heart will always belong to the 2-D Legend - and The Minish Cap brought me back to those glory days from beginning to end. A must-own title for any GBA owner, and my first perfect-10 rating in a long, long time.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 01/31/05

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