Review by ShadowGuardian9

"Yup, another excellent Zelda game."

Zelda is undeniably a household name in gaming. The legacy of Link, Zelda, Ganon and the rest is an eternal one, and Nintendo knows it and how valuable it is. With the release of the Nintendo DS handheld in 2004, many gamers thought that the little Game Boy Advance would be left behind. Fortunately, Nintendo has kept the famous handheld going by releasing another handheld Zelda in coalition with Capcom. Famous for past Zelda installments, Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons, Capcom is once again trusted to aid Nintendo in creating a massive world for Link with The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Do they succeed?

Graphics 10/10

I've been down the road of GBA graphics many times before, but these graphics are absolutely astounding. Although the game does follow the old-school 2-D Zelda style, the game makes up for its lack of a dimension with some of the best worlds ever shown on the Game Boy Advance. Zelda has always been about massive, clever, and interesting worlds to explore, and Minish Cap is definitely not an exception. Link in the overworld is your little normal-sized boy, wading through ponds and slicing down grasses with his sword. His animations stay true to their roots. Each world, town, and environment is beautiful and diverse, keeping you from feeling like you've done this before. But the graphics truly prove themselves when Link uses the power of the Minish Cap. Link shrinks down to a very minuscule size, and this is where the entire world changes. A shallow puddle becomes a giant lake. A small blade of grass becomes a giant plant. A tiny Chuchu becomes a tremendous colossus. The complete shift in perspectives gives the game a huge amount of scope and scale, and you do feel the weight of how small Link is. Enemy animations are clever and well-done, and the action just feels right. The Minish Cap's graphics are jaw-dropping. Plain and simple.

Audio 9/10

This is the GBA, so don't expect some extremely cinematic scores. But the Minish Cap doesn't skip on bringing some excellent audio to the table. Link himself is equipped with his classic battlecry, and the other characters do provide some small voice quips at times. The music is actually very well done, creating a feel of an epic adventure and giving the game even more scope. The classic Zelda tunes of opening a door, solving a puzzle, and earning an item remains well done, sounding a bit better than the previous. Enemy sounds are good as well, each one having a good sound for running, attacking, or just standing menacingly. Speaking of which, during the excellent boss battles, the game's score escalates to extraordinary levels, keeping the game's pace at a solid level. Though a bit more diversity could've made the game better, the audio is excellent.

Gameplay 10/10

How can a series as acclaimed as Zelda still remain perfect, even without a 3-D world? Well, whatever the developers are doing, they do it right. The Legend of Zelda: the Minish Cap is purely Zelda. Controls are pretty much the same as all the classic 2-D Zelda games. You can assign actions and items to specific buttons for quick access. R is used to roll, and the D-Pad is for movement. Simple. Being able to customize your controls is great, although I for one always used B for a sword attack and just switched off the A button. But how can a game with such simplicity in the controls be so expansive and well-designed?

The story takes place in the Four Sword mythology, a world where Ganon is not the big bad guy to beat. When Link and Zelda travel to the local fair to celebrate the Picori spirits, a mysterious swordsman appears. The swordsman is revealed to be the sorcerer, Vaati, a magical madman who then turns Princess Zelda into stone! Link then meets up with an odd creature named Ezlo, who pretty much is a bird who is a hat. Weird. Turns out Ezlo is the Minish Cap, a magical cap of the Picori who has the power to shrink its wearer! With Ezlo, Link must restore the power of the Four Sword and saves Zelda before Vaati's plan succeeds! I do enjoy the idea of expanding on a still-undeveloped world of the Four Sword, while still keeping the core of the story of saving Zelda in tact. Vaati, although not as well-known or as menacing as Ganon, remains a good villain in this new storyline. The story is still very simplistic, but redirecting the Zelda path and expanding on the Four Sword mythology is a very good idea.

Have you played the original Zelda? Have you played any 2-D Zelda before Ocarina of Time? Well, welcome home, explorer! Link's adventures take place on the overworld map, with caves, fields, lakes, and many more environments to travel about. Close by is the town and palace. The town is a hub for many sidequests to perform, along with buying new items and getting more information toward the dungeons across the world.

Throughout the game, Link will gain a very good amount of weapons and items to use. Link's sword is a basic frontal attack, but can be upgraded by a local swordmaster and by progressing through the main quest. Though the series has always had many different incarnations and weapons in them, the developers still have been able to create some clever and unique weapons to use. From the basic shield to the digging Mole Mitts, each item is clever and essential to trudging through the dungeons and completing the challenging puzzles.

One unique sidequest (and sometimes main quest) objective is the Kinstones. Link can find special items called Kinstones in dungeons, towns, and the overworld. Upon finding one, Link must combine it with another person's (or animal, or sometimes even inanimate object's) Kinstone to create a special event. The event can open a door, destroy a barrier, or anything. This is an interesting new twist on the Zelda sidequests, making the game feel fresh and cool.

The dungeons themselves are beyond unbelievable. Link must find the elemental forces to restore the Picori sword. That means that he'll have to trudge through the massive dungeons to find them. The dungeons are simply beautiful to look at and are incredibly designed. Starting out, it may be difficult to know where you're going. But after checking the available rooms, the wheels start turning. You soon discover each puzzle in the room. Then, you'll start thinking off what you may need and how to get it. Then, you'll try to find what you need. This cycle repeats itself constantly in the Minish Cap, but truly, that is what Zelda is about. The puzzles are cleverly designed and figuring them out while balancing your reflexes is a neverending battle. Once you solve a puzzle, you quickly want to move forward and find out what the next challenge is. Even though some puzzles do require some thinking, the game never suffers because of it. That is what Zelda is, and it works brilliantly.

Replay Value 9/10

Once the rather lengthy main quest is done, Zelda has a huge amount of sidequests to perform. That is aided by the Kinstones, giving the game more lifespan than other Zeldas. It is Zelda, so don't expect the ultimate lifespan of gaming, but Minish Cap has plenty of things to do after the final boss is slain.

Final Verdict 10/10

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap proves that you don't need a 3-D world and L-Targeting to be a Zelda game. 2-D Zelda still lives, and Minish Cap proves it. Link's newest adventure is a truly epic one, full of brilliant game design, gorgeous graphics, excellent audio, and a plethora of sidequests to complete after the main quest is done. Combing simple and accessible with clever puzzles, the game stays true to its name and roots by keeping all the good of the series in tact. This is one GBA game that cannot be missed. Anyone with a GBA or DS needs to pick this one up. It's Zelda, and it's some of the best handheld gaming has to offer.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 12/15/05

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