Review by brutusmuktuk

"What happens when Nintendo takes no risks"

Nintendo seems to be running out of fresh ideas for its most popular franchises. Super Mario Sunshine, while good, lost the charm of the previous Mario games; Metroid Zero Mission felt overused and too easy; and now Zelda, possibly Nintendo's biggest success of all their franchises, has begun to turn tired, first with Four Swords, and now with Minish Cap. The smallish world, easy difficulty level, and lackluster storyline don't help Nintendo's case with Minish Cap, and I wonder, is it a bad sign when Nintendo fails with one of their greatest franchises?

Story – 5/10

No longer is Link the hero, but a character we, the gamer, name is the hero. Just like in Wind Waker. Something about this lack of a true identity for the hero takes away part of the charm, it makes him less significant, and I hope Nintendo returns to Link. But for now, we are stuck with whatever we name him. The hero finds himself taking Princess Zelda out to the village fair. Lucky him; I wonder how the son of a blacksmith picked up a chick in such a high class as a princess of a kingdom. They have a good time, and it's somewhat reminiscent to the beginning scene in Chrono Trigger where Marle and Crono go on a little date at a fair, but Zelda's day at the fair isn't quite as charming or amusing as Marle's. Trouble strikes and the villain Vaati turns Zelda into stone, so it's up to the hero to turn her back and rescue all of Hyrule in the process…as a side quest of sorts.

A people called the Minish, a very tiny people that are generally only seen by children, become involved. Their part in the story is key, as it involves the key gameplay device in the game in which the hero can shrink to the size of a small insect. The hero comes across a talking hat (remind you of the talking boat in Wind Waker?) that has the power to shrink the hero into a version of himself the size of a Minish. The hat also has the power to give the gamer hints or remind him/her of what to do next. This may sound interesting and all, but Nintendo does nothing interesting with dialogue, or with the story, and the Minish people lack the sort of magic the Gorons and the Zoras had in Ocarina of Time. As I said, the story is average. There's nothing really engaging there, and it lacks the surprises or suspense of the great narration in both Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. Perhaps it's unfair to compare this to those two games, but at the same time, not too many Zelda games attempt to be very cinematic, so those that are deserve comparison to each other, 3D or not.

Gameplay – 6/10

Perhaps you Zelda fans recall the gigantic world of A Link to the Past. What happened to worlds such as those? The world in Minish Cap is tiny in comparison, and gives the gamer much less to do. Most previous Zelda games encouraged exploration, and gamers enjoyed exploring those worlds. With Minish Cap there is nothing to explore, and it loses a lot in not giving the gamer that chance to explore an expansive and fantastic land. That's been key to the Zelda franchise – a fantasy land fully created to be explored by the gamer, and when one is not so fully created like in Minish Cap, you know something is not right. One thing that sticks out and you'll notice in my details for the rest of the review, is that Nintendo doesn't take any risks with Minish Cap. When Nintendo takes risks, they work well, such as in Majora's Mask, and even with the cartoony visuals of Wind Waker. When Nintendo doesn't take risks, their games feel like many others out there, such as this.

After playing Four Swords, I realized one of the game's major flaws was the combat. The game threw horde after horde of enemies; in some instances the screen was filled with enemies – literally. Minish Cap borrows a lot from Four Swords in that regard, although you'll never see the screen quite so full of enemies. At times there are ten or twelve enemies in a group, and they're as easy to beat as pressing the B button. Nintendo seemed to replace difficulty with more enemies. Not only are there more enemies, but they're easier to take down without taking damage yourself. I remember laughing myself silly at the end of A Link to the Past when it shows the number of times you died, but in Minish Cap you can often go through dungeons unscathed. Not only that, but finding your way to the next area is simple – if one door isn't the right way, the other door will provide a route to the right way, or at least a silver key. Sadly, the puzzles provide just as much challenge as the enemies. Mostly this game requires no more skill or thought than mashing on the sword button and killing stuff. Sounds like a mindless shooter and not a Zelda game, doesn't it?

Nintendo puts in a lot of pointless items and side quests in Minish Cap. Some items you receive from bosses rarely come in handy in later parts of the game, or just aren't very interesting. I commend Nintendo for trying something different, but such items as the vacuum vase, and the wand that flips things over, just aren't very interesting, and aren't put to very good use. There's also the kinstone side quest, which is very tiresome. Most of the rewards consist of more kinstones (so much that the hero could probably stack them from the earth to the moon) or more rupees, which when you usually receive, you're full up on them anyway. Another side quest involves trading in seashells for statue figures…huh? I don't understand the fun of that, nor will you when you spend twenty minutes putting in one seashell at a time until the chance to get a new seashell becomes so low you need to start spending more.

Okay, okay, I don't want to sound like such a grouch. There is fun to be had, especially in Hyrule Village, where I spent hours chasing cuccos for a lady who couldn't keep her chickens in their pin. Actually, this village provides the majority of the entertainment in the game, as it has much more to explore and do than in the rest of the game's areas combined. Also, some of the bosses, while not too hard, are creative and kinda fun to fight. The first boss is a whopper, although none of the rest quite reach the level of that one. After fighting the first boss, you'd wish Nintendo would do the same thing with other enemies.

Visuals – 8/10

Much brighter and more colorful than other Zelda games, besides Wind Waker, but what game can compare with that? The world is vibrant with color, which is at times refreshing, but also annoying because it seems all games are following that trend where they believe bright colors makes good visuals, which isn't always true. Nintendo did the same thing with Metroid Zero Mission – the graphics were colorful, but not much more. Yes, Minish Cap is the most animated of all the 2D Zelda games – but it's also the only original 2D Zelda game to have the backing of the power of the GBA.

Sound – 7/10

I wasn't very impressed, nor did I really notice much sound. Zelda music has always been some of my favorite video game music, but I didn't so much as hum along with the tunes or even remember them later on. Other sounds weren't quite so interesting either, although the beeping when you're low on hearts is much less obnoxious this time around.

Longevity – 7/10

Except for the true Zelda fan who can't help but do everything there is to do in a Zelda game, this game doesn't have much life. With only a few dungeons and a small world, there isn't much to do. The game is so easy that you'll breeze through it, which doesn't help out its longevity at all. There are plenty of extra things to do: find heart pieces, fuse all the kinstone pieces, collect all the statue figurines, get all the special moves from the trainer, and do a few other side quests here and there. They're not needed, and there's not much incentive to do them, except for maybe the heart pieces where you'll earn yourself more life and, thus, die harder. The extra moves aren't needed either – I finished the game with only about three of them.

For true Zelda gamers, you have already bought and enjoyed this game, or decided, like me, it is merely average. For those of you seeking out a GBA game to play as the GBA's life seems to be dwindling down, take this review at heart. The game is decent, but not great, or even that good. I suppose if there's nothing else to play, pick this up, but there are other things to do, other games to play, that you will enjoy more than this, believe me. Besides, you can always hold out for the GameCube version coming out this year.

Score – 6/10

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 01/09/06

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