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Staff Review: The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap


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STAFF REVIEW -- THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: THE MINISH CAP

 

For all its success, Nintendo has offered surprisingly little in the way of Zelda titles for the Game Boy Advance. While its big brother, the GameCube, has thus far enjoyed two major original releases in the series with a highly anticipated third due this year, the GBA has become the Zelda port machine. First, there was the release of A Link to the Past, a game which originally appeared on the SNES over a decade ago, and more recently, we got the original Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link as part of the Classic NES series. As great as those old games are, you would think that Nintendo would want to showcase its most popular franchise on its most successful product. After a long wait, Nintendo has stepped up with The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, an entirely new game made just for the Game Boy Advance.

 

Developed by Capcom, which also produced the excellent Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons duo for the Game Boy Color, this latest addition serves as a potent reminder of how good one of these games can be in 2D with the top-down perspective. The 16-bit caliber graphics call to mind A Link to the Past, but a direct comparison between those two titles would be a bad idea. As enjoyable as The Minish Cap is at times, its relatively short length and lack of difficulty keep it from standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the SNES masterpiece.

 

The story of The Minish Cap relies on many of the scenarios we?ve come to expect from this franchise after so many years. As always, you play a boy named Link, who must rescue Princess Zelda from some terrible fate. In this particular tale, an evil sorcerer named Vaati has turned her into stone and unleashed swarms of monsters all over Hyrule. The only way to save her and restore peace to the kingdom is to enlist the help of the legendary Picori, a race of tiny people who once saved Hyrule from a great evil many centuries ago. Since only children can see the Picori, the king send our young lad on a quest to find them. Shortly after setting out on the quest, Link discovers a strange, talking hat named Ezlo that can shrink our hero down to tiny proportions to access their world. This obviously becomes an important ability as it allows Link to enter new areas he wouldn?t be able to otherwise reach as well as solve many of the game?s key puzzles.

 

At its core, The Minish Cap offers up a gameplay experience virtually identical to all Zelda titles. As Link, you explore a vast over world littered with monsters and strategically placed environmental obstacles. Along the way, you?ll discover the entrances to several dungeons, in which you will solve puzzles, fight enemies, and most importantly, find new items. These items in turn allow you to overcome the various environmental barriers standing in your way, and often times assist you in fighting enemies. Upon defeating the boss of a dungeon, you are rewarded with one of four elements of the earth (earth, wind, water, and fire). These elements allow you to power up an ancient and mystical blade forged by the Picori. Find all four elements, and you can use the sword to break the curse placed on the dear princess. Of course, a few twists along the way complicate matters, as there is the little problem of Vaati wanting to take over the world, but that?s the gist of what?s happening.

 

Thankfully, The Minish Cap doesn?t spend all its time treading old ground. Alongside such favorites as the boomerang, bombs and bow and arrow, you?ll find several new items, each of which add something new and unique to your inventory. The Gust Jar, for instance, sucks up enemies and objects like a vacuum cleaner and can shoot them back as projectiles to damage other enemies. The Cane of Pacci allows you to flip items upside down and launch yourself out of holes in the ground. Little ideas like this help keep what should be a tired old formula interesting and enjoyable.

 

Another huge part of The Minish Cap involves searching for objects called kinstones. Kinstones, simply put, are broken half medallions you?ll find just about everywhere you go. They can be found in treasure chests, in pots, bushes, and even after defeating the occasional enemy. By themselves, kinstones do absolutely nothing. However, the swarms of NPCs you meet will have kinstones halves of their own, which they will want to fuse with yours. Find two pieces that fit together, and you?ll uncover a hidden treasure chest or open up a secret pathway somewhere on the map. It sounds like a boring side quest that exists for no other reason than to artificially lengthen the game, but I promise that it will become an obsession as you play. One of the reasons it works so well is that kinstones only come in a limited number of varieties, and you?ll often have several of the same shape and color at once in your inventory. Since many of the NPCs carry the more common pieces, creating a match is not a tedious affair of trying to remember which character had which piece and where he or she could be found. Additionally, the secrets unlocked are usually worth finding, and their locations are clearly marked on your map, making it fun and easy to leave behind your current mission and check out what you just unlocked.

 

Obviously the main gameplay idea unique to The Minish Cap is Link?s ability to shrink himself down to tiny proportions. The size change itself can only happen in certain locations, i.e. a portal such as a tree stump or a special pedestal. Once the change occurs Link appears as nothing more than a few pixels on the screen. To make it easier to keep track of him, an arrow with a picture of our hero points to his location. In miniature form, Link can go into places he normally wouldn?t be able to reach like mouse holes in walls or down small holes in the ground. The downside is that he won?t be able to fight enemies and obstacles that wouldn?t normally be a problem may block access into certain areas. For instance, a shallow puddle of water will become a deep lake you cannot cross (unless of you have the flippers of course). Most of the major puzzles you encounter involve finding these portals and taking advantage of the benefits each size has to offer to reach new areas or find certain items.

 

Unfortunately, the game never realizes the full potential of this idea. Yes, you will spend a lot of time in miniature form, but not nearly as much as you might expect. Furthermore, it would have been nice if the camera showed the world from Link?s perspective more often than displaying him as a tiny dot on the screen. When you enter certain areas in miniature form, the perspective does zoom in to show Link as he usually appears, only surrounded by giant versions of everyday objects such as leaves, books and coffee cups. From a purely visual standpoint, these areas tend to be more exotic than the world at large (no pun intended). While the graphics do a nice job of adapting the cel-shaded styling of The Wind Waker to the GBA, most of the environments feel like typical Zelda fare. You?ll find the usual green grasslands, brown deserts, misty forest area, and a busy, populated town. However, when you take those same environments and make them huge, they assume a kind of artistic design I haven?t seen before from this series. More than anything, it feels as like a missed opportunity to create some fantastic new environments you wouldn?t normally get to see with a normal sized person.

 

Since the release of Ocarina of Time, it seems as though getting a full eight dungeons out a Zelda title is about as easy as getting Nintendo to support online gaming. Unfortunately, The Minish Cap follows Majora?s Mask and The Wind Waker in this trend. This time out you get six major dungeons to explore, which isn?t bad but still comes up a bit short in the content department. In all honesty, I actually wouldn?t complain about any of this if the game weren?t so ridiculously easy at times.

 

For instance, seasoned Zelda veterans can finish the first two dungeons in less than half an hour apiece. The combat is also very forgiving since Link takes so little damage when he gets hit. The boss battles are good and varied, but it doesn?t take a genius to decipher their patterns and realize that the items you picked up in their dungeon will be instrumental in defeating them. Additionally, many of the puzzles involve the standard mechanics of pushing blocks, lighting torches, or bombing walls. We?ve seen much of it a hundred times before, and by now it?s common sense to shoot a statue in the eye with a bow and arrow when you see one. The puzzles that do stump you are certainly the most rewarding and will often make you feel like a complete moron for not seeing the perfectly obvious solution earlier. Still, the fact that it is easy most of the time, keeps the total playtime at a relatively short 10 hours or less. Those who wish to find all the game?s secrets will be able to extend that playtime considerably, but none of it is necessary if beating the final boss is your primary goal.

 

The Zelda series has always enjoyed the benefits of a quality soundtrack, and this game is no different. The music here sounds wonderful, and highlights many of the GBA?s finer audio qualities. The bulk of the soundtrack relies on musical cues and as you?d expect, many of the songs you?ve grown to love over the years return, including the ever popular over world theme. Some excellent new tunes join the mix, and you?ll find yourself humming them in no time. The theme in the Hyrule Castle Courtyard is especially memorable, as is the Hyrule Town Theme. There?s also the usual array of sound effects, many of them similar to the sounds in A Link to the Past. It?s a solid effort all around.

 

While playing The Minish Cap, I realized that this may very well be the last 2D Zelda ever made. With handheld gaming making the transition into three dimensions, titles like this may quickly pass into history. It?s sad to see, since this particular style of gameplay remains as enjoyable as ever. On its own, The Minish Cap proves to be a fine addition to the franchise, despite a few flaws. Anyone who is a Zelda fan will surely want it, as will anyone else in need of a good dose of classic 2D gameplay.

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Nice write-up Jeff. I just picked this up last night at CC and me and the girlfriend played for a couple of hours on the ol' Gameboy Player. So far we are both enjoying it a bunch. The game is quite easy, but I don't mind since I am guiding more than playing (the g/f really wanted this game). The graphics look fantastic, even on the big screen. The sound is also very good and I have really enjoyed the soundtrack so far. The new gust jar is pretty fun to use, especially when you use it to guide a leaf on the water. :tu

 

Looking forward to playing this some more and completing it.

 

-Dean-

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The thing I like most about the Zelda games is that they are not so hard that a lesser skilled gamer such as myself, finds it so frustrating and hard they give up, yet not so easy that experienced gamers find it no challenge at all.

 

I have enjoyed the time I have spent playing Minish Cap and do not regret trading in some old DVD's and games for it.

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Great review.

 

I've been playing this a bit and am really enjoying it so far. Sure it might be a bit easy and not very long, but that's actaully what I was looking for. If every game I played was hard and long (watch it!!) I'd never finish any of them. This is a game I will play somewhat casually over a period of time, so it should be perfect.

 

Haven't tried it on the TV with my GBP yet, but it does look good on my DS.

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Great review again Jeff I would like to give it a try the next time we get together............ But One question......

 

Where does this fit into the over all story-line???????? :bh

 

If I were to make a guess' date=' I'd say that it happens before [i']Four Swords Adventures[/i]. Although they never outright say so, this game does explain the origin of the Four Sword which split Link into four seperate entities.

 

Remember, you asked for it. :D

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If I were to make a guess' date=' I'd say that it happens before [i']Four Swords Adventures[/i]. Although they never outright say so, this game does explain the origin of the Four Sword which split Link into four seperate entities.

 

Remember, you asked for it. :D

 

 

 

oh wow :rolleyes:

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Sure it might be a bit easy and not very long, but that's actaully what I was looking for. If every game I played was hard and long (watch it!!) I'd never finish any of them.

 

You have to realize that I'm running on the notion that a Zelda game should be an epic affair. Short games are fine by me if they're done well, but this is one of those instances where I think the game should have been just a little longer. Perhaps the new GameCube Zelda will satisfy those needs later this year.

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You have to realize that I'm running on the notion that a Zelda game should be an epic affair. Short games are fine by me if they're done well, but this is one of those instances where I think the game should have been just a little longer.

 

True, but I've never really gone into a GBA game with the expectation of epic.

 

Perhaps the new GameCube Zelda will satisfy those needs later this year.

 

I certainly hope so. That's my most anticipated game for the summer, maybe even the whole year.

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Honestly I'm a little put off that there are are so few dungeons. I'm on my way to the fourth and I'm clearly nearing the end. Even Link's Awakening managed to provide eight very clever and fleshed out dungeons, why can't they do the same with a much more advanced system? Wind Waker held the same dissapointment for me. It was such a phenomenal game, why couldn't it have arrived with more to do other than sailing?

 

What the game lacks in quantity it certainly makes up for it in quality, I'll give it that. Still, I'd have liked a longer game.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I just finished this game last weekend and really enjoyed it. It was a great throw back to the 2D/overhead days of gaming for me. I played about 1/3 of the game on my DS and the rest on a Gamboy Player. It looked great on both. Highly recommended to any Zelda fan, and to anyone else that enjoys this genre of games. Also, the game was a bit longer than I expected, so I was pleasently surprised.

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