Jeremy Jastrzab
29 Jul, 2005

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap Review

GBA Review | It took Nintendo's biggest gun to bring us a decent handheld title.
It’s been a while since there’s been something worth playing on the GBA. With a seemingly endless flow of hosed-down console titles, worthless franchise and kiddy-centric games, unless you are 7 years old, chances are that you are wondering whether the GBA has any remaining use to you. Typically, Nintendo comes to the rescue with The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Well actually, this game is a joint effort between Nintendo and the Capcom subsidiary, Flagship. With the experience from titles like Oracle of Seasons,Oracle of Ages and the GBA port of A Link to the Past, we have ourselves another great, albeit quirky Zelda title.

The game starts in a typically Zelda fashion with the detailing of an ancient legend about a hero that saved Hyrule a long time ago. This time round, there’s a bit of a twist. The hero was helped by the Minish, a fabled race of minute beings that delivered to him the four sword. With this sword, the hero banished all evil from the land. However, during Hyrule’s annual festival, an evil sorcerer named Vaati infiltrates a jousting tournament, breaks the mythical four sword, places a curse on the Princess Zelda and leaves the kingdom in chaos.

Link has been designated with the task of taking the broken four sword to the Minish in order for it to be restored. This is because the Minish will only show themselves to the purest of children. So another journey begins. From the outset, the game’s story shares common traits with other Zelda titles (save the princess) and common themes with recent Zelda games (Wind, four Links at once) but has it’s own unique twists. While other things take precedent over the story and it doesn’t reach any great climatic heights, that’s not to say it’s bad. It somewhat typical but it has enough unique traits to set itself apart from the rest.

Link's on fire!

Link's on fire!
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap sports the same style of controversial style of visuals as did The Wind Waker and Four Swords multiplayer titles on GC and GBA. Put this together with the top-down style of old 2-D Zelda titles and you have one of the most visually pleasing GBA titles ever made. There is an amazingly colourful world to explore that is reminiscent of a comic or colouring book. The whole artistic style, along with some excellent effects and surprisingly vivid detail (for a GBA title) give the game a ton of personality and an uncanny effect of immersion. It’s one of the best visual experiences on a GBA and shows that raw power isn’t everything

The audio was very impressive as well. There are numerous soundtracks, including an excellent rendition of the Hyrule theme. Each one is quite strong and comes across from the GBA quite well. Then there are numerous rich sounds effects and various character-specific grunts. None of them are particularly realistic but that doesn’t matter. In fact, they’re very similar to those in The Wind Waker. They’re unique and vibrant and further add to the comic book or storybook nature of the game. Given the sound capabilities of the GBA compared to the GC, one would have to say that they sound better on the GBA.

The presentation of the game, while hardly mature, suits the theme and the Zelda series perfectly. To dismiss this game on its looks would be foolish. However, just as with any Zelda title, the core lies in the gameplay. And The Minish Cap doesn’t disappoint, despite being quirky and slightly different.

Firstly, something that puts this game in its own league is that very early on in the adventure, Link meets a talking cap named Ezlo. But not just any talking cap, this one barks orders, divulges in whining and provides a cryptic hint service. Most importantly, Ezlo gives you the ability the commune with the Minish. You see, the Minish are a very tiny race. So tiny, that they’re roughly the size of ants. So any time you came across a special pad, the cap allows you to shrink to the exact same size as the Minish and grow back to normal size.

Entering the world of the Minish

Entering the world of the Minish
A huge chunk of the game revolves around your ability to get around these shrinking pads and solve their corresponding puzzles. Not only in dungeons, but throughout the towns and the overworld. Main quests, side-quests and secret quests will all require you to do some shrinking. While these puzzles are not exactly innovative, they keep the game going and they keep your mind ticking. Since they’re quite well constructed and conceived, I doubt too many will mind.

The overworld is filled with a typically myriad of activities. Ezlo isn’t the only interesting character that you’ll come across. There are enough interesting people, creatures and animals to fill a Big Brother household. Many of them hold useful items, information and even a few small quests that will keep you going for quite a while. Though these quests generally consist of fetching this and that. However, in another major twist, The Minish Cap introduces Kinstones.

Scattered throughout the land, there are numerous different kinds of stones that can be collected. However, these stones happen to only be one half of a whole stone. Any time you come across someone (or something) with a tough bubble above their head, press the L button to execute a Kinstone fusion. Successfully match two halves and something special is likely to happen. Generally, a treasure chest will appear in a random area or a previously inaccessible area will open up. These will then be recorded on your map, ready for you to explore at you leisure. Again, the main quests involve will involve Kinstone fusion, but not as much as will in general play.

What’s a Zelda game without dungeons? Here there are five dungeons (six if you include the “final” area). While they manage to retain the same brain churning puzzles, obvious need for survival and boss fights they end up being a bit easy and can be wiped through relatively quickly. While getting around the dungeons and their puzzles still require a fair bit of thinking and will still lose you at the most obvious points, they pale in comparison to the mind-benders from A Link to the Past. However, they do pretty well if you consider that portability was taken into account.

Predictably, each dungeon will grant you a new item that you can use to make your way through the dungeon and to beat the boss. You then use it outside to get into all the little nooks and crannies that couldn’t get into before. The Minish Cap boasts probably the craziest line-up of weapons ever seen in a Zelda title. Sure, you’ve got your boomerang, bombs and bow but now a few items that can only be found in this version. The Pegasus boots make a return but the rest are best kept a surprise. Just know that they take the game to places that it hasn’t been before and does it in a great manner.

Side Quest: Hunting for Magic Shrooms

Side Quest: Hunting for Magic Shrooms
The control is slightly different in this title. With the L button dedicated to Kinstone activity, the R button is left for context sensitive action such as “lift” and “throw”. This leaves the A and B button to be switched between all of your different items. This includes your sword and shield. However, it’s interesting to find that most of the items are quite useful in combat as it is.

On that note, combat has been given somewhat of an upgrade. Through out the game you meet a few swordsmasters that can teach you new techniques. Despite the GBA’s limitations, the developers have actually managed to add a little bit of depth to the combat. Not much, but enough to at least it keeps it interesting and some of the moves come in handy in tight spots.

You're gonna need 'em here

You're gonna need 'em here
Overall, there aren’t many bad things that can be said about the game. Despite a few instances of cryptic or inaccurate clues and lack of direction, the only real downfall (apart from the presence of Tingle) is the games relative ease. Dungeons can be wiped through relatively easily and the whole world isn’t that big. However, not all enemies will go down easily, especially some of the bosses and sub-bosses. They require good strategy and a cool head. It helps them that the game has a general lack of heart refills, though surviving on low health is much more manageable than in a title like A Link to the Past. As a trade off, there’re plenty of Rupees to be found in the game.

If you take into consideration that the design has obviously taken portability into account, some of the downfalls can be easily forgiven. Sure, you couldn’t play this game on the 10 minute bus trip downtown, but it’s perfect for long car trips, flights or even on top of a mountain. Even though it works as an excellent portable title, there are a lot of console titles out there that could take note at how this game plays. The game isn’t that short either, especially if you play with NO assistance from a guide at all. There’s plenty to see and do, all you need is to take the time to have a look.

To conclude, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is an excellent portable title that rekindles the reason to play the GBA. A mix of an excellent, tuned presentation, and astonishingly deep yet accessible and highly engaging gameplay shows a side of gaming that has seemingly been shrouded under big budget, loud presentation titles that are prevalent these days. As a Zelda title, it may not live up to the grand nature of other games in the series but given its quirky and unique nature, it finds a place to stand on its own. Any Zelda fans or older GBA/DS owners should not miss this title. It's a shame that after this game, we may no longer see many of these kinds of titles being made.
The Score
'The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap' is a brilliant handheld game that reaks of Zelda and of ingenuity. It's one that should not be missed by anyone who owns a GBA/DS. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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8 years ago
love it so much i want to whole collection
8 years ago
Good review. But I'm not too sure about the whole 'GBA doesn't have any decent titles' part of it...
8 years ago
I am, and my not buying a GBA game for a year or more kinda reflects that...

I think I got to the final boss of this and stopped, for some reason. icon_kero.gif Must go hunt it down...
8 years ago
You guys seen the Zelda Gold Game Boy SP?It looks sick I think is worth keeping it mint...
Anyone know how much it is?
8 years ago
Yeah the gba has a very strong library.All crap like yugioh and stuff aside it has had numerous strong titles, most not even first party.Of course the amount of decent titles are sure to wane nopw that the ds has launched, there are still so many gems.I have over 60 gba games and everyone is a classic, no crap in my collection.
8 years ago
I've been wanting this game for so long but just can't see any reason to pay $70 for a handheld title! It sounds great and everything, but until that price drops, it'll have to stay on my wanting list.

The game has to be something I REALLY want for me to pay that much, like WW:Twisted.
8 years ago
Anyone has WW:Twisted anyways?

I want to get it but is the mini gmes still as easy to play as it is wicked?
8 years ago
Yeah, I've got it. It pretty tough at first but you get used to it. I've had it for months and I still play it regularly. I haven't touched 'WW:Touched' in a while.

Twisted is worth getting for the souvenirs alone! Mewtroid.... icon_wink.gif

Just don't play it in public. People might think you're having an attack of some kind and call an ambulance.
8 years ago
Mark wrote
Good review. But I'm not too sure about the whole 'GBA doesn't have any decent titles' part of it...
I didn't mean for it to come across like that, it was more of statement of the times. but honestly,
1. how much of the classic GBA library is available NOW?
2. how many worthwhile GBA games are actually on the way?
8 years ago
True dat^^^^^^^

You DO have to search quite hard for the older, good gba games
8 years ago
you underestimated the frustration of these damn kinstones! Sure, they unlock a heap of cool stuff, but finding them all in the end is damn annoying. I still have 2 left to find!!!
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