The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

The new Zelda title is a big adventure in a tiny way.


The Lowdown

Pros: Fun to play from beginning to end with the high production you would expect in a Legend of Zelda title.

Cons: Some people won't like the "cute" style or the short length.

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The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is the fourth game from Nintendo and Capcom's collaboration. Originally, this game was set to debut shortly after the Oracle of Seasons and Ages games that were released way back in the Game Boy Color days. After all these years in limbo development was it worth the wait? Defiantly.

The Minish Cap is a completely original Zelda adventure, it takes a departure in gameplay and style from the older Oracle games. First of all you'll notice that the art style of the game is a mix between Four Swords Adventures and The Wind Waker. Like it or not, the game has a "living cartoon" feel to it. Link looks young, almost like he just stepped out of the Wind Waker and onto your GBA. He's animated with boyish expressions, instead of looking like a hardened warrior. The enemies that Link battles also reflect this style. You'll be battling smiling blobs, towers of raccoons stacked on one another and a pirate cat. Gamers who didn't like the art direction of the Wind Waker won't easily embrace The Minish Cap, but they should give it a chance. Beyond the innocent look of the game lies a large adventure.

The Minish Cap takes no time getting players into the action. At the start of the game Princess Zelda is turned to stone and all of the evils of the world are released from a sealed treasure chest. Of course it's up to the boy dressed in the green tunic to repair a legendary sword and seal the evils back up again. Once you move out into your adventure you'll stumble up on a bag that two octrots are spitting rocks at. After you take care of the octrots the bag starts following you and jumps on your cap less head. The cap is none other than the Minish cap, a cap that allows Link to shrink down into size. Link will need this new ability to walk to new areas and to enter dungeons.

Becoming tiny is one of the coolest parts in the game. When you're small all of the sudden your a speck of dust on the main map. When you're the size of the flea all of the sudden the scale of the world changes. Leaves become giant, small puddles become oceans and even the tiniest enemies become a great threat. One of the early bosses you'll meet is a giant slime monster. In fact, this slime monster is one of the easy simple monster that you've battled a couple of times when you were a full sized hero. Although, when you're small this walk in the park monster becomes a true challenge. The scope of changing large and small makes the world of The Minish Cap even larger.

Beyond growing and shrinking you'll find a lot of traditional Zelda elements in the game. The hero starts out small and rather weak, slowly growing into a powerhouse. There are plenty of heart containers to find and there are dungeons to conquer. The dungeons in The Minish Cap aren't as long as they are in say the Oracle of Seasons. You'll still find lots of puzzles to solve like pushing the blocks out of the way, moving the statue onto the correct switch and lighting all of the switches to open a door. There's combat to be done, but the stages aren't flooded with enemies. In fact you won't be fighting as much as you would comparatively to other Zelda games. You'll be spending more time exploring the dungeon layout, progressing through it to get the treasure hidden inside. You'll see a lot of  familiar items like Bombs, the Bow, the Ocarina and the Magic Boomerang. Link also has a few new items like the Wind Vase. The Wind Vase serves a purpose to blast balls of air at enemies and suck up distance objects. On top of that it can also be used to propel Link riding a floating Lilly pad. Link will also have access to a set of claws that lets him dig for treasure.

The true upgrades for Link are contained in skill scrolls that can teach Link a new fighting skill. At the start of the game Link won't even be able to perform the simple spin attack. By the end of the game he'll be able to shoot beams from his sword, do a charging attack and a split into fighting clones. Obtaining these skill scrolls are vital to building Link up into a lean moblin killing machine. Outside of the fighting Link has another job to do. Scattered around the world are kinstones. Each of the kinstones are split in half, with one half being held by say an elfish townsfolk and another hidden in the world. When you fuse two kinstones together you can unlock treasure and pick up new items. Sometimes you'll be forced to track down a particular kinstone piece to continue the game. Finding the kinstones can be sort of a pain because they are essential fetch quests. On the other hand they provide more of a challenge and give gamers something else to collect.

Speaking of the game's length it's short. You'll go through six dungeons, which can be played through pretty quickly. Fortunately, the overworld has enough areas for you to run around there are enough hidden items to keep gamers busy well beyond completing the game. The Minish Cap isn't as epic as say A Link to the Past, but it is on par with other handheld Zelda titles. Even though the game excels in high production values with a lot of care being put into the graphics and gameplay the aural aspect is lacking. Flagship chose to reuse the "voices", rather the grunts, from Four Swords Adventure. The music also reuses the same old Zelda songs in MIDI quality sound. The few new tracks that are present are mostly atmospheric and aren't really inspired.

As a GBA title there is a lot to love about The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. It draws on the already successful Zelda gameplay mechanics and tweaks them to give gamers something new. Link has a whole new set of moves, which makes combat in this game really varied from other Zelda titles. There are also plenty of puzzles to solve, some of which can be solved by "gamer instinct", but some will make you think for a minute or two. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is everything that you would expect and want in a Zelda title.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 5

The inclusion of the kinstones and language heavy hints from the Minish Cap makes this really tough to play through if you don't know Japanese. You can still complete it, but you'll need the aid of a full FAQ.

US Bound?

Coming to the US on January 10, 2005. If you can't wait until then you can pick up the European version on the 12th of November.

Overall

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is a great action adventure game. It really sucks you into the game's world early on and it has plenty of challenges for gamers to take on.