Does the Minish Cap fit into the Zelda series?
Epic, legendary, and unforgettable are words to describe every Zelda game (not including those crappy CD-I titles), but each installment always manages to change one key gameplay element to distinguish itself from the rest. For example: Majora’s Mask had players racing against time with the ever-present threat of a falling moon. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link‘s gameplay took place from a side scrolling view as opposed to an overhead one. A Link to the Past created the idea of traveling between two parallel worlds: light and dark. Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages played with the idea of bringing two quests together by linking the two game paks. Four Sword Adventures gave multiple players a chance to participate in a Zelda quest cooperatively while the Wind Waker had players boating over vast oceans in a hope of restoring a flooded world. The GBA’s first original Zelda game, The Minish Cap, gives players a sense of what the world would be like if you were smaller than an ant. Shifting between normal and small Link creates some interesting puzzles and unforgettable gameplay.
Vaati, the bad guy in the Four Swords games, has solidified Princess Zelda in a case of stone and reigns chaos on Hyrule. Link, with the help of his new friend Ezlo, must stop Vaati and restore Zelda to her normal self. Similar to the role Navi played in Ocarina of Time, Ezlo (a green bird hat) guides Link through his quest by providing hints and story driven dialog. However, the Picori, also as known as the Minish people, live amongst the citizens of Hyrule but can only been seen by children pure of heart which, of course, makes Link the perfect person for the job.
The Minish Cap does not stray far from previous Zelda games. Players are sent on a massive quest of collecting items, navigating trap filled dungeons, and defeating larger than life bosses. The main focus of the game is shrinking down to the size of only a few onscreen pixels. This allows Link to fit into tiny spaces and communicate with the Minish people. Players of the Four Sword Adventure released with the port of SNES’s A Link to the Past will discover the similarities between that game’s Gnat Hat and the Minish Cap. Common environmental features and basic enemies can become terrifyingly massive when seen through the eyes of a pinhead-sized person. The smallest puddle can become a vast ocean. A single step in a staircase transforms into an unclimbable mountain. But being small has it advantages by allowing Link to travel into the smallest of holes. The puzzle concept of transforming between the two sizes makes The Minish’s Cap‘s puzzles some of the best in the Zelda series.
Occasionally, the camera will zoom in when Link enters a passage or cave when in shrunken down form. This is where players truly get the sense of just how big the world is around them. The artwork is extremely well done as it actually portrays the larger world it represents. The Minish Cap even starts to break away from the tile based graphics by incorporating more organic and moving environments like flowers teetering in the wind and books about to fall off a shelf. Only when players see these “zoomed in” areas can they be truly appreciated. Boss battles will even have players shrinking down to Minish size as Link will literally crawl inside and defeat enemies from the inside out.
The play control is also very responsive and accurate on the GBA. The “A” and “B” buttons can be assigned to whichever item or weapon the player chooses. “R” is used to roll and perform other context sensitive material. However, the “L” button has a unique feature all its own as it fuses Kinstones with non-playable characters (NPCs) in the game. Kinstones are pendants, broken in half, and will be found everywhere throughout the game. Once fused together, random things will happen somewhere in Hyrule as a new passageway opens up or a powerful new enemy appears. If you talk to a NPC with the “L” button as opposed the standard “A” button, characters might want to fuse kinstones with you. There are about 100 kinstones to fuse, unlocking something new in Hyrule. While this kinstone collecting is a side quest and unnecessary to finish the game, finding every person to fuse with will become massively addicting because you never know what will be unlocked.
The items and gadgets in The Minish Cap are some of the best in any Zelda game. The Gust Jar, spits and sucks up air similar to a vacuum. The Mole Mitts allow Link to dig through tunnels and look for goodies hidden in the ground. The Cane of Pacci can flip things over and launch Link up hard to reach places. These may sound like simple items, but each item is used in numerous ways. For example, besides sucking up and spitting out air, the Gust Jar sucks up dust or other common items to reveal hidden passageways. Or it acts as the sail on your boat when you must ride on a lily pad. You can also suck up and grab some enemies and launch them at others. Each item is so versatile, the player will want to get the next puzzle just so see how an item can be used differently.
Borrowing from the Four Swords, Link will eventually gain the ability to split into two, three, and four copies of himself. This opens up the idea of more creative puzzle solving and self-inflicting teamwork. Boss battles will also have Link splitting into multiple copies of himself. The Minish Cap borrows game play ideas from every Zelda game before it, and takes it to a new level, keeping these old ideas fresh and fun.
The graphical style blends LttP‘s 2D sprites with the fluid animation of the Wind Waker. Link acts and moves just like a small child. Watch as he wakes up Ezlo after a nap and hops out of bed. Watch his hair bounce as he runs and dashes. All these small instants enhance the already detail filled world of Hyrule. Plus, The Minish Cap’s engine is not a rehash of the Link to the Past remake. This engine supports more color depth and can have tons of enemies on screen at any given time. This would have slowed the engine in previous Zelda games.
As previously stated, the close-up portions of the game are nothing short of beautiful. Further, the game makes fantastic uses of in game light, shadow, and transparency effects. The player will actually feel like they are walking through a pitch-black cave when the Fire Lantern is equipped. The flickering lights also help generate this feeling. The game will even blur the background at times to create a sense of depth and speed. The GBA may seem like a limiting system compared to the next gen consoles, but the Minish Cap can definitely hold its own thanks to creative design and programming.
The musical score has been remixed from classic tunes from LttP and Ocarina of Time. It can easily be seen that this game was created specifically for the GBA or GBA SP system because everything sounds clear coming from the single Mono speaker. The Link to the Past port on GBA added the voice work Link made from Ocarina of Time. While credit is given to the designers for trying to give Link more life but adding these screams and yelps, it did not truly fit the mood the game. However, all of Link’s cries and moans fit like a glove and work well in the Minish Cap world.
The Minish Cap is an amazing addicting game, but there are a few negatives. First, the quest seems a little bit shorter than previous Zelda games. However, finding all the kinstone fusions and heart containers does generate replay value. Next, the dungeons, while fun and entertaining, did not seem as difficult as say, LttP or Ocarina of Time. This might be due to the fact and Link does not obtain as may items in this game as other Zeldas, but each item is used a number of different way to extend their life. Boss Battles also fit in the same boat. They are entertaining, but finding each one’s weak point is not difficult as other game’s boss battles.
Zelda fans are going to eat The Minish Cap up. The addicting game play element like fusing kinstones and using each item in new ways will keep the game glued into GBAs. The graphics, especially when zoomed in, are breath taking and the new remixed classic Zelda tunes fit the game perfectly. Unfortunately, the quest seems to end a little short. Since the player will be enjoying the quest so much, gamers will not want it to end. This might be the reason why it seems short. Either way, the Minish Cap needs to belong to every GBA owner as it will recreate an unforgettable gaming experience just like all the Zeldas before it.