The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap - Review  

Featuring Pint-Sized Packaging
by Anna Marie Whitehead

Medium to Medium-Hard
12-20 Hours


Rating definitions 

   Simply saying "Zelda" around most video game enthusiasts will get a nod of recognition; saying the same thing around an RPGamer will generally get a smile and a story about which one they liked the best and why, or perhaps a bit of gloating as to which one they played first. Though the Zelda series hasn't always had the biggest following on handheld systems, when Link to the Past was ported to the GBA, it was a sign of things to come. Now we see another generation of Zelda on the GBA, with The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Allowing players to experience the prequel to the Four Swords add-on with the aforementioned LttP port, as well as The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure for the GameCube, it ties together neatly with other Zelda games, giving some fluidity to the series. Though the additional ways to explore along with new tools are a positive addition to the game, and new collection quests will add to the overall playtime, it is bogged down by reused music, stale hack-and-slash battle mechanics, and a super-light story. Ultimately it seems to lack the spirit of what makes a great Zelda game.

   The battle system seems simple at first, but as the game progresses and more tools are picked up, the strategies involved in fighting enemies and solving puzzles become more strategic. Link begins with the basic tools of his sword and shield, and builds an inventory filled with both standard Zelda tools (such as the Pegasus Boots, which allow Link to dash into objects and across swamps) together with new items including the Cane of Pacci (which allows for items to be flipped over to create portals to the Minish-sized world, as well as flip enemies which would otherwise be difficult or impossible to defeat). Any of these, including the sword and shield, can be assigned to either A or B through the items menu. This menu also includes a map of the current dungeon or overworld, as well as a status screen with important collection information, including how close Link is to anothher full heart container. Like previous Zelda titles, these hearts are found in quarters, so 4 creates another container. It also displays the number of Tiger Scrolls acquired - these gives Link new moves to use with his sword, most of which are useless to use but fun to show off.

   To give further depth to the world, there are two ways Link will view its sights: the first being as his usual, regular size, The second being, as mentioned before, miniature. The Picori, or Minish, are tiny individuals which, according to legend, appear only in front of children. This is Link's initial reason to be involved, though the tie deepens as the game progresses. Through different portals, Link's cap (named Ezlo) will shrink him down to the smaller size necessary to communicate with the Picori. Many dangers lurk for a pint-sized Link. Several tools will no longer work, and creatures that were once benign, such as snails and flies, become dangerous foes to overcome with a sharp blade.
Tool A New Variation
However, no matter what size Link is, there is still the possibility of Kinstone fusions. Kinstones are collected from chests, by defeating enemies, randomly found by chopping down the usual fare of grass/bushes/etc, or purchased, once a certain event has passed. There are three different colors and three types of each color, making matching up the 100 Kinstones in the game sometimes frustrating and sometimes a breeze. Each of these stone fusions will have various results; some create chests with rupees or an item, some further events, some create or open new areas to explore, and others lead to unlocking more Kinstones. All in all, the average RPGamer will spend a lot of time running around the world to accomplish the ultimate goal of, as it often is, saving Zelda and the Hyrulian Kingdom.

   Graphically there's little to say on the good or the bad side - the work is neither great, nor are they terrible. The detail put into the pint-sized look of the world was a treat to see done well, but that was to be expected. While the graphics are nice, and because of the style of gameplay (shrinking down to miniature size) they vary from location to location and from previous Zelda titles, the music is the same old reused, rehashed tunes. Many sound files seem to be directly ripped from previous games with little change, and they simply get tiring after having listened to them for so many hours in previous titles. Even the new tunes added have little variation to them and become somewhat annoying to listen to. It is a place where more originality could have been used without spoiling the overall feeling of the game. Though this isn't a problem with newcomers, veterans to the series will definitely be able to pick out the rare new tune.

   The difficulty of the game is a little harder than expected for most of the game, with some puzzles taking many tries to correctly pass, and yet half the bosses seem to be on the laughably easy side. What will make the game challenging to veterans and newcomers alike will be getting used to how all the different tools work. How long the game will last will depend upon the person playing. Without getting any of the optional items (6 in total), the game would be harder but possibly doable in about 10 hours. For those who want to put a little or a lot of exploration into Kinstones, the time can creep upwards to about 20 hours before all 100 are completed and the many secrets uncovered.

   There's little bad to say about the menu system and how each button is laid out to work. Both simple and efficient, everything Link will need is only a couple of button selections away. The localization was also done in the same clean, concise manner, with little frivolity or fuss. While there's no mistakes, there's also little flair, and little personality. Both the menu and the localization have one major point in common: they do their job, but neither really do much more.

Toooooolllll New Sucking Action

   It is sometimes difficult to judge the originality of any game that comes from a series, especially one with as many games as the Legend of Zelda. Even so, there are certainly new aspects and locations to experience, as well as the expected standard Zelda-style fare. The story, as short as the game is, does a good job of laying out, over time, what's going on and does manage to hold together the game. If the game were longer, much more could have been added to both the originality and storyline aspects. Much of what can be seen and experienced has been seen in some variation in earlier chapters of the series - such as many repeating characters, including the infamous Tingle.

   The Minish Cap is not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination; however, it lacks many things that would propel it into being an excellent or even a very good game. It provides a nice distraction from longer and more serious games that would normally be played on a console, but don't expect much replayability from the game; once the secrets are uncovered, there's not much trick to doing it again, even in a different order. With a sleep mode as well as 2 different mid-crawl warp points in every dungeon, it's definitely capable of being played in short stints. For the diehard Zelda fan, this game is for you, as it brings answers to the questions left by the previous Four Sword titles. For those looking to get into the series for the first time, this may be a title best skipped over.

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