Rewind Review - The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

The Legend of Zelda: the Minish Cap provides an interesting new take on the 2D Zelda franchise, and provides an interesting new take on the Kingdom of Hyrule

Week 11 of the Legend of Zelda Rewind Review series is here, and our adventures with the Four Sword are not over yet! Today, Link will once again draw the Four Sword in his adventure across Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: the Minish Cap on the Gameboy Advance.

As with all Rewind Reviews, The Legend of Zelda: the Minish Cap will undergo a review process through the eyes of a modern critic. No nostalgia glasses, no excuses, no rationalizing hardware limitations, and no sparing myself from angry fans and readers. Nothing will excuse this game from anything that we - as modern gamers - would expect to see in the genre today.

Now let's forge the Four Sword so we can defeat Vaati in The Legend of Zelda: the Minish Cap!

The Plot

The Minish Cap acts as the prequel to all Four Sword games as it tells the backstory of Vaati, and shows us the forging of the Four Sword. Once again, a sleepy Link wakes up after Princess Zelda - his childhood friend - comes to invite him to the Picori Festival. The festival takes a nasty turn, however, when Vaati destroys the Picori Blade and turns Zelda into stone.

Silly Link... wood shields can't dissolve dark magic!

The King of Hyrule sends Link out to find the Picori to repair the Picori Blade, and rescue the petrified Princess Zelda, solely because Link can see the Picori (thanks to him being a child). It is not long after Link heads into the forest to find the Picori that he meets a strange talking green cap by the name of Ezlo. With his aid, Link can become the size of the Minish, and it is with this ability that Link sets out on his journey to vanquish Vaati.

Along Link's journey to reforge the Four Sword out of the damaged Picori Blade, he will visit various areas ranging from the busy Hyrule Town, to the peaceful Minish Woods, and perilous Mount Crenel.

And when I say Mount Crenel, I mean you are going to revisit this place a whole lot of times. Have fun!

The Minish Cap has a simple Legend of Zelda story, and nothing too impressive. Nothing in this game really stands out, but at this point I have come to expect nothing more from the 2D Legend of Zelda titles that seem to focus more on the puzzles and gameplay than telling deep, elaborate stories.

The Gameplay

The Good:

The Minish Cap has some very interesting level design when compared to previous 2D Legend of Zelda titles. The reason for this is that many of the dungeons use simple physics mechanics that have not been seen in the series up to this point outside of the 3D titles.

I'm not going to try to understand the physics behind this, but it makes for a really fun ride!

One such example is the Gust Jar which allows Link to fire bursts of air in whichever direction he is facing. While this is initially used to clear dust, suck up ChuChus, and other basic Legend of Zelda puzzles, it soon finds itself functioning similarly to the Deku Leaf's ground functions in The Wind Waker. While Link is in his Minish form, he is capable of propelling himself along rivers while on leaf-rafts depending on which direction he is facing. It is a nice little touch that shows how far the 2D titles have come in a development sense and makes for some interesting puzzles later on in the game.

Speaking of the Deku Leaf, Link can also use Ezlo to leap into tornadoes and glide around. This function is soon replaced by the Roc's Cape, which is found later on in the game, but until then this mechanic finds its fair share of use.

Everything else about the game feels relatively fresh, taking on a coat of paint similar to that of The Wind Waker, but also adding in some delightful A Link to the Past references that make the game feel unique.

The Bad:

That said, Minish cap is fairly flawed in its execution. The main reason is that the game doesn't feel different. While the additions I mentioned have some interesting uses in dungeons, they ultimately feel a bit bland. Perhaps it is the restrictions of the 2D design, but the game ultimately feels like "just another" Legend of Zelda title. There is nothing that separates it from the herd.

A new coat of paint isn't enough to make The Minish Cap feel like a brand new top-down Legend of Zelda title...

I feel that this might be due to the fact that the 2D engine doesn't provide much wiggle room in terms of gameplay mechanics. That, or Nintendo was afraid to do something new. While I have some fond memories of playing this game as a child, I cannot for the life of me remember anything about it. Even after finishing my replay of The Minish Cap just hours before starting this review I can't think of anything unique about the game.

The transformation mechanic is whimsical, I'll give it that, but it doesn't provide anything extra to the game. At most it simply feels like another "floor" for Link to visit each dungeon. Being really tiny is a pain in the neck when traversing areas that you normally visit while regular sized. While it is neat to see how tiny Link gets, you wind up spending a good 30 seconds to walk across a room you would normally get across in 4 and that is not worth the 'neat' factor.

This is nice and all, but is it necessary? At least let me move faster!

The Ugly:

Remember how I said the game doesn't really add much in terms of puzzles? Well, the bosses aren't so great, either. In fact, many of the bosses are ridiculously under-powered and uninspired. The Giant ChuChu is nothing more than a regular enemy that you need to push over, the Gleerok can be defeated in seconds if you get in the right angle, and Mazaal is nothing more than an over-glorified carbon copy of previous Legend of Zelda bosses: Bongo Bongo and Gohdan. The other bosses in the game are not much better.

Oh, hello Godhan... er, I mean, Bongo Bongo! Mazaal, that's it!

Honestly, this is perhaps the only game I have completed in the series up to this point where I nearly evaded taking damage even once. Enemy design in this game is so poorly executed that you are more likely to take damage from the environment than from actual opponents.

The worst part of all, however, is the Kinstones. While it is a neat feature at first, fusing Kinstones in an attempt to 100% complete the game is a pain that I will never seek to endure again. Various upgrades - including heart pieces, opening passageways, and even acquiring the unnecessary Mirror Shield. It does not feel nearly as satisfying as completing a puzzle or finding a secret passageway since Kinstones are randomly acquired throughout the game. However, since their shapes are randomized, it can lead to some issues when searching for one heart piece or upgrade in particular.

While the process of Kinstone Fusion is innocent enough, the darker secret is that this mechanism completely replaces side-quests and exploration that would serve this function in other games...

The Presentation

Despite its failings in the department of gameplay difficulty and inspiration, The Minish Cap is actually quite pleasing to the eyes. The sprite artwork in this game is perhaps some of the best in the series (aside from the Gamecube Four Swords Adventures, which is technically cheating). Using the 'Toon Link' style of artwork has helped flush out the world in which the Four Sword exists, and its cartoonish nature helps make the game's few unique features feel right at home.

The music, on the other hand, has not survived the Gameboy Advance. While many of the tunes sound amazingly composed, they lack the luster of 3D titles due to the Gameboy Advance's lack of a dedicated soundboard. This is only made worse by the return of Link's overzealous and low-quality "Hyah!" each time he swings his sword. Overall the sound design is terrible, and as such the music suffers.

Want to know what I mean? First, listen to the game's soundtrack. Then imagine it with the same Link voice that we heard in A Link to the Past's GBA port. The mix is not so pleasant.

The Verdict

Before I come to my decision, I should make clear that The Minish Cap is not a bad game. However, it is not particularly memorable. It's barely good. In fact, more than anything it's alright. But that's just the problem. A game that is just alright is not a good game and The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap left me wanting. I felt as though something was being held out on me, and I fear that this might have been because the game tried a new concept, but didn't go far enough with it to impress.

Like I said, the game isn't bad. It's just not good. While the Legend of Zelda completionist might consider picking up this title for the sake of beating every single Legend of Zelda game, I would suggest that a casual player should put some serious thought into making a purchase.

For being nothing more than "just another Zelda", The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap gets a just alright 6/10 from your friend RR-sama.

Week 11 of the Legend of Zelda Rewind Review is now over! Be sure to check back on this article or the GameSkinny front page next week for future reviews, as well as swords and sorcery action as we make our way from the original 1986 release of The Legend of Zelda on the NES to the 2013 release of A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS!


Reviews in this Series:

Our Rating
The Legend of Zelda: the Minish Cap provides an interesting new take on the 2D Zelda franchise, and provides an interesting new take on the Kingdom of Hyrule
Published Oct. 19th 2015
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