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SummaryThe Minish Cap: One of my favorite titles that still stands as a great game
The GoodThe story is similar to other Zelda games, the sprite work is gorgeous, and the music is catchy enough to make you hum along.
The BadAs a completionist, the Kinstone fusions cannot be 100% completed if you wait until the end of the game.
The Bottom LineThe Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is one of my favorite games of all time. It’s one of those games that I can enjoy playing again and again. Funnily enough, when it first came out, even though I enjoyed games in the Zelda series, I had no idea that the game had come out or what it was until my parents randomly bought copies of it for my brother and I one fateful day. It may be the case for some that this game can’t be played more than once due to lack of interest or simply the fact that one playthrough is enough, but I still enjoy playing through this game even after playing though about five or six times. I hope to explore what makes The Minish Cap such a quality game.
The story of The Minish Cap is not unlike any other Zelda title. Something bad is happening in Hyrule that involves Princess Zelda, and it’s up to Link to set things right. In this particular game, you begin as the apprentice of a blacksmith named Smith. You wake up one morning to find Princess Zelda, who in this game is Link’s childhood friend, asking Smith if you can accompany her to the Picori Festival in Hyrule town. The Picori Festival is to celebrate the legend of the Picori (Picori being the official name in the lore for the Minish) and is held every year as thanks to the Picori for helping the Hero of Men seal away the evil that once ruled in Hyrule. Smith sends Link off to the festival with Zelda to deliver a sword to be presented to the winner of a sword fighting competition. The winner of this competition is a strange man named Vaati. As another reward for winning the competition, Vaati is presented with the Picori Blade, the sword that the Picori gave to the Hero of Men. The sword is mounted on top of a box as a seal to keep the evil contained within. Vaati, in searching for the ultimate power known as the Light Force, breaks the sword to open the sealed box. Much to Vaati’s surprise, the Light Force is not in the box, but lives inside Princess Zelda. Not knowing this yet, Vaati turns Zelda to stone and flees in search of the Light Force. The only way to cure Zelda of her petrification is to use the power of the Picori Blade, which is now broken. Since the only ones who can repair the Picori Blade are the Picori themselves, Link must set off on a quest to find them and have them repair the blade. Link is chosen for this quest because the Picori only reveal themselves to children. The sword that Link was to deliver is given to him to use on his quest. Link is sent to the Minish Woods to look for the Picori. In searching through the woods, Link finds a mysterious talking hat named Ezlo, who is later revealed to be a Minish sage and the mentor of Vaati. As a hat, Ezlo joins Link on his journey atop Link’s head and offers advice throughout the journey. In joining Link, Ezlo gives him the familiar appearance of the Hero of Time seen in earlier games. In addition to repairing the blade, Link must restore the blade’s former power by collecting the four Elements of the world, which can be found in the four main dungeons of the world. After all of the Elements are found and used with the blade, the Picori Blade becomes the Four Sword, which allows Link to cure people of petrification and split into four copies to solve puzzles.
The story is the main thing that drives the game experience forward because without a story, Hyrule becomes just a huge area to roam around in. There are other things the player can do, but they are just simple mini-games that don’t do anything important for the story. Because of this, a cohesive story must be present to keep the player going throughout the entire game. Thankfully, Zelda titles are generally pretty good at doing this. As the story progresses, the player is led through separate areas that are vastly different from each other. This was one aspect of the game that stood out to me, especially the first time I played through the game. Since each area had a unique look to it, I was always excited to find out where I was going next. Tying this in with the look of the game, The Minish Cap is very colorful and pleasing to look at, making the appeal of each new area that much more interesting. The music in each area follows this trend as well and each track adds to the feel of the area associated with it.
Since The Minish Cap is a fairly late entry in the Zelda series, it might be expected that players are familiar with the rules of a Zelda game. However, this game also shows new players how to play it. In the beginning of the game, you actually don’t have a sword because it is not needed at that point. There is only one monster, and there is another way to fight it that the game shows you. Princess Zelda wins a shield from one of the festival activities and gives it to Link. After spending sometime at the festival, Princess Zelda takes Link to Hyrule Castle to deliver the prize sword to be presented after the sword fighting competition. On the way to the castle, Zelda and Link encounter a roadblock caused by a Business Scrub, which is a plant creature that spits nuts out of its mouth as an attack. Zelda is struck by a nut and asks Link to use his shield to deflect it back at the Business Scrub. The player then presses A or B to hold up the shield, which is indicated by the A and B buttons on the interface, and causes the Business Scrub to go away when hit with his own attack. This shows that some enemies can be killed by simply using the shield. Other acquired items are not explained in such depth, but are instead described as soon as you get them. An example of this is when you get Smith’s Sword to aid you on your quest. A text box appears and tells you the name of the item followed by what it is used for and how to use it. Another way information is conveyed is through highlighted keywords that appear in the text boxes. These words provide subtle hints to the player as to what to do next.
The menu and item system in this game is very similar to the system used in Oracle of Ages, Oracle of Seasons, and Link’s Awakening for Game Boy Color. Any item can be assigned to the A or B buttons, so you can only have two items equipped at one time. While sometimes frustrating to have to switch items when you need several one right after each other, all puzzles can be solved using two items together at most. The R button is an action button of sorts and can be used in place of the A button to talk to people or interact with objects. On the interface, the R button is shown in the top right corner and normally has text on top of it to show what that button will do at the time. While walking, “roll” will appear on top of it showing that the player can press R to do a somersault. When standing in front of a person, “talk” will appear showing that you can talk with the person. There are several other words that appear as well, all representing different actions. The L button is used in the game to fuse Kinstones, objects found while exploring that can be fused with their other halves to make something interesting happen, like make a treasure chest appear somewhere in the world or open a small cave for exploration. While the L button is used, it is not shown on the interface with the A, B, and R buttons. Instead, if a Kinstone fusion is possible with a person, facing them at close range will make a thought bubble appear over their head. The other elements of the interface display information about the player. Player health is represented by hearts in the top left corner, increasing up to twenty when all Heart Containers and Heart Pieces are discovered. The amount of Rupees (money) the player has is represented by a number in the bottom right corner next to a small Rupee that changes color as you get bigger wallets. When inside a dungeon, the number of keys you have with you is shown directly above the Rupee counter along with a symbol of a key. The interface is simple and does not obscure the view of the game, but still it offers quite a bit of information.
As I said before, the game uses the appearance of each area in addition to the story to drive the player forward. The sprite work of the game looks very nice and polished, creating an atmosphere in which players will want to spend quite some time. However, the world of The Minish Cap is small compared to most other Zelda games. Because of this, and since the game would be much shorter otherwise, the game has players do small side quests in between main points of the story to extend game time. This usually occurs in the way of getting a new item so that you can explore a new area. One example is having to go back to the Elemental Sanctuary in Hyrule Castle after each acquisition of a new Element to power up the Picori Blade. Each time the sword is powered up, Link can make one more copy of himself in areas where copies are necessary. Certain puzzles can be solved with just one copy, but other puzzles need two or even the full three copies in order to be solved. Another example is an area called Castor Wilds, which is a swampy area that cannot be traversed without the Pegasus Boots. After Link gets to this area and discovers that he cannot get through the swamp fast enough without being swallowed, he must turn around and find the shoemaker in town that can make the Pegasus Boots. However, the shoemaker falls asleep as soon as you get there and Link must embark on another side quest to find a Wake-Up Mushroom to wake up the shoemaker. After getting the Pegasus Boots, Link can return to Castor Wilds to continue the main quest. With the back and forth of the side quests and the sprawling reach of the main quest, the game gets much use out of a small world. Also, because the world is small, the side quests usually don’t take very long, so the player can get back to the main quest in a short time.
Going back to the way the game looks, the unique appearance of each area creates many different feelings in such a small space. If you look at a map of the entire game world pieced together, it looks a bit strange because of how the different colors of each area meet. However, you never see these harsh borders in the game because the screen fades to white when changing major areas. This actually makes the world feel bigger than it is because it makes the major areas feel farther apart than they actually are. There is one screen between Hyrule Town and a huge mountainous area called Mt. Crenel, but it feels so far away because it looks so different. I think that this is a good use of space in the game. The music that accompanies each area makes for a great adventure soundtrack. Some areas have heroic sounding music, Hyrule Town has happy music, and some of the darker areas have music that is eerie and creepy. It also adds to the illusion of vastness of the world because like the aesthetics of the areas, each track is different from the others. As an added bonus, some of the songs are catchy and can make you hum along with them.
I think what makes The Minish Cap a good game is the feeling of adventure and how big the world feels, even though it’s really not. Even though the main quest isn’t that long, there are a few other distractions in the game that can keep a player interested for a while. The driving force is still the story because without it, there is not much direction in the game. The different areas augment the story by giving the game a real sense of adventure, but without the story they become something that is only worth looking at. The dungeons are fun, as they should be in a Zelda game, and the continual discovery of things in the game adds to the player staying involved.