25 Jan 2017

Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap

Year released: GBA 2004
3DS Virtual Console 2011 (3DS Ambassador Programme only)
Publisher: Nintendo

This game is connected to the Legend of Zelda Four Swords trilogy (the prequel, with Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures being the other two) where the main villain is Vaati not Ganon. As with all Zelda games there is a theme relating to nature; this time size is the main focus of the game. Specifically normal (Hyrulian) or Minish (i.e. mini-very small) size and how certain things become available when you are normal/ small. Minish Cap is slightly confusing as the game also refers to the Minish as the Picori (could be localisation/ translation as to why there are two names both referenced in the game).

The graphics are similar to A Link to the Past and Link's Awakening, but with the sharpening and greater detail allowed due to the tilted overview positioning of the camera. Again like most Gameboy games, it is very brightly coloured but some attempt at shading / tones has been made (see screenshot below) which allows more realism.

The story is set at the 100th year of the Picori Festival where people of Hyrule celebrate the mysterious and tiny Picori who helped them defeat Ganon by giving Hyrule's Hero a special sword and a golden light force. According to legend there is a secret gateway that allows access to the Sacred Sanctuary (Link to the Past reference). There is a swordfighting competition for the winner to touch the sacred Picori Blade and gain a special sword from the Royal Swordsmaster (Link's Uncle Smith). Mysterious stranger Vaati is the winner who wants the golden light force and has turned Link's childhood friend, Princess Zelda, to stone (Zelda as a stone statue was re-used in the DS game Phantom Hourglass). To return Zelda to normal, Link is chosen by the King to seek the Picori to repair the broken Four Sword blade caused by Vaati. The Picori can only be seen by children, and with the exception of the Royal Family, are considered a myth/ childhood story.  On his journey Link rescues an  enigmatic, green, talking cap called Ezlo, and the two join forces to create the Four Sword from the four Elements, the only blade to restore Princess Zelda and defeat Vaati. I'm not going to reveal Ezlo's secret, play the game to find out.

Link vs. Boss Gleerok in the Cave of Flames

One of the great things about a Zelda game is that it honours the past while introducing new enemies, characters, weapons, scenarios that in turn get honoured in future Zelda games. Like with all Zelda games there are a few side quests that lead to very useful items and power ups (like health Hearts) and weapons found in dungeons are normally used to defeat the boss (see picture opposite). Minish Cap does all of this and is of a good playable length depending on how many side quests the player does.

New tools/ weapons have been introduced, such as the Mole Mitts (digging- replacing the shovel), Gust Jar (wind- attract, repel), Cane of Pacci (flips objects- I should note that there is also a  Cane of Pacci in a Link to the Past, but the feature was to create blocks/ magical platforms and used magic meter, Minish Cap does not have a magic meter which is why this Cane of Pacci is under new weapons), remote bombs (player triggered), Grip Ring (for climbing walls) and the Four Sword (allows Link to split into 4 copies- useful for multiple switches, moving big blocks and defeating enemies). New enemies are also introduced such as the Chuchus (colour coded for attacks), Puffstool, golden Ropes/Octoroks/ Tektites (harder to kill but bring huge rupee rewards). 

However, Minish Cap has not forgotten its roots, quite a lot of the references are from Ocarina of Time and A Link to the Past, some examples below. Some old favourites such as: Ocarina of Wind (warps from one place to another), and classic weapon bow and arrows (including light arrows upgrade where the coins are not deducted per arrow fired and the number of maximum arrows can be increased via trading), the shield upgrade to the Mirror Shield, bombs, Pegasus Boots (speed boost), flame lantern, Rocs Cape (Oracle Series, or Roc feather upgrade, for jumping), Flippers, Power Bracelets (Lifting). Old friends such as the witch from A Link to the Past, Gorons, the 3 Great Fairies (renamed in Minish Cap), Tingle (Majora's Mask) and Cucco Lady (aka Anji; Ocarina of Time), and the 3 Oracles from the Oracle Series (Nayru, Din and Farore, named after 3 A Link to the Past Goddesses) make a cameo. Familiar enemies such as Keese, Ropes (aka snakes), Octoroks (NES Legend of Zelda), Moblins, Business Scrubs (once defeated are very helpful), Bob-Ombs, Stalfos, Tektites, Like-Likes (and Rupee Likes), Floor/ Wall Masters and Wizzrobes (normal, fire, ice) are also present. Also let's not forget the secret entrances that need to be blown away!

Trading and collecting is a big part of Minish Cap, with Kinstone fusion playing a big role. Kinstones are special medallions that need to be matched together to make something happen- a new entrance, new abilities, new people to talk to or treasure. There is also a prize if you make enough fusions. A side quest trading game is the Mysterious SeaShells, (first seen in Link's Awakening to gain the Level 2 Sword, they make a return to collect figurines or Gashapon- random draw of toy capsules). The prizes for a complete set are a piece of heart and a sound test from the game.
Another side quest are the Blade Brothers, 9 Ninja Brothers who will teach Link new sword techniques and improve his speed on certain tasks. For example, one brother will show him rockbreaker (uses the sword to smash pots) or the Downward Thrust (Roc's Cape and Sword combo). Plus there is the usual in game help in the form of Tiger Scrolls (sword techniques learnt), and the Swordsman's Newsletter which gives clues to power up weapons. There is also the Cucco finding game (from Kakariko Village in Ocarina of Time), which releases more rupees and a piece of Heart (another typical Zelda feature- the pieces of Heart and weapons upgrade quests).

A feature that I'm particularly impressed with is the map screen. The overall map is there (that increases on areas explored), but the player can zoom in and explore each area in detail (similar to Link's Awakening). This detail also shows the player the bonuses unlocked (new entrances/ people always are available while treasures are only available until Link deals with them). This feature is reminiscent of A Link to the Past where dungeons are shown. The menu screens are brilliantly designed- side scrolling, with the weapons allotted to a space and the picture of the actual weapon goes into assigned button (like TV console versions) when chosen. If you have played any Zelda game before, the controls will make sense, but they are simple enough to pick up without using the manual.

This game is a perfect addition to the handheld Zelda series for all ages and abilities of gamers. The controls are easy to use, and the game is definitely re-playable- so value for money. Minish Cap was the fourth original game released on Gameboy (Link's Awakening/ DX, Oracle of Ages, Oracle of Seasons being the other three), and the only original game released on GBA (but the Oracle Games do acknowledge the use of a GBA). I am excluding the Four Swords game add on to the Link to the Past cartridge as you needed a GBA to GBA cable and another player to play (this has been rectified in Four Swords Anniversary-3DS and Four Swords Adventures where a single player can play on their own as well as multi-player). This game is one that is of good length, challenging puzzles, brilliant side quests, and like the other Zelda's has scored over 90% in Nintendo Official Magazine. This is a must play game.