(Game Boy Advance)

Game Review

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Martin Watts

Capcom pulls a hit out of the hat

If it weren't for the fact that the Capcom logo appears each time you boot up The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that it was in fact developed by a third-party company. That’s because this particular Legend of Zelda title – which originally released on the Game Boy Advance back in 2004/5 – delivers an abundance of quality and, in particular, exceptional creativity in the gameplay department.

With that said, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise; Flagship, the Capcom development team behind the game, was also responsible for previous handheld Zelda titles The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, both of which were met with very positive acclaim upon their release in 2001. Moreover, Nintendo kept a watchful eye over the development process, no doubt providing guidance to ensure one of its most revered franchises maintained its impeccable reputation. The end result is easily one of the best instalments in the handheld catalogue of Legend of Zelda games.

The basic premise in The Minish Cap revolves around the classically overused trope of saving the princess, but this time it’s an evil sorcerer known as Vaati filling in for Ganon. His evil designs are very much in-line with his more popular counterpart, and only through the assistance of the Minish – a race of miniature beings who possess magical qualities – can Link save Hyrule before it succumbs to darkness.

Compared to the grandest of adventures from throughout the series’ impressive history, Link's quest in this particular game is actually one of miniature proportions, and not because it was originally designed for Game Boy Advance, but rather that he must call upon the power of the titular Minish Cap to shrink in size throughout his adventure. Travelling through the game world, solving puzzles and even defeating certain enemies all require Link to take on a smaller size at times, conveniently making it the central gameplay mechanic. It's not an ability that you can activate as and when you wish; you need to find special shrinking pedestals in order to do that, and the benefit of this is that it's pretty clear when you need to use one. As a gameplay concept, it presents you with interesting situations, and also has a positive impact with regards to dungeon design, as tiny passages enable you to circumvent locked doors and other impassable hazards.

In addition to this, Link wields numerous variations of a magical blade known as the Four Sword, which bestows onto him the ability to create up to three copycat clones of himself. This also plays a central role in many of the game's dungeons and puzzles. In order to create a clone, you must charge your sword and walk on to a specific type of tile, and there's a very good reason for this. Certain problems require you to have your Links lined up in a particular pattern, and this is where the ingenuity of the feature really shines through; it's essentially what sets The Minish Cap apart from other Legend of Zelda titles due to the fact that it adds so much more depth to the dungeon design.

As you progress through the game, these problem-solving aspects become more complex – but do so at a comfortable pace – and require spatial awareness of the environments and speed from you. Despite it's age, and that it returns after the ground-breaking instalment that was The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, The Minish Cap nevertheless feels like a refreshing experience, primarily as a result of the Four Sword mechanic.

Both this and the shrinking ability are woven into what is otherwise a fairly familiar Legend of Zelda formula. Link's quest takes him across all four corners of the land in search of sacred objects and useful items to aid him. Sadly, the four corners aren't all that far apart, and where The Minish Cap slightly stumbles is that it's a surprisingly short entry in the series, even for a handheld instalment. The main quest clocks in around the 10-hour mark and features only six main dungeons, the majority of which are fairly short.

There is a selection of optional side quests that serves to lengthen the experience should you wish -– and no doubt completionists will want to find every single heart container and collectible - but they aren't fleshed out enough to hide the shortness of the central quest. It's not a huge issue or really a flaw, for that matter, because the main game delivers a wealth of quality; it's just noticeable because you're left wanting more. Moreover, the game's relatively low asking price on the Wii U eShop essentially negates any concerns with regards to value for money.

Thankfully, this smaller gameplay experience is backed up by an impressive visual presentation which takes the colourful charm of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and converts it into the classic 2D top-down style for which most of the series' earlier entries were renowned. It also results in an interesting hybrid of different periods in the Legend of Zelda timeline, as many characters from the N64 titles appear here. The same applies to the music, which borrows popular tracks to provide a sense of familiarity throughout this wholly separate adventure. Furthermore, the sound quality is fantastic for a Game Boy Advance game.

One last point worth noting is that The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is surprisingly tricky in parts. To some extent, it's definitely worth exploring the overworld in search of as many extra heart containers and bonuses as possible, because the later dungeons (and bosses) will test you. Not only that, but it isn't always clear what it is you have to do next; while clues are available at the press of a button, some of them could certainly give a bit more context.

Conclusion

Featuring exceptional gameplay concepts, great visuals and a top-notch soundtrack, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap remains a solid entry in the series and, therefore, is a very welcome addition to the Wii U Virtual Console line-up. Despite being developed by a third-party company, this particular Legend of Zelda title bears all the creative hallmarks of a Nintendo-developed title. It’s a game with many clever elements, such as the shrinking and Four Sword cloning abilities, both of which ensure that this title is still highly playable and exciting roughly a decade later. Available at a reasonable price on the Wii U eShop – and complemented by the handy save state feature – The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap may only offer a relatively small main quest, but it’s one that provides a high-quality experience from start to finish.

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User Comments (54)

DerpSandwich

#2

DerpSandwich said:

One of my absolute favorites, and I can only hope they make them in this style again someday. Gorgeous 2D visuals rather than bland 3D ones would probably be what I like best about Minish Cap, but everything about it is just amazing. Give the series back to Flagship!

Shepdawg1

#3

Shepdawg1 said:

My biggest problem with this game is how hard it is to 100%. There are so many Kinstone fusions that are one-time only opportunities, and if you don't have the right piece, you lose the chance to fuse it forever (I'm looking at the one with the carpenter).

Other than that, I love this game.

Peach64

#4

Peach64 said:

This is my favourite 2D Zelda (although I'm not a fan of the 2D ones and much prefer the 3D games). Will definitely be downloading this one day.

Maelstrom

#5

Maelstrom said:

It was OK. Not the best, but by no means the worst. I still think Link's Awakening is better despite the age. It's just so original.

zip

#7

zip said:

This game has already been reviewed and everyone knows that it's great. I would appreciate it if you provide more input on the overall playability on the WIi U. Is the Gamepad the best way to play this game? How are the graphics compared to the GBA? Too pixelated or smooth? Are the colors different compared to the original? How does it play on the big screen?

Personally I can't play this game because it's too pixelated for my taste. Much better played on the GBA or DS.

Xiao_Pai

#8

Xiao_Pai said:

Anyone have shots of the Wii U version? Just curious to see what it looks like with the filter.

HylianJowiStaff

#9

HylianJowi said:

Just 100%'d this game today. Absolutely love it, tons of stuff to do. Beautiful pixel art. (Great review Martin!)

StaticWind

#10

StaticWind said:

The Minish Cap is still high on my list of Zelda-games-that-I-can't-decide-on-being-the-best.

Shambo

#13

Shambo said:

Still have the original, safely put away in its box, in my Zelda collection. If I play it, it's the ambassador download for 3ds.

Hero-of-WiiU

#15

Hero-of-WiiU said:

Will buy. Ever since I really got into Nintendo a couple of years ago, I have enjoyed Zelda the most. I plan to try to play all of them (played OOT, ALBW, and Wind Waker). But some will be hard to get, Like Twighlight Princess.

Ralek85

#16

Ralek85 said:

Why can't I have that on the 3DS :-/ I probably get a Wii U soon, but I would prefer this on the 3DS anyways. Nintendo should at least offer cross-buy for GBA/NDS games. That is really a no brainer. I don't wanna promote Sony more that it is their due .. but come on it's 2014.

JaxonH

#19

JaxonH said:

Never played this one, but I have it bought and downloaded on Wii U (and 3DS through Ambassador) so I'll get around to it. Still think I'll finish Metroid Fusion before I attempt any other VC releases though...

grumblegrumble

#20

grumblegrumble said:

I actually think this is THE best Zelda (portable) game to date. With "Spirit Tracks" right on it's tail, and the new Zelda 3DS game. This is a wonderful journey! I remember buying this as a kid with money I'd saved up from my first job, played this on my GameBoy Micro until my fingers bled lol ;) 10 out of 10 for me! :)

sillygostly

#21

sillygostly said:

@Hero-of-WiiU : The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was recently rereleased as part of the "Nintendo Selects" range of Wii software in some territories. It's still widely available in Australia, at least.

ricklongo

#22

ricklongo said:

This is in my Top 5 Zelda games of all time. (Though that may change when I finally play through Majora's Mask... who knows?)

Either way, fantastic title that you should all get ASAP.

2Sang

#23

2Sang said:

I never played this when it came out on GBA, but I regret not playing it sooner after I got my hands on it as an ambassador.

ICHIkatakuri

#26

ICHIkatakuri said:

I (despite being a Zelda nut), due to money issues at the time, let this one pass me by. I got this first day on the eshop and although it looks to be a little different and the beginning feels a bit coincidental, it could be good.

Giygas_95

#27

Giygas_95 said:

Despite getting it when it first came out, this...actually isn't one of my favorites. It's good enough, but there are much better 2D Zelda titles. I already have the ambassador version too so I'll pass.

rbmoura85

#28

rbmoura85 said:

I hope nintendo releases A link between worlds for the wii u and we will be able to play every zelda game on this console :) (well, since they said ds games are coming)

Pahvi

#29

Pahvi said:

As of last two weeks, this is my favourite Zelda game.

While the world map here isn't large, it just means that there's not nearly as much pointless walking around that needs the rolling ability to make the traveling tolerable.

Lobster

#30

Lobster said:

I still have this on GBA, as well as Ambassador. Absolutely a fantastic game.

Henmii

#32

Henmii said:

"Give the series back to Flagship!"

Hear, hear! That's my lad! This game is great, and so where Oracle of ages and Seasons!

Forget Skyward sword. Forget A Link between worlds. This is the real deal!

YoshiTails

#33

YoshiTails said:

Currently can't figure out how to get to the second dungeon... it looks like I need to be small in hyrule town but can't find a nearby pedestal. Help anyone?

Crimzonlogic

#34

Crimzonlogic said:

This would have been a day-one purchase for me, but unfortunately the timing is terrible! I just paid for rent and my medical bill stuff and I am completely broke! I'll have to wait a bit. Oh well, it's not going anywhere. :(

@Henmii Except don't forget A Link Between Worlds. That game was excellent.

AmazonianBeauty

#36

AmazonianBeauty said:

I thought both this and the oracle series were fantastic games, i still have my physical copies boxed, and I'm astounded at how much each game is going for even on EBAY, definitely keeping hold of these, it'll be interesting to see what all my other Nintendo Knick Knacks and games are worth later on down the line :)

Stu13

#37

Stu13 said:

This is my first time with this game because I missed it on GBA and I'm not a cool ambassador like you guys. It's bloody brilliant. Don't let the short quest scare you off, I've spent almost 20 hours and haven't even hit the fourth dungeon yet. If you enjoy poking around for secrets, there is more than plenty to do.

GamerZack87

#38

GamerZack87 said:

I once read that Din, Nayru and Farore make cameo appearances in this game. The Oracles, that is, not the Golden Goddesses.

grumblegrumble

#41

grumblegrumble said:

@AutumnShantel In this case, though, the game was already awesome! I played Minish Cap again when I got it as an ambassador a while back, still just as great today as it was way back when ;)

OneBagTravel

#43

OneBagTravel said:

This was a pretty good Zelda game when I played it on the GBA. I'd love to see it on the 3DS with an updated menu screen.

AJTsuki

#44

AJTsuki said:

This is a crappy review! A 9 out of 10?!? Are you insane? Did you even bother to play the game, or did you just read a bunch of past reviews and decide to get in line, lock-step, with all the other idiots that did not bother to play what is the greatest and most enjoyable portable adventure game of all time!!!

10 out of 10!!!

Neko_Rukiafan

#45

Neko_Rukiafan said:

10 hours my foot! :P
I've played this game many times and have yet to beat it in 10 hours even speedrunning. Even so the rest of the review is spot-on. ;)

timp29

#48

timp29 said:

II'm stuck trying to get through the swamp. Haven't played the game in months now because of it :p But I have to echo this review, even though it has dated a lot, this is still a very enjoyable entry in the series and adds new play style elements which work very well. I would probably lower the score personally because of the way this game has dated.

Henmii

#49

Henmii said:

@Crimzonlogic,

A Link between worlds was fun, but it can't stand in the shadows of games like Oot, Windwaker, Minish cap, Links awakening, etc. Besides, the overworld of A Link between worlds is just nicked from A Link to the past!

Crimzonlogic

#50

Crimzonlogic said:

@Henmii I hold it up along side those games you mentioned (except for maybe Link's Awakening, since I wasn't crazy about that one.)
What's wrong with having the same overworld? It takes place after that game in the same land. It would be weird if it wasn't the same setting. But it's not like it's the same game. In fact, I didn't like A link To The Past much, but I loved the other. they feel very different to me. (Don't get me wrong, ALTTP is a good game. Just isn't a favorite of mine.)

james_squared

#51

james_squared said:

I just started playing it and it's a really good game so far. It's a great game to play on the GamePad.

biglittlejake

#52

biglittlejake said:

The Minish Cap is such an underated Zelda title. I wonder why it isn't considered among the best Zelda's to most. To me the list goes OOT, MM, WW, and MC. Those I would consider are all tied for first for me.

aaronsullivan

#53

aaronsullivan said:

@zip If it has the same graphic display options as Metroid Fusion you'll be set with visuals. Or just play on the GamePad where it's smaller if you really can't take it. I personally like crisp square edges to my large pixels and the original aspect of the game (which you can set) but they do have smoothing options which make the text look weird but try to smooth out jagged edges. Not sure if this has those options but it should. (That would be nice to have as addendum to the review for sure).

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