Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap - Acquired the Water Element

With Contact done with (yes, I have decided I am done with it - review upcoming), and Astro Boy: Omega Factor recently beaten, I decided it was finally time to give in to my Zelda craving.

Not long ago, I watched this video which attempts to place all the Zelda games on a timeline. This got me jonesing to play a Zelda game and also interested in playing them in this order. So, it was time to finally dig into The Minish Cap.

I actually have almost as much experience playing portable Zelda as I do on home consoles. I have played and beaten Link's Awakening and Oracle of Seasons and enjoyed both quite it a bit. Otherwise, I played and beat the first two Zeldas and got about halfway through A Link to the Past before being distracted by other things in college. So, I am mostly familiar with top-down, 2D Zelda games and that is what I think of when I think Zelda.

Really, all the handheld games have built on the successful formula of A Link to the Past (which, yes, was based on the first game). The innovations in The Minish Cap are the ability to shrink down into the world of the small and the collecting of kinstones which are halves of stones that you match up with people and things to reveal secret areas. I wonder if, when I eventually get to A Link to the Past in the chronology of Zelda games if I will be disappointed by it because it feels primitive. A friend of mind first played The Minish Cap and then attempted to play A Link to the Past (never having played it before) and didn't enjoy it (though he claimed that it was becaused of "bad graphics" - pfft, whatever).

I don't love the Zelda games, but I do always get high enjoyment out them. They are always well put-together. I find it interesting that (so far at least), Link's Awakening is my favorite of the portable Zeldas and that is the only one developed solely by Nintendo and not in collaboration with Capcom. I think it is because Link's Awakening had the best story of the ones I've played. I mean, the other Zeldas play well and are, in a way, more innovative in their gameplay, but I actually felt for Link's plight in Link's Awakening. I mean, he wants to get off the island and go home, but the only way to do that is to wake the wind fish. If he does that, and the island is truly just a dream of the wind fish, then everyone on it will disappear. The Minish Cap and Oracle of Seasons have much more traditional "defeat the big bad guy" plots.

One thing I really like in this game are the kinstones. Basically, they are half of a circular stone you can find by defeating enemies or in treasure chests. You then find villagers that have half of a stone and offer to match up with them. If your half and their half complete a circle, then a secret is revealed somewhere in the world (the game shows you where). This just works perfect for my love of exploration. It is things like this that spur me to 100% completion without getting frustrated.

Being a Zelda game, you can't say too much for the challenge. The joy is in figuring out the puzzles and where to go next, and not usually in the difficulty of fighting enemies or impossible puzzles. No puzzle has stumped me yet, though on a few I had to go out of a dungeon/town and come back in again with a fresh perspective. And, prior to the end of the water dungeon, I had only died once and that was because I was just being careless. The giant Octorok at the end of the water dungeon was the first truly challenging enemy of the game and I now have a total of three deaths because of him. If the rest of the boss fights are at his level, I will re-evaluate my position on the challenge of this game.

Still, so far a really enjoyable, well-done game. I'm thinking not much will change from my preliminary judgment of the game being great.

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