Monday, January 22, 2007

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap - Review

I had a disease and the only prescription was more Zelda. This game didn't disappoint. Since the Game Boy Color Oracle games, Nintendo has allowed Capcom to handle their portable Zeldas and Capcom has done an admirable job. Minish cap is a classic 2D top-down Zelda game that has almost all the spit-and-polish you could ask for.

The story tells of the legend of the Piccori (or Minish) - miniscule people who came to help Hyrule in its time of need by supplying it with the Piccori sword which the great hero used to defeat the monsters. On an anniversary commemorating this event, a wizard named Vaati wins the swordsmanship tournament for the right to touch the Piccori blade. Turns out, he is looking for the light force power used to destroy all the monsters in times past and ends up breaking the blade and releasing monsters back into the world. Princess Zelda is turned to stone and you, her friend Link, must seek out the Piccori to reforge the blade and bring peace back to Hyrule. Along the way you find Ezlo, a Minish wizard who was Vaati's mentor, but was turned into a hat when Vaati seized the power of the great wizard hat. He accompanies Link (on his head) as they seek out a way to defeat Vaati and lift the curse on Zelda, Ezlo, and Hyrule.

The story is fairly cliche and doesn't have much development, but it serves fine. It is most interesting because it doesn't mention Gannon or the Triforce. This, along with several other factors has led those who try to put all the Zelda games on a timeline to speculate that this is actually the first game, chronologically, in the Zelda timeline.

The gameplay is absolutely what you would expect for a 2D top-down Zelda game. You choose from your inventory of one object to assign to the A button and another to assign to the B button. You start with just your sword and your shield. You can swing your sword, keep it out in front of you, or hold it down to charge it up for a super-360 degree slash. You gain more techniques as the game goes one by training with different swordmasters and collecting elements from the dungeons. You also always have the ability to pick up and throw various rocks and pots and to do a quick roll. As the game goes on, you acquire other items like the gust jar, the roc cape, and the cane of Pacci. These items help both against monsters and environmentally. Your sword slices through grasses and trees, bombs blow up unstable rocks, the roc cape lets you jump over gaps.

The biggest addition to the traditional 2D Zelda formula is the ability to shrink down to the size of the Minish. At certain rocks trees, or pots, you can hop on and be shrunk down. You then navigate the world in a much different way. Grass and rubble that you could easily walk through at normal size become unpassable. Vines that would never hold you before and passages previously mouse-size are now new paths to take. Especially in the main town of Hyrule, this gives you the sense of their being and extra, smaller world.

The game world consists of a large overworld map with over a dozen distinct geographic areas. Each of those areas houses plenty of enemies and secrets to uncover. Indeed, like many Zelda games, much of this one consists of returning to areas you have been to with new items to uncover new secrets in them. The game is on the low side in terms of dungeons - there are only six in the game, but because there is so much to do in the overworld, it doesn't feel that short. The dungeons themselves are full of puzzles that must be solved, both with new items and old. They puzzles never get really difficult, but some require you to think outside the box a bit, especially in the later dungeons.

Though there is a Minish town, and a few other isolated people in houses, huts and caves, Hyrule town is where you do most of your interacting with people. Here lives the main swordsman who teaches you a good number of techniques. Here is the lady whose chickens have escaped who rewards you for returning them. Here is the man who makes figurines of people and monsters in Hyrule that you can win by gambling shells. Here is the main shop where you can replenish items. Hyrule town definitely feels like a bustling community with just a ton of stuff to do there.

Hyrule town is also where you learn about and do most of your kinstone fusions. Kinstones are colored, circular pieces of stone that are broken in half. You collect left halves and people in the game hold right halves. When you come to a person (and an occasional special stone in the wilderness), they will indicate that they have a kinstone to fuse. You can then pull up your screen of kinstones and if you have a left half to match their right half, fuse them together. This unlocks a secret suck as a new cave or passageway or monster of treasure chest somewhere else in the world. You are shown where on your map so that you can go and check it out. Finding and making all of the kinstone connections was one of my favorite parts of the game as I was always curious to see what secrets I uncovered.

The monsters in the game are colorful and varying as Zelda monsters should be. From the old-school octoroks, tektites, and leevers (I can't type that without thinking of this much beloved commercial for the original Zelda) to newer enemies and bugs and insects that assault you when you are Minish-sized. Many enemies cannot be beaten with your sword alone and require a special item (though often you have quite a bit of choice in which special item to use). At the end of dungeons you fight a large boss. These aren't very difficult until the later dungeons, but they are quite fun, especially the ones that are giant versions of regular enemies because you are fighting them while Minish-size (the giant octorok is probably my favorite).

The graphics are crisp and clear. They are full of bright colors and are almost cartoon-like while not being stylizes. The animation in the game is very smooth and it really seems like great detail was done to the make the game look gorgeous and take as much advantage of the Game Boy Advance as possible. The sounds also seem to push the Game Boy Advance speakers to their limit. While not known for quality, the clangs and cries and explosions are all very clear. The music is mostly retreads and variations of older Zelda tunes, but it is very well done and sounds great.

This game is certainly one of the most polished game that I have played for the Game Boy Advance. The graphics, sound, and gameplay are all very well done. The biggest complaint I have about the game is the lack of originality. It is a Zelda, and so you know what to expect, but they really didn't do a lot more than that. The story is also unmemorable, and while story in a Zelda game doesn't have to be important, it is another notch off of it. Ultimately I was pleased with this game and think it great, even if I had wished for something slightly more. That still doesn't prevent me from recommending it to anyone with a Game Boy Advance.

Rating: 9 / 10

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