Malik (1/24/04)

Zelda: The Minish Cap

Nintendo and Capcom

Minish Cap marks Capcom's return to making Zelda games for Nintendo's portable systems. They were the company behind the Seasons and Time games for the GB Color a few years back. However, while some fans found those two games to be great additions to the Zelda world, others found them sloppy and rather inappropriate for the beloved Nintendo franchise. 

So, with the Minish Cap, can Capcom pull off a quality Zelda game that's true to the original style of the series, or does the latest attempt come out as another good but lacking attempt by an outside group (like F-Zero GX was from Sega, the last two portable Zelda titles by Capcom, and Retro's take on Metroid)? 

I, for one, was expecting the worst from Capcom. I hated the lack of Zelda-style in Capcom's prior attempts at Zelda. 

By the way, this review is intended for people who've played a Zelda game before.  If you haven't, I suggest you start with a better Zelda title, like Link to the Past (found on both SNES and GBA).  Anyway, since everyone geek knows Zelda, let's just get the show on the road.


This game, much like the other Zelda games, revolves around a very simple premise of a uber-powerful magic user taking down a kingdom. Big surprise. This time, however, Gannon is nowhere to be seen. Instead, we are presented a different scenario. 

A yearly celebration is held in honor of a mysterious race that once save Hyrule. It just happens that the day we assume the role of Link, the 100th year celebration is going on and it's expected that the mysterious race will return on this year. So, enter Zelda...who wants to take part in the celebration with Link as her escort. So, being a metro-elf-like hero, you take Zelda on a tour of the party (to which she is more of your escort than the other way around). Link is also sent to the party in order to deliver a sword, made by the best smith in the area (who is also your grandfather and guardian) to be presented to the winner of the annual (and coincidental) swordsmanship competition. 

When you arrive at the castle to deliver the sword, you are asked to stay and watch the awarding of the finely crafted blade. At this point the winner arrives. He is an obviously evil looking vampireish appearing dude. He is invited to touch a sacred blade that sealed away evil once long ago. In the process, this mysterious figure destroys the blade and unseals the great evil (basically he sends forth a wave of monsters). Then he turns Zelda to stone and leaves in search of a sacred power of light that will make him a god. 

So, you take your grandfather's sword and start out on a quest to save Zelda and stop both the once sealed ancient evil and this new evil. At least there's a reason why you, as a child, are sent on this quest. The ancient race who is due to arrive again in Hyrule will only show themselves to children, and it is them who you must seek the help of. 

Along the way, Link learns that this race, the Minish, are actually only a few centimeters tall. So, Link soon finds a companion in the form of a magic hat (the Minish Cap...) who will both give advice and allow Link to shrink to Minish sizes. 

It's a pretty cliché story, and it's been done a thousand times before, but it's Zelda. We always get the same story, and we've never complained before. The only real issue to be found is the lack of Gannon and the Triforce. Still, it's not the plot we play for; it's the puzzles and the game play. 

Game Play 

I'm going to assume everyone has played, or at the very least watched, a Zelda game before. It basically consists of a more or less overhead perspective and a little dude named Link who swings a sword and uses a variety of items to solve puzzles. The controls are almost always the same as the original Zelda game from the 1980's. There's a button for opening your menu and pausing, there's another for using an alternative item, and there's a sword button (which, in this and other portable Zelda titles, can be used for a second alternative item, including a shield). Also, from the 3D Zelda games, there's the roll button to execute a rolling maneuver to avoid danger and to get a unique attack opportunity. This is tried and true. So, I can't say anything bad about the controls...I can't call it innovative, but if it's not messed up, then why mess with? 

Also, like with every other Zelda game (and all the clones), a majority of the game play is based around the solving of the puzzles. The puzzles, like in prior Zelda games, usually revolve around solving what will open the door to the next room in a dungeon, or how to reach the next dungeon. This is usually solved with the usage of your newest items and a little random guessing about what block is movable, etc. It's what we've all known and (probably) loved about Zelda games since their birth. 

In this incarnation, Link is given some rather unique new items. The most important of which are the Gust Jar (or whatever it's called), and the Rod of something or flips things upside down (to either reveal new areas, secret items, or expose the weak points on armored enemies, like turtles). Both of these are of great importance to the game's puzzles. We also still have the old favorites of the bombs, bow, sword, shield, boomerang, lantern, bottles (to carry potions), ocarina/flute to teleport to old areas, and the roc's cape (from Four Swords and an upgrade of the Roc Feather from the first GB Zelda). There is nothing really new here, which is a minor problem. The Zelda series is starting to stagnate on the item selection, and thus the games are feeling like repeats of older titles. 

On the note of stagnation...all of the enemies (except the mysterious swordsman/wizard), dungeons layouts, and puzzles have been seen before. There is really nothing new here beyond the Gust Jar and the Rob of flipping-stuff-over. While this may work well for those who have not played Zelda since the first outing, it is only going to take away from the replay value for longtime fans. Even the town of Hyrule has the same people and experiences you've seen a hundred times before. 

You also have the ability to learn new sword techniques from swordsmanship teachers. However, most of the abilities are ones you've started with in prior Zelda games. For example, you will learn to spin attack, shoot a beam when your health is full (and another when you're at 1 heart...which is new), spin for a longer time, down-thrust with a sword while jumping, blah, blah. None of these are really new, and to make you earn them as you play is only a cheap attempt to stretch out some old ideas instead of introducing anything new. 

The only really new concept, as a whole, is the ability to shrink down to Minish sizes. While this may (or not) sound cool at first inspection, it really does fall flat. The world itself is a smaller world than most Zelda games have seen before, and even the dungeons are smaller than prior Zelda games have had. The only thing that shinking gives us is a little more area to cover in this little world. However, in the end, the small and normal sized areas fail to equal the size of almost any prior Zelda title. Plus, to make things worse, there are only 5 to 6 real dungeons in this opposed to, say, LttP for the SNES/GBA which has 4 dungeons in the light world and 8 in the dark world that are all the same size, or bigger, than any dungeon in Minish. 

So, the game play will be fun and familiar (too familiar) to long time Zelda fans and new fans alike. However, the replay value is not present at all when you've played this same game in any previous Zelda. 


It's the same Zelda we know from LttP. There is nothing new. If anything, the visuals are a step back from what we were offered in LttP. As a whole, however, there is nothing noteworthy here. At least they don't take away from the game play. 


See visuals. Seriously, couldn't Capcom at least have made some new music or sounds for Link when he does a spin attack or falls down a pit, etc? I guess not. 


Well this was short and sweet.  Ultimately, this is another Zelda game.  However, in the end, even as a die-hard Zelda fan, I can't help but feel a little disappointed.  True, this game does deliver everything we have come to expect from a Zelda game.  We have the good old visuals and sounds, we have the same exact plot, and the game plays the same.  However, the lack of dungeons and overworld area just makes the game feel rushed, and you'll feel like you rushed through the game when you beat in in no time.  There are some bonus side-quests, but these are only fun if you like to collect a ton of money (of which you are limited to it's a waste since there's only so much you'll ever buy in the game).  In the end, this is a great game if you want a new Zelda game with no questions asked.  However, if you're wanting anything new, beyond two weapons, you are in the wrong place.  So, I have no choice but to give Zelda: The Minish Cap a 8.25/10.  It's a good score by all means, but it just isn't great since the game isn't anything new.