While the original Game Boy was the first console I owned that really got me into the world of gaming (and, owing to its size, made me mildly proficient in the use of heavy objects as weapons), nothing quite holds a candle to my clear, bright pink Game Boy Advance. She’s a little beaten, yellowed, and missing her battery cover, but I still haul her out every now and then when the mood takes me.
My love of the Game Boy Advance and my re-sparked interest in the Legend of Zelda series (courtesy of The Wind Waker HD) made getting this little gem a reasonable decision. The Wii U’s Gamepad doubles up as a decent GBA stand-in, with the added bonus being hearing the GBA startup music in glorious surround sound when blown up on the TV.
Taking place early in the Zelda timeline (the earliest at the time of its release, and currently only second in the timeline after Skyward Sword), The Minish Cap follows an incarnation of Link as he tries to rescue Princess Zelda and the kingdom of Hyrule with the help of the tiny, pixy-like Minish people. Zelda has been turned to stone by the villain Vaati, a Picori (the Hyrulean name for the Minish)-turned evil wizard-turned destroyer of the Picori Blade, the precursor to the hero’s Master Sword seen in later games.
According to legend the Picori Blade was used in a bygone era by a hero decked in a green tunic to drive monsters and darkness from the land of Hyrule. With the blade destroyed the monsters and the darkness have returned. Link, accompanied by Ezlo, a Picori-turned sassy bird-shaped hat, must re-forge the Picori Blade, defeat Vaati and his minions, save Zelda, and do the sort of everyday things that heroes of an ancient age were expected to do.
As with most Zelda games, Minish Cap is an adventure/puzzle game that requires the player to go from area to area and dungeon to dungeon solving a series of puzzles, beating the requisite dungeon bosses and collecting the necessary items to continue on with the quest. In this instance, the main items that require collecting are the Four Elements which are needed to re-forge the Picori Blade. There are also the usual side quests that do things like power up your weapons and increase the amount of life you have, which is useful for later on in the story but not at all necessary to plot development.
The game itself is played from a top-down perspective similar to the earlier Zelda games on the NES, SNES and Game Boy Color, with items being assigned to particular buttons (which require frequent swapping out depending on what needs to be done next).
The key gameplay mechanic in Minish Cap is the ability to shrink down to the size of the Picori and explore otherwise inaccessible areas of the game world. This can’t just be done willy nilly, however, and you’ll need to find portals left by the Minish in order to shrink down to their size; these usually take the form of tree stumps and cracked Chinese vases.
Ezlo, your constant companion since he’s taken up residence on Link’s head, serves as a far less irritating version of Navi from Ocarina of Time since he’ll help you out with hints if you’re either lost or, far more common with me, have forgotten what it is your meant to be doing, but he’ll only do it if you specifically ask him. He’s also a source of great one-liners and general sassiness (far more than you’d expect from your average hat), so you don’t mind taking him along for the ride.
Of course a Zelda game isn’t a Zelda game without Link rolling around and grunting. I have yet to discover how this helps you apart from moving around marginally quicker than just walking normally, but without it all you’d be left with is the game’s colourful visuals and full soundtrack, and that just wouldn’t do.
Also, Tingle and his brethren are everywhere. What’s not to love?
The Minish Cap is a somewhat short game. Unlike other Zelda games where you can expect to pour a good many hours into completing just the main story, I managed to get through the game’s main story, a good few side quests, and get hopelessly lost on numerous occasions in around 12 hours. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it does manage to pack a good story into its relatively short playtime, but it is best to bear this in mind before going in.
With that being said the game still has all of the polish and fun that you would expect from the series. The puzzles are clever and challenging without ever feeling unfair, the game world is beautifully vibrant in a distinctively GBA way and the characters you come into contact with are very endearing.
And anyway, you play the entire game with a sassy bird hat telling you what to do. What more could you possibly want?
My Final Rating: 7 / 10