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The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap

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The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap

The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap

Image © Nintendo
Since Link is one of Nintendo's longest-running heroes (25 years and counting), we're always interested in finding out more about his history, his origins, his motivations, and everything else that keeps him chugging through the Legend of Zelda series. The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap, a Game Boy Advance game that's available for download at the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console, fills in another chapter of Link's mysterious life: In this adventure role-playing title, we witness the birth of Link's hat.

Yes, his hat.

Though the plot for the game sounds a little silly, The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap is among the more charming entries in the long-lived series. It also plays very well, and stuffs a lot of content into a a single handheld game.

Note: Currently, The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap is exclusively available as a download for Nintendo 3DS Ambassadors.

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Action/Adventure
ESRB Rating: E
Comparable With: Nintendo 3DS

THE BASICS: Link's New Threads

Link begins his adventure with Princess Zelda. The two pal around until a sorcerer named Vaati turns the Princess into stone. Link is charged with lifting the curse from his friend, and to do so, he enlists the help of a tiny race of elf-like folk called the Minish.

Link also makes friends with another being who has been struck down by one of Vaati's curses: a green talking cap named Ezlo. Ezlo, seeking to regain his original form, perches atop Link's head and accompanies him on his quest to defeat the evil wind wizard. Ezlo contributes advice once in a while, but more importantly, he's able to shrink Link down to a miniscule size that allows him to interact with the Minish when it's necessary.

Link's dealings with the Minish are what makes The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap a unique adventure. The usual mechanics do apply in the game: Link uses his sword to defeat enemies, explores dungeons and caves, picks up money, and finds secondary items that aid him in his travels. But he can also occasionally come across a portal that will allow Ezlo to shrink him down to Minish size in order to travel across certain terrain and talk to important (if very small) individuals. Of course, being small presents Link with a whole new breed of challenges: objects like pots, which he can typically fling with ease, suddenly become as immovable as mountains. As you progress in the game, Link will gain more abilities, both as a Minish and as a human boy.

Besides size-switching, another mechanic that's vital to Link's progress in Minish Cap is discovering and linking medallions called "Kinstones." Through his travels, Link will often come across one half of several differently-colored, differently-shaped Kinstones. If he can link his half of a Kinstone to another half belonging to another person (or even an object), he'll be rewarded with money, power-ups, and, in some instances, the story's progression.

THE GOOD

The graphics and animation are great -- The world of The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap is composed of bright, beautiful sprites that look great and animate with remarkable charm. Ezlo in particular is a pretty chatty, animated guy--for a hat, anyway.

The game has a sense of humor -- Modern Zelda games can get a little dark, but Minish Cap has a lot of funny dialogue going on between the inhabitants of Hyrule. Here's a tip: press "Select" a few times to cycle through Ezlo's commentary about the ongoing adventure.

It's a quality 2D Zelda game in an era where 3D reigns -- 3D Zelda titles like Skyward Sword and Ocarina of Time 3D are excellent romps, but sometimes you just need a two-dimensional, top-down Zelda fix. Minish Cap scratches the itch very nicely.

The Minish world is clever and adorable -- The Minish who live amongst the Hylians have found ways to make the world of the giants their own. They decorate their shelters with household items like dice, stamps, sewing needles, and bits of string. They construct cafes in the rafters of houses. If you're a fan of books and stories about "little people," you'll love every aspect of the Minish world.

Lots to explore, lots to do -- Like most Zelda games, Minish Cap presents the player with a wide world to explore. Moreover, exploring the realm of the Minish people offers a new angle to the game's battle and exploration mechanics. When you're no bigger than a thimble, size does matter.

THE BAD

The game has an over-reliance on certain kinds of puzzles -- Puzzles have been a Zelda series staple for ages, and Minish Cap won't spare your brain, either. Many of the puzzles aren't overly creative, though: they rely on a lot of block-pushing, Kinstone-matching, and creating clones of Link in order to step on multiple switches simultaneously.

A lot of item switching -- Minish Cap was originally released on the Game Boy Advance, which had limited buttons. That meant accessing the game's menu an awful lot in order to switch out weapons for your "A" and "B" button--and the same holds true for the Virtual Console release, too.

When you're done, you probably won't go back -- Once Minish Cap's main game is done, you probably won't feel very motivated to go back in with your sword swinging. Other than collecting Kinstones, there's not a whole lot to do after the end game.

CONCLUSION: Big Adventures in Small Places

Minish Cap isn't as sweeping and epic as A Link to the Past, nor does it have the heart and emotion of Link's Awakening. Regardless, the game is charming, engrossing, and fun to play. It's a top-tier entry in the Zelda series.
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