"If you know me well Ė and, letís face it, you probably donít Ė then you may have picked up that The Legend of Zelda is my favorite videogame franchise of all time, and that, as far as I'm concerned, few other games can even come close to matching Zeldaís consistency and reliability to deliver challenge, intelligence, and solid thrills all around. "
If you know me well Ė and, letís face it, you probably donít Ė then you may have picked up that The Legend of Zelda is my favorite videogame franchise of all time, and that, as far as I'm concerned, few other games can even come close to matching Zeldaís consistency and reliability to deliver challenge, intelligence, and solid thrills all around.
So it should surprise you, then, to learn that The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap in fact did not blow me away. Itís okay, and it occasionally offers up a few thought-provoking puzzles and amusing gimmicks, but for the most part itís also bland and forgettable, and those are two words I never thought Iíd associate with my beloved Zelda.
It would be far too easy to say something along the lines of, ďThey shrank LinkÖ and they shrank the fun!Ē Instead, I will unveil my opinions in an intelligent and civilized manner.
Minish was made by Capcom, which may seem like an odd choice until you realize that they were the same team responsible for the amazing GBC Oracle games, both of which gave even Nintendoís own Linkís Awakening a run for its money. It has all of the basic Zelda ingredients: The save-the-princess story, the loud-mouthed partner, the snazzy graphics, the trap-laden dungeons ending with big boss battles, and the one singular gameplay quirk to distinguish it from other games in the series. Minishís problem is that itís just not as hard-hitting as the others, and that itís never enjoyable enough to hold my interest for a very long period of time.
The game wins first-impression points by offering up slick 2D graphics that imitate the big-headed, cel-shaded visual style that was established with The Wind Waker. This game was released as a GBA exclusive shortly after the debut of the DS, and even considering that, Minish was able to hold its own. The world of Minish is colorful, and everything animates quite smoothly. I hope that this shift to a more cartoonish style isnít permanent (itís still being utilized in the upcoming Phantom Hourglass), but for now, it works as well as anything. (Edit: Phantom Hourglass is out now, so it's no longer "upcoming." This bothered Espiga so I will let it be known.)
Minish then loses points rather quickly when it forces me to endure another lame plot involving an evil sorcerer and a doomed princess. Forget the fact that itís shallow; itís not even original, and I had already lost interest before the introductory sequence was over. I realize this is Zelda, but I still expect a decent story in every game I play. (Well, I donít expect it. But it would be nice.)
Minishís gameplay quirk of choice is in Linkís ability to shrink to near-microscopic size, via his talking hat, Ezlo. This canít be done everywhere, of course Ė only in specified ďportals,Ē like tree stumps and pots. In shrunken form, Link is granted access to tiny places he never would have been able to squeeze through otherwise. He also has contact with the Minish, a race of little elves that aid Link in his quest to, um, save the princess.
Itís an ability thatís pulled off quite well, and turns out to be Minishís most charming feature. Exploration is made much more compelling when certain secret areas are only accessible as a tiny, shrunken Link. This also leads to some of the gameís more interesting puzzles, when youíre forced to shrink and un-shrink at rapid-fire pace to contend with the gameís ever-changing environments.
Capcom tries to match such creativity with another gimmick. Throughout the course of your little adventure, youíll come across Kinstone pieces Ė little halves of tokens that must be fused with a matching half to reveal hidden secrets. Certain NPCs carry Kinstone pieces as well, and when you walk up to them, a thought bubble showing their Kinstone piece will appear. You can then hit the L button and see if any of your pieces match it. A successful Kinstone fusion will result in some sort of reward, be it a hidden grotto revealed or a Heart Piece uncovered.
Wow. That was a really bad idea.
Due to the simplistic and random nature of this process Ė thereís no specified way to obtain Kinstones, you just find them like you would money or health Ė the questing that helped to expand previous entries in the series is not nearly as compelling as it used to be. Most of the side quests in Minish are reduced to the form of one big treasure hunt, and while this rarely factors into the main game, itís still a colossal disappointment.
Everything else is decent and respectably fun without being anything great or exceptional. The dungeons that this series is so lavishly well known for lack the brain-numbing challenge that Iím used to. I canít think of a single time in Minish when I was honestly stuck or baffled, and thatís a shame. In fact, the dungeons really feel more like extended, trap-infested mazes than actual Zelda hallmarks. The bosses arenít particularly exciting, either.
Minish controls just fine, and looks and sounds great, but it doesnít feel like it has the substance to hold its own for the entirety of its length. Thinking back on the time I spent on Minish, I remember that I actually had to restart the game twice before finally beating it. Both times, I had started the game, gotten about halfway through, lost interest, and shelved it for months at a time before finally coming back and realizing that I was lost with so much space in between.
A Zelda game that isnít able to hold my interest is barely a Zelda game at all. While thereís very little BAD about Minish, this entry in the series just feels like another run-of-the-mill action/adventure title. Itíll provide a decent amount of entertainment, and I donít think anyone will believe theyíve wasted their time playing it, but itíll fade from your memory the moment itís over.
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