Despite my claims in a previous review, this month I was simply not done with Zelda, and even though I tried to put it down, once you get stuck into the rhythmic solving of puzzles and spelunking of temples nothing else quite scratches the itch. Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap is a game I’ve had in my backlog ever since it’s rerelease on the WiiU virtual console, and one that I’ve been meaning to play for years too. Developed by Capcom in partnership with Nintendo, Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap has a good reputation amongst Zelda fans and I’ve always been intrigued by the “honey I shrunk the kids” concept of seeing Hyrule as a tiny borrower-sized Link. Well, I’m in the mood, it’s the “Hello Hyrule” month for Band of Bloggers, it’s coming off the back of my “Month of Zelda” and it’s actually the 10th Anniversary for this game since its original release on the Game Boy Advance: there simply was no better time to play this entry in the Legend of Zelda series.
Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap is a 2D Zelda game, in the same vein as Link to the Past or the more recent Link Between Worlds, which usually means I won’t enjoy it as much as the 3D entries like the recently released Majora’s Mask 3D. This one, however, has a much different feel than the other aforementioned games, and this might be to do with the setting and theme of this entry. Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap is a prequel to all other Zelda games save Skyward Sword, and is completely devoid of Ganon (or Ganondorf), the master sword, the tri-force, etc. Instead, it is about a tiny race of beings called the Picori, who long ago helped the people of Hyrule seal evil away in a kind of Pandora’s Box, locked with a magical sword called the Picori Blade. Well, some evil sorcerer called Vaati steals the blade, unleashes evil across the land, turns princess Zelda to stone and then begins to search for the “light force”, which he needs to cast the people of Hyrule into darkness for all time. *gulp* It’s up to Link to stop him.
The plot is set-up very quickly and it doesn’t take long to get you plunging headlong into your first temple, searching for the first of four elements, solving puzzles and fighting enemies with your trusty sword and usual assortment of Zelda gadgets. The surprising and refreshing thing about Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap is that there’s virtually no filler, and no backtracking in the entire game, and it all moves along at a steady and breakneck pace. The world of Hyrule has never been smaller, but the distinct and different areas all make a very vivid impression; especially the spooky graveyard, which is awesome. There are also *loads* of secrets and optional things to discover and do, meaning the game can take as long as you want, and if you like exploring there is plenty on offer. The world design here is absolutely top-notch and I found it an absolute joy to play and navigating around the place was extremely intuitive. There are also, mostly completely optional, items called Kinstones that you can find and match up with characters in the world and this further unlocks inaccessible areas, uncovers secrets or spawns new treasure. Some people complain about this aspect of the game, but it’s optional, as I said, so I really don’t see why you would bemoan additional content. If you don’t like it, then don’t trade the Kinstones, simple really.
Having played lots of Zelda games on the 3DS recently, I didn’t realise how much I would miss the second screen in terms of inventory management and this in compounded by the Game Boy Advance’s lack of buttons. Swapping back and forth between items is frequent, and unfortunately fiddly due to the limitations of the original hardware; this being a virtual console release for WiiU means there is no remastering, just a straight port, which is a shame as the interface is the only major negative I have for this game. Aside from this, the controls of the game are great and very responsive. The swordplay in Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap is a step-up from many other 2D Zeldas in my opinion, as you learn a lot of techniques gradually from sword masters scattered about Hyrule, and the original gadgets such as the Gust Jar are all used to great effect both in combat and environment traversal.
While the sound and music of Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap is serviceable, the 2D sprite-based graphics are *fantastic*!! Capcom have used a style reminiscent of Wind Waker and obviously spent a lot of time on character designs, animation (which is excellent) and the details of each environment; this has to be one of my favourite Zeldas from a visual standpoint, it really is utterly charming. This in compounded by enabling the WiiU’s ‘smoothing’ feature for Game Boy Advance virtual console games, which takes the harsh edge off of sprites designed for a smaller resolution, and makes the whole thing look great on both the gamepad screen or a large HDTV. I’ve tried to approximate the look of this with a filter in my screenshots, but unfortunately it’s more clumsy and heavy-handed here, on the WiiU it looks great. The game also benefits from the WiiU virtual consoles restore points, and suspension point upon exiting the game, which means you no longer have to rely on the clumsy save system. This makes the game arguably a bit easier, especially the epic final battle against Vaati, it also removes frustration and makes the game more playable.
|Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap is an absolutely fantastic entry in the Legend of Zelda series, and my personal favourite of the 2D games. A charming art-style, pacey plot devoid of filler, and some great temple design (Palace of Winds is great!) means that this entry in the long running series is easy to recommend, especially for the low price on the WiiU with its myriad improvements.|
This really does conclude my “Month of Zelda”, which ran an additional few weeks well into March, and I’m next going to be picking up games in the series when the WiiU entry comes out later in 2015. At this point I’ll tackle some of the other Zelda games in my backlog: The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventures of Link, Oracle of Ages, Oracle of Seasons.