The Minish Cap | Boxart
Title The Legend of Zelda – The Minish Cap
Developer Nintendo, Capcom
Publisher Nintendo
Release Date January 10, 2005
Genre Action, Adventure
Platform Game Boy Advance, Virtual Console
Age Rating E for Everyone (ESRB)

The Legend of Zelda – The Minish Cap for the Game Boy Advance follows our favorite green tunic wearing hero, Link, as he journeys on a tiny yet epic adventure to save Hyrule. Similar to other Zelda games, The Minish Cap is an entertaining romp through a vast overworld teeming with enemies, secrets, and dungeons just waiting to be explored. Fans of the Zelda series will find themselves in familiar territory, but may find a few new surprises along the way.

The Minish Cap serves as a prequel to the Four Swords sub story, introducing players to several plot elements used across this set of games. If you are not familiar with the Four Swords games or plot, do not worry, as The Minish Cap does an excellent job of introducing this sub story, which sits within the overall Zelda lore. It is also a solid stand-alone game, so if you have never played or heard of this or any of the Four Swords games previously, you will not miss a thing.

Minish Cap | Dialogue
Well, might you?!

In classic Zelda fashion, we are first provided an introduction. Hyrule was in darkness, on the brink of destruction, and all seemed lost. Then from the heavens came the Picori, a race of micro beings that brought with them a weapon and a golden light to be used by a chosen hero. When the darkness was defeated, the blade was kept hidden and the Picori fell into legend. Of course, nothing can ever stay peaceful (we would not have a game to play otherwise…). Vaati, an evil wizard who has infiltrated Hyrule, is hell-bent on plunging everything into darkness once again and it is up to Link to defeat this evil. This quest takes players through six main dungeons, plus a number of smaller areas, in which Link will collect the necessary items and gear to ultimately save the day. However, these treks are far from normal.

Since The Minish Cap is built for the GBA, the controls are simple and easy to master. As in previous Zelda games for handhelds, your sword and sub weapons can be interchangeably mapped to the A and B buttons. You can also talk and check things with either the A or R button. The R button also allows Link to roll when walking and grip a number of things, such as pots for breaking and handled switches to pull and activate. R is also used to resize Link when near a portal. Start brings up your sub menu screens and pressing L or R switches these screens to assign weapons, check the map, or check amounts of other collectables. L is mainly used to interact with NPCs for kinstone fusion and the Select button is to talk to a new companion that joins Link on his adventure. The D-pad moves Link in-game and moves cursors in the menus.

Minish Cap | Shrink and Grow
Stand on a portal to resize Link.

The major game mechanic that defines The Minish Cap is Link’s new ability to shrink himself to microscopic proportions. Players are given the chance to experience locales from both a normal and a miniature perspective. Normal enemies become giant monsters, simple vines become imposing obstacles, and the land of Hyrule opens up into a whole new level of tiny secrets. Even something harmless like rainfall becomes an imposing dilemma for our hero in minish form. Fortunately, Link is not alone in his expedition through the microscopic, as he is joined by Ezlo, the Minish Cap. Ezlo is responsible for Link’s new power, resizing our hero throughout his adventure. Ezlo points out that portals used for resizing Link are everywhere and can be everyday objects like stumps or pots, all with a very distinctive small hole. Ezlo also plays a role similar to the fairies from the N64 games, as he will provide Link with reminders of which way to go next. Players will also find themselves going minish to speak with the Picori, or Minish themselves, as they also lend guidance to Link and help color in the main story.

Minish Cap | Big Problems
Even simple raindrops are a danger when minish.

Another new mechanic introduced in The Minish Cap is kinstone fusion. Kinstones are a new collectable found all throughout Hyrule. Players will find the missing halves to kinstones held by the NPCs around the world. When an NPC has a kinstone they will have a thought bubble over their head, indicating that Link can fuse a kinstone with them. If you have found the right-fitting half and fuse a kinstone, a number of different outcomes can occur. For example, many kinstones cause chests to appear throughout Hyrule. Some will also reveal hidden paths and areas. The golden kinstones will unlock access to several key areas in the main campaign, from opening barriers to even changing the weather.

Minish Cap | Kinstones
Fuse kinstones to reveal chests and hidden areas.

Along with the fusion and the resizing systems, the sub weapon system is back again. The familiar game design of explore, acquire a sub weapon, defeat the dungeon, and repeat makes a return, and that is a very good thing. The developers at Nintendo have mastered this game design and push the GBA hardware to bring players new ways to traverse through dungeons and make new, innovative puzzles to solve. For example, you can pull objects towards you with the Gust Jar or blow debris away, revealing switches. With Roc’s Cape, you can hover and clear greater distances than before, allowing the devs to literally expand level designs to greater degrees. Making its chronological debut is the Four Sword, a weapon allowing you to create up to four copies of Link. Activating multiple switches, moving heavier roadblocks, and causing four times the damage are all possible with multiple Links. Players will not only have the opportunity to choose their favorite sub weapons and develop their own fighting style, but they will have the ability to dish out quadruple the carnage.

Minish Cap | Ezlo Hover
Ezlo can also help you get around.

As I mentioned before, the devs really push the GBA hardware to bring us these new experiences and I believe the overall outcome works well. Although limited by the GBA’s power and cart size, the developers still managed to bring us a very bright, colorful and detailed Hyrule brimming with things to do. The overworld is reminiscent of A Link to the Past and the micro versions of major areas are a very creative way to expand the explorable range of the game. The music and sound effects add atmosphere and build on the overall charming style of the game. Finally, the dungeons are complex, yet intuitive, inviting players to some imaginative maneuvering and puzzle solving. Players will often find themselves shrinking and growing Link as they make their way under, over, above, and below. It all comes together to create a very fun venture with awe and surprise all around you.

Minish Cap | Secrets
Secret areas are all around, even above you!

Unfortunately, The Minish Cap does have some minor drawbacks. Although the game has six dungeons and a myriad of hidden caves and mini levels, players will find themselves clearing them rather quickly. Although puzzles are cleverly designed, none are too difficult to solve. Boss battles, although possessing a level of innovation, are also too easy and, as a result, somewhat forgettable. The overall game itself feels easier than many of its console and handheld predecessors, games that I felt were far more balanced in difficulty. All of these flaws sum up to a shorter than expected playthrough. While the game is quite fun and smart, it is a letdown that the adventure ends far too soon.

The Legend of Zelda – The Minish Cap is still a great game, very much worth the time of all Zelda fans and still deserving of attention by casual players as well. The Minish Cap delivers a solid campaign that is charming and enjoyable to play. Although small, you won’t have to look hard to find the fun.

Review Score
Drew D.
Drew has been an avid gamer most of his life, favoring single-player campaigns. For him, a worthwhile game is one that immerses you; it envelops you and draws out an array of emotions that produce those memorable moments we live for as gamers.