I truly hated Oracle of Ages, so much so that I originally gave it zero percent. I felt Capcom got it all wrong by introducing too much 1980’s Capcom difficulty and obtuseness. My opinion on it mellowed after some time, but I still consider it to be the worst Zelda game that isn’t one of the CD-i games. So it was with some hesitation that I approached The Minish Cap.
Minish Cap provides the background story on Vaati, as well as the Four Sword. As the game starts, Vaati destroys the Picori Sword, and turns Princess Zelda to stone. Dink, is then tasked with finding the four elements to infuse and repair the Picori Sword to create the Four Sword. Along the way you meet Ezlo, a Picori who has been turned into a hat by his former apprentice (Vaati).
Played a top down Zelda? Minish Cap plays exactly like you’d expect then.
Not played one? Well what rock have you been hiding under for 30 years? But for that one person, Link navigates an Overworld, solving puzzles and collecting items.
You then take on dungeons, where you’ll collect a special item that will allow you to progress further on the overworld, or horde secret items.
Since this is a Zelda, and all Zelda games have a form/time changing mechanic, obviously Minish Cap has to have one, and that is, you can now change size. In Minish Cap the Cap, makes you mini… To solve puzzles you need to switch between small and normal Link. It is fairly intuitive, and thankfully isn’t as frustrating as the Age swapping in Oracle of Ages. It allows you to explore the world from two vantage points, though in Minish form you don’t get a full world to explore like the Dark World in Link to the Past.
The other difference comes from Four Swords mechanic, once you have two elements, you are able to create a duplicate of Link, this is then used for puzzles, and pushing larger blocks. It can be frustrating doing this, as one hit, and the duplicates will disappear, but the puzzles are all well designed, and are providing an increasing challenge for boss sections, so it never feels gimmicky.
Each dungeon has a boss, and these might be my favourite Zelda boss fights. I especially loved the Fortress of Winds boss (Mazaal), the combination of Minish and normal sized Link, combined with the usual shoot the glowing spots added a nice dimension to the battle. Other bosses are fun too, but Mazaal is probably my favourite Zelda boss fight.
I’m not actually lost!?
In most other Zelda games, I have found myself having to consult a guide because I have no idea where I was supposed to be going. The Overworld in Minish Cap is fairly small, and the Minish World blocks off most areas, so it means there actually isn’t much to get lost in. That doesn’t mean the world is empty, as there are still a tonnes of heart pieces, side-quests, minigames, and bottles to find, but because the world is smaller it means finding your way around is much easier.
If you do come across an obstacles they tend to be more intuitive to deal with, and there is no Oracle of Ages bullshit of switching ages 25 times to get to the water temple, in Minish Cap none of that faff happens.
There is also no infuriating trade quest that turns out to be mandatory, Minish Cap does what a good Zelda should, good story, good dungeons, and difficult to reach optional sidequests. I still think the biggest flaw of Ocarina of Time is that you HAVE to go in every room, you HAVE to check every box, it feels like you’re not exploring, in Minish Cap this sense of exploration has made a welcome return.
Also, if you are lost, you can ask Ezlo for help, and thankfully, he is fairly useful on this front.
Minish Cap is on the easy side, I died a few times, especially on the Wind Temple boss and Vaati, as I couldn’t quite figure out the mechanic (use Four Links), but on the whole, you are not going to struggle with lives. It isn’t anywhere near as easy as Wind Waker where I didn’t die once, but there is a bit of a difficulty spike for the final boss section.
Before you fight Vaati, you have to do a fairly tough gauntlet, the first 2 rooms are a piece of piss, but the 3rd room has three Darknuts. As there are three it is very difficult to get around them to inflict the damage.
After the gauntlet, you fight three forms of Vaati. Each form isn’t too difficult once you figure out the mechanics involved, but you’d probably die once or twice figuring it out. Once I figured it out, I killed Vaati without losing more than half of my health. The only issue I had was with the sodding Darknuts. It would be easier if you could take your time, but there is a plot point that means you have a relatively short time to beat the bastards.
Minish Cap is certainly one of my favourite Zelda games, it takes the 2d formula and it betters Link’s Awakening, it isn’t quite as good as Link to the Past. While Wind Waker would be my favourite Zelda game, I find the Tingle shit at the end ruins the experience slightly. As a result, i would put Minish Cap on a par with Wind Waker.
The bosses are fun, the dungeons are fair and intuitive, and the sense of exploration has returned. You are rightly rewarded for exploration, and you are never forced to overly experiment and change forms a thousand times to move 5 meters. Basically, Minish Cap does everything a good Zelda should, and it does them well.
The only gripes I could come up with, is the game is a little shorter than the others, with only 5 full length dungeons, plus a couple mini-dungeons and the Overworld is a little small.
It took me about 10 hours to beat the game, but if you are going for all the secrets you’ll be looking at a time around the 15-20 hour mark, so there is life in the game, and plenty of reasons to keep playing.
Pros: Does what a Zelda should do, and does it well
Cons: Removes all the terrible features of the Oracle games like forced minigames, endless traffic light puzzles and terrible overworld navigation
Back in the day
Minish Cap reviewed and sold well, it was one of the top selling games of 2005 in the US, and received scores in the low 90s.