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...where the smallest puddle becomes a terrible swamp!
They say that good formulas never die, and this may very well be true for Nintendo's Zelda series. Loads of Zelda games have been released for every Nintendo console in history, and every time we suspect that there'll be no more games in this everlasting series, Miyamoto announces a new one. This time Link and Zelda has moved on to the Gameboy Advance, in the adventure that is Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap.
The most difficult thing for a developer when it comes to games like Zelda, Metroid or Castlevania, must be to make the game original and fun, while still managing to keep the classical feeling that everyone loves about them. Fortunately, this is exactly what Minish Cap does. Every Zelda fan will recognize themselves instantly, but will also be introduced to new allies, new items and puzzles that will make the game a lot more enjoyable.
The only thing that's probably not very original, is the plot. Then again, the Zelda's were never really about the plot anyway. Basically, it's the usual 'rescue Zelda from the evildoer and become the hero of Hyrule' kind of story. The only thing that adds a bit to it is the Minish people. These are very small creatures that lives all around Hyrule, but cannot be seen unless you shrink yourself to their size. This can be done in various places around the map, and is also required at several occcassions to solve puzzles or proceed through dungeons etc. Link gains the ability to shrink to Minish size shortly after he meets up with the Minish Cap, a hat which pretty much has the same function as the fairy in Ocarina of Time (the only difference being that he sits on Link's head, and he talks a lot more).
The largest part of the fun value in Minish Cap comes from the various new items that Link aquires on his adventure. A lot of the stuff here has never been seen before in a Zelda game, and adds a lot to the fun value. There's the Digging Claws (digging through sand/rock), the Gust Jar (pulls things towards you and then shoot them away), the Roc's Cape (double jump/fly for a short period of time) and a lot more. The actual battles though, are very much like every other Zelda out there. Strike the enemies with your sword to kill them, collect the Rupee's, roll forward with R (perfect way to move faster, I found myself using this instead of the clumsy pegasus boots) and so forth. Aside from the traditional spin attack, there are a bunch of new battle skills that Link can learn by visiting a certain trainer in town every now and then. Like everything else, these are optional, but recommended as they make the battles a lot more fun. Despite being an old concept, the battle system overall is quite enjoyable.
When it comes to music & sounds, most fans of the series will recognize the larger part of the tracks. Link's voice has also been kept very much the same, so those who've always loved his battle cries won't be disappointed. All of the new tunes also have that infamous Zelda feeling to them, and thus manages to fit very well into the game. A few more dungeon themes and field themes wouldn't have hurt though, as some tracks got pretty tiring towards the later parts of the game.
In the graphics department, Minish Cap manages to impress quite a bit. While nothing about it is particularly stunning, most of the backgrounds and character models are quite detailed, and everything runs smoothly at all times.
Aside from Adventure of Link, none of the Zelda's have ever been very challenging, and neither is Minish Cap. I died once throughout the entire game, due to being unprepared for a certain encounter. But then again, most people who play Zelda aren't into it for the challenge, but to just enjoy exploring, treasure hunting and puzzle solving. The completion time isn't that different from the other Zelda's either, and ranges from about 6-7 hours to a maximum of 15-20 hours if you want to complete most of the sidequests on the way.
If there's anything Minish Cap has, it's sidequests. As usual, you can complete most of these at any time during the game, and some of them are almost essential to do in order to complete the rest of the game. You can collect additional heart containers, upgrade your bombs and arrows, play a few mini-games which have various prices etc. The perhaps most enjoyable and worthwhile thing to do while not proceeding through the game though, is to fuse Kinstones. Kinstones are small stones that can pretty much be found anywhere on the world map or in a dungeon. To fuse Kinstones, press L in front of an NPC, and the Kinstone Fusion window will pop up. If one of the Kinstones you have fits with the one the NPC possesses, a secret will be revealed somewhere in the world. While you aren't forced to fuse Kinstones with anyone, it's highly recommended.
Minish Cap manages to satsify in most sections, and it is indeed a fun game to play. For a lot of people, that is more than enough to make this game an obvious purchase. However, like every other game, it has its flaws. I've always wanted a longer Zelda game, and perhaps one that provided a little more challenge (Link's Adventure aside). The gameplay in itself is a fun and traditional experience, but it doesn't go near the higher scores on the scale. Overall, Zelda: The Minish Cap is worth buying, and it sure has its moments, but will probably go down in history as one of the more average Zelda games, rather than one of the best.
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