An Excellent Farewell to Sprite-based Zelda
As for the story, Link is woken up on the morning of the annual Picori Festival. Princess Zelda has snuck out of the castle to convince Link to go to the festival with her. The Picori are a race of almost microscopic people that live amongst the rest of the Hylians, but are only visible to children. Most of the townspeople think Picori are nothing more than a myth or legend. When a shadowy man wins the festival's swordsman contest, he reveals himself to be Sorceror Vaati and releases thousands of monsters upon Hyrule by removing the legendary Picori blade from its resting place. Before leaving, he turns Zelda into stone for good measure. The King reveals that the legend of the Picori is indeed true, and sends Link on an adventure to reforge the Picori Blade and to break the curse placed on Princess Zelda. Very early on, Link finds a magical living hat that grants him the ability to shrink to the size of a Picori. Since the Picori refer to themselves as "The Minish," this magical hat is known as...The Minish Cap. The quest uses new techniques and old Zelda favorites equally to create an excellent adventure that ranks high upon the list of Zelda games.
Seeing as this is probably the last 2D Zelda game ever, it's a beautiful sight to see. The worlds are as varied and colorful as ever, but real eyepopper is when Link is shrunk down to Minish size. To further differentiate the two views of the world, when you enter the Minish sized world the game throws out the grid-like level design we've all come to know and creates some of the best eye candy in the game. The changes from normal to Minish play a big role not only in the graphical themes, but in the gameplay itself as everyday baddies like octoroks and jellies become monstrous foes when viewed from the eyes of a Minish. It's a refreshing take on the Hylian world as a whole.
Nothing too revolutionary here. If you've played Link to the Past or even Four Swords, you know what to expect here. One noticable difference is that you can unequip your sword all together and map one of your many other items/weapons to the B button. This is great and adds a new layer to the strategy of the game especially in some of the boss fights which would be horrendous if you had to constantly switch back and forth between items. The game also presents a mixture of new and classic weapons and magic items. You've got your bombs, boomerang and bow of course, but you will also find innovative items such as the Gust Jar (Suck Bucket), which allows you to pull things to you from a distance as well as put out fires or shoot gusts of air. Most of the new items I never would've imagined in a Zelda game, but somehow they fit perfectly in the world of Hyrule. Fans of the classic Zelda games will definitely feel right at home even with all the new additions.
The sound effects for the most part are recycled, or tweaked at the most, but that's not really a bad thing. The game has a classic look and feel, so the classic sound effects fit perfectly. The real star in the sound department though is the music. The classic Zelda is omnipresent, but in many variations. You hear hints of it in places that at first listen seem totally new to your ear. This game is at the top of the heap in GBA sound design.
The game is shorter than Link to the Past, which may come as a disappointment to some, but since this is a brand new Zelda game, every moment is savory. The main quest takes you through six dungeons, but the in between stuff takes just as long, if not longer, than the dungeons of the main quest. The world is bustling with people to interact with and take quests from. Many of these are optional, but definitely add value to the experience. One new aspect of the gameplay are Kinstones. As you adventure throughout Hyrule, you will find shards of emblems. When you encounter a friendly NPC, a ? bubble may appear over their head. By pressing L, you can ask them what Kinstone piece they have and see if one of yours matches theirs and put it together. When you complete a Kinstone, something in the world changes. It could be something as subtle as a treasure chest appearing somewhere, or it could be a new dungeon. Luckily, your map shows you where these new places can be discovered. Another thing worth noting is that even the first couple dungeons can be rather challenging. The chance of death is still fairly slim, but the level design presents a challenge to even the seasoned Zelda veteran, which is a treat.
This game is the most fun I've had on a GBA game to date and it's the first time in a long time that I've been drawn to my GBA while at home in lieu of consoles or PC. Any Zelda fan, no matter which game is your favorite, will love this game. It's an excellent new view on the world of Hyrule and I for one am saddened at the prospect that this is the final 2D Zelda. The Minish Cap deserves a spot in every GBA owner's library.
*** This review was written for Flamevault.com shortly after the release of the game ***