Ever since the day the GameBoy Advance was first announced by Nintendo, Zelda fans have been waiting for a brand new Zelda game for the handheld. We got a remake with A Link to the Past, and a tiny new multiplayer adventure in Four Swords, but as the years went by people even started losing hope that we would ever get the game we had been promised by Shigeru Miyamoto himself.
However, at E3 2004, one year later than promised,Nintendo pulled a shocker on us, and announced the new Zelda game for the GameBoy Advance, titled The Minish Cap. Even though it’s sibling Legend of Zelda, which was announced simultaneously for the GameCube stole most of the attention from the mainstream-crowd, this game was a welcomed surprise amongst Zelda and Nintendo fans all over the world!
Surprisingly enough, Nintendo decided to release this game in Europe before North America, so while the Europeans and the Japanese got their hands on the game as early as in November 2004, the Americans had to wait until January the following year. But enough with the chatting already, let us get to the game and find out how well it really is
Outlook – 14/15 Points
There really isn’t much to put your finger on here. The game menu works very well, and makes for easy access to all your inventory, status screen, and maps. The only thing that can be a nuisance at times is the
fact that the Swords are an item equal to all the other additional weapons, meaning that when you are in stressed situations it can be easy to simply equip an item to the wrong button, and un-equip the sword when it wasn’t your attention at all.
That is about the only complaint I have in this area. The way the map work also deserves a special mentioning, because when you choose between the different areas of the map, you can also zoom in and get
exceptionally detailed information on each area, such as if a treasure chest popped up after fusing Kinstones, it will be shown on the overworld map. Genius, because this way you don’t have to worry about running to get the treasure immediately after you make it appear, because you can always just look it up on the map at a later occasion.
Gameplay – 15/15 Points
Without any doubt, this is one of the game’s many exceptionally strong areas. The gameplay carries on the strong traditions in this area for the series, which were set by the original Legend of Zelda back in 1986, and then carried on by A Link to the Past on the SNES and Link’s Awakening and the Oracle duo on the GameBoy. The overhead view still works as well today as it did back in the mid-80′s!
With the new, unique items brought into this game, it not only carries on with the traditions, but it even developes them to a new level and makes them even stronger. With the Gust Jar you now have to watch out for sand and dust, because beneath it valuable treasures might be hidden, and the Mitts take the digging to a whole new level, compared to the traditional shovel!
Dungeons are cleverly designed, and coupled with these new items, you are in for some brand new puzzles and brain-teasers which you have never encountered before in a Zelda game! Another great aspect about this game is that the overworld is also full of things to do, both side-quests, and quests that are necessary to proceed in the story, making the overworld more valuable than just space that separates the dungeon where all the action takes place.
Enemies, both new and old pose a threat to the success of your adventure, and while they generally aren’t very hard in The Minish Cap, you are bound for some thrilling fights as you will encounter mighty Darknut knights who are masters with the sword and shield, and clever bosses whose weaknesses will take several tries to uncover.
Visuals – 15/15 Points
There simply isn’t anything to complain about here. The visuals are as good as they get on the GameBoy Advance. Colorful, entertaining, and just plain beautiful to look at. That’s really all there is to say about it!
Audio – 14/15 Points
Zelda games have always had strong traditions when it comes to music. The tunes created by musical genius Koji Kondo have struck many a Zelda fan, and even people not interested in video games at all, as
stunningly beautiful, soothing, exciting, and even scary! This game is no exception in that area, with Koji Kondo as supervisor of the musical part of the game, that really doesn’t come as a shock either. It mixes
the old classic tunes such as the original Zelda theme, with new and equally touching music — And who knew that the overworld theme from The Wind Waker would fit so well into this game? It is almost as if it was made for the part where it has been used in this game!
The only drawback in this department, are the sounds effects. After having heard them over and over again, in the Zelda games on the Nintendo 64, GameCube, and previously on the GameBoy Advance as well, it would have been nice to get some change in this department. We are of course talking about the sound effects used for Link! It’s not that they are bad, it’s just that some change would have been great.
Storyline – 10/10 Points
Without giving out any important parts of the story, because this is supposed to be a spoiler-free review of the game, there is just one thing to say about it: It is awesome! Perhaps the best story in any handheld Zelda game so far, it combines many new elements which haven’t been touched before in the Zelda series, with classic traditions such as Princess Zelda, and other things. It is really quite hard to talk about without giving out spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that, before saying that this is a story of the Zelda saga you just can’t miss out
Environment – 10/10 Points
With all those top-scores, this review seems to be looking more and more like a tribute, but in a way that is what it is, since this is just overall a great game. The environment in this game continues the classic Zelda tradition of two different worlds which are laid out very well. Once you enter the land of the Minish people, you really do feel like you are tiny, and once you go back you can’t stop thinking that you are a giant.
Ambiance – 9/10 Points
While it in the end most likely comes down to a matter of personal preference, I am under the belief that no matter how great a GameBoy game is, it can never really make you feel like you are the hero, and that you are an actual part of the game, in the same way that a 3D game will do. With that said, there is nothing wrong with the overall feel of the game, and it really does draw you into the story, characters and land of Hyrule as much as a GameBoy game ever will do.
Zelda Sense – 5/5 Points
Should I point out a category where this game absolutely excels, this would without doubt be it. From the first push on that button, and all the way until the final credits roll across the screen, and even then, you will really feel that this is a true Zelda game, tailored for the needs of adventure-hungry Zelda fans!
Overall Effectiveness – 5/5 Points
Another strong part of the game. Everything in the game works well, and looks in place, and the game really has a natural flow to it. Once you start getting further into the game, you really need to help the Princess and the rest of Hyrule’s citizens, as well as the Minish people, and in the end, you really do feel like you did help them.
Total Score – 97/100 Points
The final score says it all, this is a game a pure brilliance, and very likely the best portable Zelda game ever made! Its mix of brand new and unique impulses, and the old and truly classic elements that make a Zelda game so great, makes this game better than any other game ever made for the GameBoy console. The only downside of it is that in the end, when it is all over, it will only leave you craving for more. While it probably has an estimated ten to twenty solid hours of gameplay for the average gamer, a mere five dungeons just isn’t enough! We want more!