The Minish Cap is the third Zelda game that involves the legend of the Four Sword, expanding on the story of Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures. A magical, talking cap named Ezlo can shrink Link to the size of the Picori, a thumb-sized race that live in Hyrule. The game retains some common themes of previous Zelda installments, such as the presence of Gorons, while introducing Kinstones and other new gameplay features.
The Minish Cap was generally well received among critics. It was named the 20th best Game Boy Advance game in an IGN feature, and was selected as the 2005 Game Boy Advance Game of the Year by GameSpot.
The Minish Cap retains the general gameplay features that were present in previous Zelda installments. The main protagonist, Link, must navigate several dungeons to obtain an item or enhancement at the end of each dungeon that is pivotal towards the quest. Each of the game's "bosses" are defeated using the item acquired in the boss's dungeon. The game also includes multiple "side quests"—optional tasks that are not part of the main quest but rewards for completion are beneficial to the gamer. Recurring characters in the Zelda series make appearances and some form part of side quests; for example, Tingle and his brothers must all be contacted by the player to earn a reward.
The Minish Cap features a number of enhancements that benefit from the more powerful Game Boy Advance platform. The game's camera angle is much closer to the ground, allowing more detail. In the overworld and in dungeons, the game replaces the traditional item interface of the handheld Zelda games with pictures associating items or actions with buttons, similar to the item interface in 3D titles like Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker. Enemies include familiar creatures from the Zelda universe, such as the Keatons. Link can also perform special actions present in the 3D Zelda games, such as rolling while running. The game introduces three new items: the Mole Mitts, the Gust Jar, and the Cane of Pacci. The Mole Mitts allow Link to burrow through particular materials that serve as obstacles, the Gust Jar is used to suck in nearby items and substances, and the Cane of Pacci overturns whatever it hits. The game advances the combat system from previous handheld installments by allowing Link to learn new sword techniques throughout the game, some of which are techniques from previous games and some of which are new.
Kinstones are special artifacts which Link can find throughout his quest. Kinstone pieces are fragments of a medallion. In order to successfully form a complete Kinstone, two pieces of the same color and with complementary notches must be used.
Kinstones are ordered by color to signal their rarity and the type of reward gained by fusing—the rarest kinstones offer the best rewards. All fusions are optional and serve as side quests, except the golden kinstones which are used to advance the story. Link can attempt to fuse Kinstones with any character or object that holds a Kinstone piece, indicated by a thought bubble.
The plot of The Minish Cap focuses on the backstory of Vaati and the Four Sword, which were important elements of Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures. The Picori, also called Minish, are a race of tiny creatures that bestowed a young boy with a green garment, a sword, and a shining golden light many years before the game is set. There are three types of Minish: Town, Forest, and Mountain.
The quests begins when Link is chosen by the king of Hyrule to seek the help of the Picori after Vaati had petrified Princess Zelda. Link was chosen because only children can see the Picori. On the voyage he rescues Ezlo, a strange being resembling a green cap with a bird-like head, who joins him and can make Link shrink to the size of the Minish. Although it is not revealed at first, he and Vaati were once Minish (Picori)—Ezlo a renowned sage and craftsman and Vaati his apprentice. Vaati became corrupted by the madness and hatred of men and took a magic hat Ezlo had made for the humans in Hyrule. The hat grants any wish made by the bearer, and Vaati wished to become a powerful sorcerer. He then turned his old master, who had tried to stop him, into a hat. With the help of Ezlo, Link retrieves the four elemental artifacts and uses them to restore the Picori Blade to the Four Sword, capable of defeating Vaati.
After Link restores the Four Sword, Vaati turns Hyrule Castle into Dark Hyrule Castle—the final dungeon in the game. Link fights Vaati just before he can drain Zelda of all her Light Force. Link defeats Vaati after engaging in a fight that consists of Vaati changing forms. When Link and Zelda flee from the collapsing castle, they meet Vaati as he again changes form for the final battle of the game. After the battle, Ezlo returns to his original form. He finds the cap of wishes he created and gives it to Zelda, granting her a wish. The cursed people are cured and the castle is turned back to normal. The hat overflows with the power of life and disappears. Ezlo gives Link a new hat and tells him that he enjoyed traveling with him, then leaves just as the Minish world closes.
After Capcom and Flagship had finished developing Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages for the Game Boy Color, they began work on a new Zelda game for the Game Boy Advance. Work on the title was suspended to allow the teams to focus on Four Swords, but in February 2003 Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma announced that development of what would later be called The Minish Cap was "well underway". Nintendo launched a Minish Cap website in September 2004, showing concepts of Link's shrinking ability.
Unique in the Zelda series, the game was released in European territories before North America. The main cited reason for this was the Nintendo DS: with the European DS Launch scheduled for Spring 2005, Nintendo Europe pushed to make Minish Cap its handheld Christmas "killer app". Conversely, Nintendo America held back on its release so not to "cannibalize" the DS market.
Aside from these Zelda Limited Edition Paks available in store, Nintendo created the Limited Edition Collector's Box, which contained The Minish Cap, the golden Triforce SP, a long-sleeved shirt and a hat. Only 300 boxes were made worldwide and each one is certificated. These Collector's Boxes were not for sale in stores anywhere, but could only be won or bought in the Nintendo Stars Catalogue for 15,000 stars. Also, one of these is in the Nintendo World Store signed by Shigeru Miyamoto himself. As a launch promotion, Nintendo Europe also produced seven 24-carat gold plated Game Boy Advance SP consoles, with six given away to people who found a golden ticket inside their Triforce SP package, and a seventh as a magazine promotion.
|GamePro||4.6 of 5|
|GameSpot||9.1 out of 10|
|IGN||9.0 out of 10|
|X-Play||5 out of 5|
|IGN||20th best GBA game.|
|GameSpot||Best of 2005–GBA Game of the Year|
|GameSpy||Editors' Choice |
2005 GBA Game of the Year.
2005 GBA Adventure of the Year.
|Nintendo Power||2005 GBA Game of the Year. |
24th best game on a Nintendo console.
The main criticism of the game among reviewers is the length of the game. Eurogamer says that "It's too short", while RPGamer state that "The typical player can fly through the game's six relatively short dungeons in about ten hours. There are also various other complaints from reviewers: IGN claims that the kinstone system is overly repetitive; Nintendo World Report criticises the game's visuals on a Game Boy Player, and RPGamer details the game's low difficulty level as a disadvantage. Despite this, IGN's Craig Harris liked the way that the ability to become tiny had been incorporated to create fresh puzzles in the Zelda series. He continued to comment that "It's an idea that's so well-conceived that I'd love to see worked in the series' 3D designs somewhere down the line."
The Minish Cap won the Best Game Boy Advance of 2005 by GameSpot over such finalists as Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones and WarioWare: Twisted!; GameSpot labelled it as "the Game Boy Advance game we remember the most". In March 2007, the game was ranked as the 20th best Game Boy Advance game by IGN. In the acknowledgement, IGN commented that "The inclusion of the ability to shrink and grow was explored to some really good results." Minish Cap received an average score of 92 per cent from Gamerankings, a site that compiles media ratings from several publishers to give an average score.