History of Zelda: Part 12 – The Minish Cap

The Legend of Zelda. Indeed, this name is as recognisable in Video Game fame as Mario, and even Final Fantasy. Close to thirty years ago, Nintendo hired a man who would, of all things, design concepts for toys. Little did anybody know that this man would write history, influence hundreds of games, oversee the development of even more and define an entirely new genre. Shigeru Miyamoto devised the first iteration of The Legend of Zelda in the mid 1980s, and since then, The Legend of Zelda has become one of Nintendo’s very best properties.

This series of articles will look at each Zelda title in chronological order of release, describe the groundbreaking achievements and show the essence of the Action Adventure RPG.

Chapter XII – The Minish Cap (GBA)

When Hyrule was in its darkest hour of need, the Picori Blade was sent from the heavens. The world was saved once again by a legendary hero. But for how long? The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap returns the series to the handheld arena, and with it a miniscule adventure set in Hyrule. Returning with it, hordes of traditional enemies and new foes, weapons, items, the entire Zelda experience, while adding to the series its own set of unique elements.

The Minish Cap remains true to Zelda conventions, borrowing heavily from each title, whether it is the overhead style view of The Legend of Zelda, the quest for elemental powers from A Link to the Past or the interracial integration and collaborations of Ocarina of Time. However, The Minish Cap introduces us to the magnificent side story of the series, a sort of prequel. This is the story of how the wind mage Vaati came to exist, the power of the wind, and the incorporation of the Minish, or natively known as the Picori.

Along Link’s quest to save Hyrule from Vaati, he must wield the power of not the Master Sword, but the Picori Blade. This sword came down from the heavens in Hyrule’s darkest hour. Its power banished evil from the kingdom, returning peace and prosperity, allowing the Hylians to rejoice. Eventually, the event became legend, and the once vigorous relationships of the Minish and the Hylians faded away into history.

Another joint collaboration between Nintendo and Capcom’s Flagship Studio, The Minish Cap’s visuals are a charming mix of Nintendo’s own The Wind Waker, A Link to the Past and Nintendo/Capcom’s Four Swords. Combined with special graphical effects specifically designed for the Game Boy Advance, The Minish Cap is able to deliver on every visual level, whether it’s the eerily dark scenes of the graveyard, the misty depths of the Minish Woods or the slime sodden grounds of the swamps. With such atmosphere built by these visuals, The Minish Cap can compare with any Zelda title before it.

Of course there are the bountiful enemies for Link to face off, Octoroks, Tektites, Stalfos, along with Minish exclusive terrors, like debilitating spiders. Coming in different iterations and spread across the vast, vast world of Hyrule, these creatures, as always, are dedicated to hindering Link on his new quest to once again save Princess Zelda. In order to defeat them, Link has at hand many unfamiliar weapons, such as the aforementioned Picori Blade, Gust Jar, Remote Bombs and Mole Mitts. To please traditionalists, many items make a welcome return such as the Mirror Shield, Bottles and Silver Arrows. The many items suit their needs, and maintain the Zelda-esque feel to the mechanics of the title, of which feel just as intuitive and natural as always.

A very interesting contribution that The Minish Cap makes to the series is the addition of the Kinstones. These half medallions, created by the Picori, are designed to bring to the two unifiers complete happiness. Doing so is an invaluable process for Link, as it unlocks many items, heart pieces, treasures etcetera that are integral parts of the quest that lies ahead. This is not unlike the unique linking ability of passwords and link cables in Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons, which inevitably unlocked upgrades and secrets for Link to uncover. However, Kinstones enable a single player to unlock all that remains secret, without the need for a buddy with a different title, or another Game Boy.

Along his way, many NPCs offer their advice and help when needed, to be expected, and Link in turn learns more about the fate of Hyrule, the mysteries surrounding the Minish, Link’s Minish Cap Ezlo and the force that is behind it all. This builds on the already solid storyline brought to the player during the introduction of the game, which expands on the storybook like introduction of The Wind Waker while pertaining the importance of the Picori to The Minish Cap’s events. Storylines have never been the strongest point of Zelda titles, however recently this focus has changed, with attempts in Majora’s Mask and The Wind Waker to build dynamic and dramatic storylines.

To tie everything together, the soundtrack brings to life the entire adventure. Flagship, with efforts by Koji Kondo, were able to recreate the essential needs of a Zelda title; the famed overworld theme and the various emotively charged themes that are heard throughout the title. Despite the limited sound capabilities of the Game Boy Advance, music in the title really does build on the mood and atmosphere within the title. Furthermore, a second rendition of the overworld theme is presented upon reaching the Cloud Tops. Link has his little grunts to great effect, and background talking and activity noise is abundant throughout the land. This helps to create a wonderfully immersive title, where characters and environments come to life, in the palm of your hand.

All this, and in only two dimensions. The Minish Cap is perhaps the last title of its kind in the series, with Nintendo now working on a new DS entity, and the next Game Boy almost certainly going to be a 3D capable system. Nevertheless, it has provided its contribution, its unique persona to the series, an entirely new legend, a mysterious wind mage, the peculiar Picori and their Picori Blade. The Minish Cap maintains the perception that Link’s Awakening, Oracle of Ages & Seasons and Four Swords created before it, and that is that no matter how small the screen, console, or person, a massive adventure can be had by all.