I am a big fan of The Legend of Zelda franchise. I haven’t played all of the Zelda games but those that I do play, I manage to beat. Except for the NES Zelda titles and one other – The Minish Cap. It’s been a long time since I played that game so I don’t remember why I didn’t push through with it. Critically, The Minish Cap is considered as a good game, with an 89 metascore over at Metacritic. It is often considered as one of the best games available on the Game Boy Advance. So why did I give up on this game that easily?
Thanks to the popularity of retrogaming devices, I have a chance at revisiting old video games that I never had the chance to beat or even play. The Minish Cap is part of that list and the first one I tackled, and playing it now showed me possible reasons why I gave up on it back then.
1. Having Vaati and not Ganon as the game’s antagonist
When I saw that Ganon isn’t going to be the main enemy in The Minish Cap, I was a little disappointed. The game has Link and Zelda, but not the third part of the trio of characters that the Zelda franchise revolves around. During this time, the handheld Legend of Zelda games used other characters in the antagonist role, but there were good reasons for that. Link’s Awakening is set in The Windfish’s nightmare, so it had neither Zelda nor Ganon. The villains of the Oracles games were trying to resurrect Ganon, so of course he isn’t the main bad guy.
I don’t see why Ganon couldn’t be the main villain of The Minish Cap. To me, it felt like Nintendo and Capcom were pushing the world and lore of Four Swords too hard by reusing that world’s villain. This game ended up making me feel like I was playing a spinoff instead of a fully fledged Legend of Zelda game.
2. The controls of The Minish Cap is too limited
One of the issues that plagued the Legend of Zelda games released for the Game Boy and Game Boy Color was the control input limitations those devices had. Having only two face buttons, you needed to swap constantly between items all throughout those games.
The Game Boy Advance came with two additional shoulder buttons, allowing for better control mechanics. How was this used in The Minish Cap? Well, you had the R button mapped to various actions like rolling, grabbing, talking, and interacting with the environment, so that was an improvement.
The L button became dedicated to a newly introduced mechanic to the Legend of Zelda games – Kinstone fusion. While you needed to do that frequently, dedicating an entire button to Kinstone fusion took away from actions that you did more of. The L button could have been used for the Shield, like in Ocarina of Time. But no, you have to keep swapping between items, limited to having only two at a time. So constantly stopping the action to go to the item selection screen still remained a problem for The Minish Cap.
3. The new Items in The Minish Cap were “meh”
I do want to appreciate Capcom and Nintendo trying to keep the game fresh by using new items instead of the tried and true ones used in previous Zelda games. But these new items felt like they were just changing things for the sake of changing things, instead of doing that to introduce new game mechanics.
The Gust Jar, for example, is really just a combination of the Hook Shot and the Deku Leaf, in that it allows you to pull objects or blow gusts of wind for propulsion. The Mole Mitts was just another version of a shovel, only you had the additional abiliy to digging through soft walls instead of just on the ground beneath you. And the Cane of Pacci flips objects over. These items were no Magic Hammers, that’s for sure.
4. Kinstone fusion is obvious padding
The way Kinstones were implemented in the Minish Cap felt like the developers were artificially padding the game. When you get a Kinstone, you only get half of it. The other half is in the possession of an NPC, and you will need to talk to that NPC and do a Kinstone fusion before you earn the actual reward.
See how that works? Finding a Kinstone is essentially finding a secret that will lead to the actual secret if you are able to fuse it with it’s other half. So we just added two more steps before you get to the true reward. And that’s not the only problem.
Kinstone fusions aren’t always available, sometimes you need to be at a certain point in the game before NPCs will allow the fusion to happen. And by the time you’re at that point, you’ve already met the NPC previously. So you need to constantly backtrack and revisit the game’s different locations, approaching each NPC just to check if there are new Kinstone fusions that can be done.
Lastly, several Kinstone fusions lead to the discovery of more Kinstones. Let me go through that again. You find a Kinstone. Then you find the NPC who has the other half of that Kinstone. You fuse, and a treasure chest gets revealed. You open the treasure chest, and you find another Kinstone! And that’s the Kinstone that will lead to the actual secret treasure!
Why do we need to go through all these steps? Why not just give the secret treasure right away? Because The Minish Cap will be an extremely short game if not for all of this lazy padding.
5. Locking a Piece of Heart behind the Figurine Collection minigame is obvious padding
For the Legend of Zelda fans, finding all of the Heart Pieces is almost like a requirement when playing their games. And I normally don’t mind it if a Heart Piece is locked behind a minigame. But locking one Heart Piece behind the figurine collecting minigame is just another obvious attempt at making The Minish Cap feel longer than how it really is.
Here’s how it works. You get the Heart Piece if you obtain all 130 of the individual figurines. To do that, you need to trade Mysterious Shells for them. The figurine that you’ll get is random though, and as you get more and more of these, the chances of getting a repeat becomes higher. So the game will offer a higher chance of getting a new figure if you trade more Mysterious Shells.
When you get a repeat figurine, you lose how many shells you traded and get 5 Rupees in return. And by golly, you will get a lot of repeats unless you trade at really high Probability rates. Which means, you’re going to need a ton of Mysterious Shells. You can buy a set of 30 Mysterious Shells for 300 Rupees in town – that’s 30 Rupees per shell. So you’re either grinding for shells, or grinding for Rupees.
As of this writing, I’m still trying to beat The Minish Cap. I have 127 out of the 130 figurines that are needed. With three remaining, I need 97 shells for a 98% chance of getting a new figurine. That’s equal to 970 Rupees – and 999 Rupees is the most you can carry. I still need to grind and fill up my wallet before I can complete this.
I’ve been very negative about The Minish Cap, but I want to take a step back here. The Minish Cap is not a bad game at all. I do enjoy it now that I’m playing it again. But now, I made it a point to beat this game, so whatever issues I have with it I’m pushing forward. I can definitely see why I gave up on this game back then. And I definitely like the previous Game Boy Zelda games more than this one.
The Minish Cap is a Legend of Zelda game with issues, but it’s no Wand of Gamelon. I’m definitely not going to play this again though, one playthrough is enough.