Genre: Action Adventure
Developed by: Capcom, Flagship
Published by: Nintendo
Platforms: Game Boy Advance
Feeling Like: Visiting Hyrule
I remember exactly when I was, where I was and how I felt when playing Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap.
It was December of 2006 and I was living with Danimal, TD, Fuzz, Randy and Lipsit at 36A King St. in Sackville, New Brunswick. I was feeling slightly morose; the upcoming Christmas break would be the last of my Mount Allison career. Never again would I experience the supreme excitement of flying home for Christmas, knowing I’d be back with my best friends in a matter of weeks.
Kyle, my high school chum, mentioned I should stay with him for a few days in Toronto on my way back. Why not? I wasn’t in any rush and I like visiting people. Plus, I had a new(ish) Zelda game to keep me company. I wasn’t exactly adept at circumnavigating public transportation yet, and I was aghast that he expected me to find my way to him. Me? Alone? In a strange city? Remember, we’d only had the internet for a decade so you can hardly blame me for not understanding how to look things up. Frankly, it’s still a weakness, but through thorough directions I managed to locate him in a cold hallway near the house he was renting, thanks to the TTC.
When Kyle had to go for most of the day (work? I don’t remember), I could have hung out with his roommate Liz, also from GNS. Instead, I hid in my room and played Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap all day. This wouldn’t be the first time I avoided social responsibilities while on vacation. I performed the exact same act years previously in Osoyoos when my cousin was gone for a day and I immersed myself with Pokemon Blue. Did I want to go to the beach and hang out with the other kids? I mean I did, but I also wanted to catch them all. You understand.
Maybe I was nervous to interact, or keen to isolate or feeling anxious that graduation was a mere months away. Maybe I was cold and wanted to stay in bed and revel in my sudden homesickness. Regardless, apologies to the housemates who put up with my overbearing/underbearing personality for a weekend.
It’s one of the few times that I’ve truly treasured having a handheld system. I could enjoy it on the plane, and on the train! All the adventure, the perfectly paced dungeons, the satisfying puzzles and the variety of tools you can use to save the princess are present here, as they are in every Zelda game. Without fail, the experience with every entry in this franchise is special.
I know a common complaint with the series is that the formula is too similar, but when has that stopped me from enjoying something? You’ll see a dozen Mega Man games on the 500, ditto Mario. I’ve loved every Gears game too. From my perspective, if it ‘aint broke, don’t fix it. I’m all for experimentation but the refinement, not the revolution, of a classic blueprint is hardly a bad starting point.
Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap does many things exceptionally well. The items are amazing, and go beyond usage in a single dungeon. The cane allows you to flip objects over, among other things, leading to some terrific instances of problem solving. The jug allowed for new methods of traversal and offensive capabilities. The ability to shrink added a layer to boss encounters, but also allowed the Game Boy Advance to really show off what it was capable of. Mushrooms, blades of grass and tiny rocks have never looked as good, or as interesting as when you’re only a few inches tall. What symbolism! – this is a big game on a small screen.
Other familiar factors made me smile. The talking hat was like a snarky Navi and usually made me laugh. It also didn’t bother me with mundane details like a certain companion in a certain other Zelda game would. Link’s sound effects sounded exactly like they should. The top down perspective returned, along with the same hopeful, magical atmosphere. Good lord, we haven’t even GOT to any of the three dimensional Zeldas yet, have we?
What a game. Using your mole mitts and jumpy cape to gain access to new areas encouraged exploration. None of the more difficult encounters ever felt cheap and would always force you to utilize the variety of tricks you’ve learned. The only thing I lamented was wanting more buttons to map items to instead of constantly switching them around.
Finishing the final boss back at Oliver St. in Victoria felt like appropriate timing. It would be the last time I would ever pick up a Game Boy Advance and the last time I would have to pack up and fly back to school. I appreciated the digital break, the familiar feel of slashing a sword, finding heart pieces and the warm welcome from a good friend in a far off land.