SEATTLE--At its Gamer's Summit today, Nintendo had a new and seemingly almost complete version of The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, the new Game Boy Advance Zelda adventure from Capcom's internal Flagship Studio. Flagship has had plenty of experience with 2D Zelda games before, what with its Game Boy Color games Oracle of Season and Oracle of Ages--not to mention the GBA port of A Link to the Past. So it wasn't much surprise to us to see that this newest Zelda seems to be fully upholding the spirit of the venerable series.
Here's one of the most amusing things we noticed about The Minish Cap: Link starts the game with no hat. If you've read our previous coverage of the game, you know that Link will wear what is essentially a sentient hat in this newest adventure, but at the beginning of the game, you won't have any head covering to speak of. We saw how Link happens upon his future cap under attack by octoroks and subsequently has to save the hat from harm. A Nintendo representative said that we could basically look at The Minish Cap as the story of how Link got his famous hat. The game's namesake is a real wisecracker, and it'll raise up off of Link's head and offer some quip or piece of advice at various times in the game, as the situation warrants it.
Apparently, The Minish Cap will have some minor gameplay connections to the most recently released Zelda game, Four Swords on the GameCube. That game had four different Links working in conjunction to solve various puzzles, and The Minish Cap will use a similar mechanic in some places. You won't have any other players helping out, however; rather, special pads on the floor will occasionally cause Link to split into four identical selves so that you'll have some extra muscle if you have some overwhelming task to complete. In the example we saw, Link had to spawn his clones while facing the proper direction so he could move them all as a group and push a massive block out of the way. We imagine this four-Link mechanic will figure prominently in some of the game's more devious puzzle designs.
We also got a better feel for the way the kinstones will work in the game. As reported previously, you'll collect kinstone fragments as you progress through the game, and you can match up your fragments with those of various other characters to affect changes in the gameworld. In the new build, we got to see how you'll be able to access a menu screen where you can manage the kinstone fragments you've collected, which ought to be handy, since the kinstones are categorized by the designs on their faces (and also because there's something like 100 of them). More importantly, after you make a kinstone match, the overworld map will show you an icon when you zoom in that indicates where (and what) the effect of your latest pairing is. Sometimes a match will cause a new character to appear, and sometimes a match will open up access to a new area, and so on.
The Minish Cap seems like it might be a bit more story-driven than previous Zelda games, since we ran around in a town that was chock-full of characters we could interact with. There seem to be a fair number of noninteractive dialogue scenes as well, from what we played, so there may be a bit more plot to this game than your average Zelda. In any event, we'll be curious to see how The Minish Cap has shaped up when it hits stores in January. Stay tuned for more info before then.