Who would have thought a game featuring an elven boy and a talking hat could become a classic?.....

User Rating: 9.4 | The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap GBA
It may be a little Premature, but I am willing to bet that this year’s Gameboy Advance Game of the Year has debuted a mere 10 days into 2005. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is one of those rare titles tat blends elements that made its predecessors so great, with original ideas to create a unique and incredible gaming experience.

Link’s latest adventure revolves around the now legendary Picori, a tiny mystical race believed to have given humans a legendary blade in their time of need. During the Picori Festival a tournament is held in which the greatest swordsmen in all of Hyrule gather for the chance to touch the mythic blade. The tournament sees the arrival of an exceptional fighter known only as Vaati. What this stranger’s motives are is a mystery to everyone.

It is with this backdrop that the Minish Cap delivers its tried and true Zelda gameplay of exploration, puzzle-ridden dungeons and unique boss battles. What makes this game so unique though is the introduction of several key elements. The first, being the most obvious, is the talking headgear that our little hero wears throughout his adventure. While it gives you vague hints by hitting the select button, the primary purpose of the hat is to allow Link to shrink, granting him access to previously unreachable areas. A simple fountain becomes a complex, water filled dungeon. A mound of dirt is transformed into a temple of earth. After playing this game you’ll never look at a tree stump the same way again. The shrinking allows for some interesting and fun locals, puzzles and obstacles.

While the cap is an important part of he experience, it is the inclusion of the three new items that really make the Minish Cap a joy to play. The Gust Jar, an item that allows you to suck in surrounding items and even some enemies and use them as projectiles. The Mole Mitts, which are gloves that give you the ability to dig underground, uncovering treasures and passages. Last but not least is the Cane of Pacci, an item that allows you to flip over many items such as, jars, vases and even some enemies, not to mention its other applications. These items provide a new twist to puzzles scattered throughout Hyrule.

Dungeon searching is not the only reason you will be spending the time scouring the land of Hyrule. The addiction of Kinstone Fusing has swept over Hyrule and just like any other little scraper Link is caught up in the latest fad. Kinstones are basically halves of medallions that can be found in pots, grass, and treasure chests. Your mission is to find the individual (which may or may not be a person) whom has the other half of the Kinstone. You’ll spend countless hours trying to find all 100 matches. Creating a match will unlock a treasure chest, open a passage or spark an event. So finding all the matches is in your best interest and with the element of surprise as an added reward you’ll never grow board with the process.

Graphically the Minish Cap never disappoints with large, colorful, enchanting sprites. You will be amazed what the GBA is able to put out. Each region is able to convey the mood it set out to. From swamps, to haunted forests, to mountain top passes the land of Hyrule is both perilous and inviting. Hyrule is not the only graphical wonder, enemies too spring to life in incredibly detailed sprites. As I played through the title, more than once did I find myself in awe and glee looking at my surroundings, realizing how similar yet improved these graphics were compared to Link to the Past, the title in which the Minish Cap definitely takes a lot of inspiration from.

Sound wise the Minish Cap is defiantly a throwback to previous Zelda titles as most of the music comes as remixes of previous titles. While the songs are definitely enjoyable I did find myself wishing they had come up with more original tunes for this new experience, in that way I think they sold this title short. I do want to stress though the songs are defiantly catchy and will make Zelda fans a little teary eyed with nostalgia.

Overall The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is not an experience to be missed. With many dungeons and mini dungeons the quest alone should take the experienced gamer about 10 hours to go through and while that is a little on the short side, (my only other gripe with the title) the avid collector can expect many more hours trying to find every last Kinstone and heart container piece. With challenging puzzles that make you think, yet never leave you frustrated, you will continually find that you are telling yourself that you will only play for ten more minutes, only to realize that another hour has passed. That I believe is a trademark of a great game.