A great portable Zelda. However, a short main quest and a relativley small overworld hold it back.
Graphics: I won't lie; this is one of the best looking games available for the GBA. They are amazingly colorful and detailed and animate very smoothly. There are no framerate issues, despite the fact that there is usually a lot going on. The Celda art style from Wind Waker returns, and it is charming as ever. The NPC's are goofy, yet charming, and the enemies are fun to look at. There are also many little graphical touches, like peoples' heads turning as you walk by, and things like that. You can tell Nintendo put a lot of hard workd into this game, and it shows. It is easily one of the best, if not the best, looking games on GBA. 10/ 10
Sound: Link has a voice in this game, but it's still limited to battle cries and grunts. However, it is well done. In addition, the music is quite exceptional. Everything sounds great, but there are some tracks that don't quite "do it" for me. However, the good tracks more than make up for the bad ones. Also, the music sounds fully orchestrated. It sounds crystal clear, and is very well done. The sound effects are good, too, and bring back more than a few memories. 9/ 10
Story: It is quite good for a Zelda game. It extends beyond the whole "save the kingdom" thing (at least, somewhat.) Every 100 years, tiny creatures called the Picori come from their realm to Hyrule to celebrate peace. (Or something like that. I can't quite remember.) There is also a sword tournament that is held, and this year the winner is named Vaati. He releases monsters into Hyrule, and Link sets out on a quest to save the land. It is actually more interesting and compelling than that, and let me be the one to tell you that Link's talking hat, Ezlo, is a more compelling character than you would think. 8/ 10
Gameplay: This game is traditional Zelda; explore an overworld, conquer dungeons, fight enemies and do quests. It starts out with you, as Link, or whatever you named him, being sent by your grandfather (I would like to know why Link never has any parents) to deliver a sword to the nearby Castle town. You set off, and meet up with your childhood friend, Princess Zelda. Basically, you go to town, talk to some people, fuse your first Kinstone (More on this later) and go to the castle. Eventually, you are sent on a quest, and this is where the meat and potatoes of the game lies. It doesn't take very long to reach your first dungeon. The dungeons in this game are all well designed, and have some very fun boss battles. However, they aren't very hard, and the only time the game gets even remotely challenging is in the final dungeon, which is fairly disappointing. However, as it is, the dungeons and bosses are fun.
A new mechanic is introduced in this game. Basically, Link can shrink down, and explore some very small spaces. While many people see it as extremely innovative, I found it more to be an extension of the overworld. That doesn't make it boring, or bad, but I don't think it's as game changing as some people say. It does, however, lead to some interesting dungeons, and a fewparticularly interesting boss fights. Let's just say that a few enemies you would normally kill without even blinking become intimidating boss fights.
The tools in this game are a few old ones, and a few new ones. Many return, like the bow, boomerang, Pegasus boots, and Roc's Feather. However, new ones like the Mole Mits and Cane of Pacci are well implemented. The Mole Mits allow you to dig into new caves, and they also act as this game's shovel. The Cane of Paaci allows you to flip things, and it is more interesting than it sounds.
Another new mechanic known as Kinstone fusion has been introduced. These are curious, ancient pieces of metal that form circles. However, Link can only gain possession of the left half of them. It's up to him to find people all around the overworld who have the other halves and fuse them together. When they are fused together, good things are said to happen. Basically, new paths are opened up, new people appear, and new quests can be accessed. It is an interesting way to get quests, and is well implemented in the game. There are even times where fusion is necessary.
There are a lot of sidequests in this game. They range from helping people, collecting figurines, defeating certain monsters, and finding certain items. They make up a lot of the game, and will take some time to complete. Most of them are satisfying because of the rewards for beating them, and there are several unique items to get by doing these. I don't really want to spoil anything for you, so I'll just say that much of the game's content (maybe 45%) is made up of sidequests.
The main journey through Minish Cap should take you around 15- 20 hours to beat, and if you do all the sidequests, probably 30- 40 hours. However, the overworld doesn't have as many secrets or Easter Eggs as in other Zeldas, which is fairly disappointing. Also, the overworld itself is fairly small, which, again, is fairly disappointing. Despite these complaints, this is still a fun Zelda game. 8.5/ 10
The Minsh Cap is a great handheld Zelda game. It has amazing graphics, great music, a good story and some nice dungeons, bosses and puzzles. There are some flaws to it, like a small overworld (I think it's a little smaller than A Link to the Past's overworld), and lack of fun secrets, but the polished Zelda gameplay, and amazing production values make up for any shortcomings this game might have. All in all, I recommend this game for Zelda fans, and for anyone looking for a great GBA game. Thanks for reading, and keep on saving the land!