Zelda’s smallest adventure is the series’ biggest hidden gem
You’d be hard pressed to name a bigger powerhouse in the early 2000’s than Capcom; the house of Mega Man was on an absolute tear with near constant hits like Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe. Enjoying a similarly strong run was The Legend Of Zelda series. In the space of just five years, Ocarina of Time had revolutionised RPGs, Majora’s Mask and the Oracle games offered unique takes on the Zelda formula, and The Wind Waker stood as arguably the series’ best adventure yet.
So why is Capcom’s The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap seemingly so underappreciated?
The Minish Cap was released in 2004, and follows a new incarnation of Link who seeks to break a curse placed on Princess Zelda, after the destruction of the ‘sacred blade’ by the evil sorcerer Vaati. To do this, Link must seek out the Minish – a race of microscopic beings who forged the original sacred blade for a previous hero – to repair the blade and return Zelda to her former self. Aside from giving Ganon a break for once in favour of the fantastic Vaati, it’s a pretty standard Zelda plot. Thankfully, Minish Cap really shines in other aspects.
Like any Zelda game, this adventure has its own central gimmick, the titular Minish Cap, which allows Link to shrink down to the size of an ant, exploring areas previously only accessible by the Minish people. Unlike Majora’s Mask – where the central time mechanic is only really a factor in the overworld – Minish Link is weaved throughout the entirety of the game, with dungeons like the Cave of Flames and the Fortress of Winds putting the mechanic to good use throughout.
Those dungeons are some of the best the series has to offer. Each of the six dungeons’ mechanics feels fresh. What really struck me within Minish Cap, though, is how this felt like the first time a 2D entry took cues from the 3D Zeldas. As an example, the Palace of Winds felt like it could have been ripped straight out of Wind Waker, due to its use of verticality.
Minish Cap also boasts one of the more unique rosters of key items in the series, with new pieces of kit like the Gust Jar and the Mole Mitts making their debut. Unlike other entries with unique items, these gadgets are woven throughout the entire game, culminating in a final dungeon that truly tests everything you have learned during the adventure.
Sadly, the only way you can officially get the game right now is through the Wii U eShop (or the 3DS ambassador programme if you have been able to tear yourself away from that free copy of Ice Climber). The eShop’s going offline permanently in March 2023. This means, if you have the means to, you owe it to yourself to check out this relatively unsung Zelda adventure. It’s a treat.