The Minish Cap may be a small adventure but it sure packs a punch, albeit a light one. I have really fond memories of this game so I was very excited to revisit it and offer my palette some much needed cleansing after playing through Four Swords Adventures.
The Minish Cap is absolutely gorgeous. Its art style is timeless and charming and cements itself as my favorite looking 2D Zelda. The pixel art is so expressive and colorful with fluid animations. Just walking around Hyrule Castle Town is a feast for the eyes as you see the NPCs running around town and the colorful merchants in the market area.
Speaking of Hyrule Castle Town, this is definitely my favorite iteration of it in the series. It is just so lively and brimming with countless side quests and extra content. They did a good job making it into a welcoming hub to constantly revisit.
The overworld may be small but we can go smaller, literally. The main gimmick of The Minish Cap is giving you the ability to shrink down to the size of a minuscule tribe called the Picori. That ability originated in Four Swords but The Minish Cap takes full advantage of that mechanic, creating sprawling worlds for you to explore in your small size. Many buildings in the town have mouse-sized holes that you can enter and explore in a totally new way. Go into the library and you’ll see that there are some researching Picori living between the books. My favorite is the cafe where you find little Picori having their own makeshift cafe atop the wooden planks in the roof.
I really love the dedication put into the shrinking mechanic and the details used all throughout. Some Picori live in human shoes and use ribbons as blankets, buttons as bed, and so on. It’s just cute. One other favorite aspect of mine is the dangers of being small in the world. Now you have to sneak around the cat in the living room so it doesn’t chase you, you have to avoid raindrops as they completely crush you, your main enemies are insects. These aspects make the implementation of the shrinking mechanic really clever and cool.
The dungeons are alright. Not super revolutionary but solid dungeons with solid designs. They do lean on the easier side which I usually prefer but I found these to be a bit too easy. I think especially after playing through Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages, which contain some really fantastic dungeons, The Minish Cap definitely leaves a lot to be desired. The bosses are all great across the board though. The Gyorg Pair boss fight from the Palace of Winds is my clear favorite and cements itself as one of my favorite 2D Zelda boss fights.
The aspect that hurts The Minish Cap in my eyes has to be the Kinstone mechanic. I do not like this one bit. Kinstones are medallions that are broken with their pieces scattered all across the world. Each NPC has their own Kinstone piece that could be completed by the pieces you collect along the way. Which opens the door for going through every NPC and seeing if you have the other piece of the Kinstone fragment they have. Fusing Kinstones would reveal secrets, make changes to the world, among other effects. I have a huge problem with this as sometimes, secrets in the overworld can’t be interacted with unless I’ve fused a kinstone with a random NPC that isn’t even anywhere close to what that fusion would unlock for me. I get that it’s supposed to encourage you to talk to every NPC but I would’ve appreciated if they went about it a different way. This mechanic really brings the game down for me.
I thought The Minish Cap would revitalize me from the dud I’ve been in since playing Four Swords Adventures and in some ways it did but not by a lot. I had a good time all in all but the sad part about this playthrough is that I realized that the game doesn’t have that spark I used to see in it. Playing the game younger, I was won over by how pretty the game was and how cute it was that I could shrink but behind that I failed to see how The Minish Cap is very much a watered-down, or I guess I should say shrunken down, Zelda experience. I think its charm is the biggest thing that’s making me prefer it over Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages but it will be in danger as soon as those games get a modernized remake.