I want to talk about this game because it's my personal favorite 2D title. Yes, it's that good. To me, at least. The colors are bright and vivid, and the graphics are above par, at least by GBA standards.
The story is a major piece in this review, so I'll try to talk about it without spoiling too much. The game takes place 100 years after the Picori aid a single young man (implied to be another incarnation of Link) in defeating evil spirits that have plagued Hyrule. The evil spirits are locked away in a chest, bound by the Picori Blade. The Picori fade away into legend, until a century later, Vaati (the main villain) destroys the Picori Blade and unleashes the spirits. It is up to Link, with the help of a talking hat named Ezlo, to break Vaati's curse on the land.
The story revolves around you finding the 4 sacred elements- earth, fire, water, and wind- in order to reforge the Picori Blade. This is my only complaint with the story- the unoriginal aspect of finding treasures of the 4 elements. Or, rather, the 4 elements themselves. It's been done to death. I do enjoy the little side plot of Ezlo being Vaati's master who was cursed by his own pupil. I also like Vaati as a villain because he comes the closest to reaching his goal (Ganondorf, technically, came closer in Ocarina of Time, but he actually succeeded. Vaati came extremely close, but was thwarted in the end). There's actually 2 extra dungeons other than the elemental dungeons, but we'll get into that in a bit.
The gameplay is very solid and enjoyable. Controlling Link is easy and defeating enemies is satisfying. The game also gives you a lot of items to travel, fight enemies, and solve puzzles. The variety of different weapons and the many uses outside of intended dungeon use is fantastic. My complaint with the item system, however, is that you get two button slots to equip items. And one of them is always going to be filled with the sword. This is disappointing, as you can only have one item available at a time, and you have to pause the game to switch weapons. However, it doesn't take you out of the action for long, so that's a plus.
A major component of The Minish Cap is shrinking down to the size of the Picori, or Minish, as they call themselves. This adds a whole new layer of challenge and fun to the game, as puddles become bottomless lakes, small holes become endless pits, and drops of rain become giant boulders. Shrinking down also lets you speak with Picori and do side quests, and numerous areas become accessible, allowing you to explore areas you never thought you would enjoy exploring. Shrinking even allows you to access dungeons, which brings me up to my next point.
The dungeons are well designed and fun. The puzzles, of course, require constant use of the dungeon item once you receive it, but before you do, the puzzles can actually be quite challenging. Even when you do get the item, the dungeon doesn't let you walk all over it. However, I do have a major issue with the dungeons in this game. For example, Deepwood Shrine, the first dungeon and location of the earth element, requires you to be the size of a Minish to access it. The boss of the dungeon? A green chu-chu, which are standard enemies in your normal size. I mean, the boss fight is fun, utilizing the Gust Jar (which can pull things in and push out gusts of air) but then you realize a standard enemy you can take down with 2 sword slashes in your normal state is protector of the earth element. Seriously? The Temple of Droplets also does this by making you fight an octorok. This fight is also very fun, but it's guarding the element of water. We need water to, oh, I don't know, SURVIVE. So, I felt insulted by this. Still, all the bosses are a lot of fun to fight, and challenging.
Another thing you can do later on in the game is clone yourself. Yes, clone yourself. No DNA required. Just use your White Sword, infused with the power of the elements, to make clones. I don't like how they can only take one hit before vanishing, but it adds a new, fun layer of complexity and allows you to solve puzzles. One of the later bosses even requires you to clone yourself to exploit it's weakness.
Hyrule is bustling with things to do, what with Sword techniques, side quests, towns and shops, all of the sort. But one of the most rewarding and major things to do is fuse kinstones. Kinstones are stones that are broken in half most of the time, and if you have a kinstone, chances are someone has the other piece. When you fuse kinstones, it's said to give you "good luck." This good luck allows you to achieve heart pieces, rupees, items, and even progress farther into the game. Fusing kinstones can happen with a simple press of the L button, and while it's kind of a shame the only purpose of the L button is for this (see item complaint) there's a bunch of kinstones you could fuse with people and even animals, which is amusing. It does get disappointing after a while to open up a treasure chest in a dungeon and instead of getting rupees, an item, or a refill on bombs or arrows, you get yet another kinstone piece.
That's all there is to say about it, really. Overall, The Minish Cap is a very good game, yet there are some flaws that may make it uninteresting for some players. Still, this is a game that should not be overlooked immediately like it frequently is.
Overall Score: 90/100