Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Replaying The Minish Cap

It's the 25th Anniversary of the Zelda franchise and my way of celebrating is (re)playing as many Zelda games as possible. I replayed Spirit Tracks last Holidays, because I only had played the game once at that point. Then I replayed A Link to the Past, because my Virtual Console copy still remained untouched. I also checked out the newest version of Ancient Stone Tablets after that. Then I decided to replay Twilight Princess, because I had played the Wii version only once so far and I wanted to deal with the mirroring again. It was also a preparation for Skyward Sword. Of course I've also beaten Link's Crossbow Training one more time right after Twilight Princess, after all those two games share a lot. The Wind Waker was my next choice, there I wanted to get 100% including a full figurine collection in a normally started game without the help of the 2nd Quest. After that I replayed Link's Awakening, mainly because it's short, but awesome and because it offers tons of replay value. And lately I played some rounds of Master Quest to remember some of its crazy dungeons and to get a final impression of the original Ocarina of Time, before I play the 3DS version. And it doesn't stop here, I will try to play more Zelda over the entire year.

I would actually prefer playing something new instead of replaying old games, but there aren't many options, I already 100%ed the entire series with the exception of Four Swords and Ocarina of Time 3D. I still need a Nintendo 3DS for the latter and a second player for the former. Well, there's still the Game & Watch Zelda left for me, but that's not too much fun, and the Japan exclusive Tingle games, but these are hard to get and I don't speak Japanese. But there will be Skyward Sword coming out this year, I can't wait for that. And at some point I will definitely get a Nintendo 3DS and with it more Zelda.

So, my next choice was The Minish Cap. Actually there wasn't any good reason to replay this game. I mainly did it, because I like the style of Four Swords and the news that this game will be re-released as DSiWare motivated me to check out its successor. This is actually the 6th time I've beaten The Minish Cap, I played my GBA copy four times and two years ago I played the US version on emulator, because it got an additional bomb bag upgrade. This time I played the US version on emulator again, so I could make many screenshots. It's still a weird choice, there's a fair chance, that this game will reappear on the new Virtual Console anyway and I already played this so many times. This is my third most played Zelda game after Ocarina of Time and Link's Awakening, which is weird, because on the paper it doesn't have many replay value. It's not as short as Link's Awakening and it's very linear.

But this game really lures you in. It's a nice little game and it wants to be replayed. The game is really beautiful and joyful and it doesn't let you go so easily. You just play a couple of minutes and you already want to climb that beanstalk again. It was definitely Capcom's farewell gift and their only "simple" Zelda game. You can say about Capcom's team Flagship what you want, but they definitely had guts and experimented with the Zelda series a lot. With the Oracle saga they tried to link multiple games. While this added tons of initial replay value, when the games originally were released, I lost interest in these games when I was fully done with them. There's no quick entry here, there are many choices to make and no definite way of playing these games, which makes it difficult to reexperience everything. After the Oracle games Capcom made Four Swords, the first multiplayer Zelda experience ever. However, it can't be played alone. With The Minish Cap on the other hand Flagship took all their experience from making the Oracles and Four Swords and used it to form one last normal Zelda game.

But you have to say, that this game really feels like Capcom took a giant pot and just threw tons of stuff from all previous Zelda games in it. It took the graphics, gameplay and style from Four Swords, which tried to fuse the older GameBoy Zelda games with the style of The Wind Waker. For example you'll instantly notice the sound effects for solving a puzzle or the Sword Beam from Link's Awakening, but you'll also notice how the enemies and characters look like they are taken from The Wind Waker. But the game also features lots of characters and music taken from Ocarina of Time for example, there's something from every Zelda game thrown in here. Well, maybe nothing from Zelda II. The only big original idea was the Minish world, but of course the basic idea of the Minish Cap was already featured in Four Swords as the Gnat Hat item...

^remember that room from Link's Awakening?

And while this game is really beautiful, I think Flagship played it too safe here. This game is very linear and easy. The only non-linear dungeon is the Fortress of Winds, but even this one gets boring after a couple of playthroughs. And while the dungeons are all really beautiful in design and all have nice music, they are not really hard, especially compared to some of the dungeons Flagship made for their Oracle games. Remember Jabu Jabu's Belly there? I played through the Oracle games four or five times and I still can't fully warp my mind around that dungeon, it's still more try and luck. Or the Hero's Caves were kick ass. Take the blue to red tile puzzles for example. There are two of them featured in Dark Hyrule Castle, but they are a joke to compared to the later of these puzzles in Oracle of Ages. As an Oracle veteran The Minish Cap fails to challenge you.

So, what is it, that motivated me to replay this game? What lured me in? Is it really just the game's beautiful style? No, it's the Kinstones! Getting Kinstones just feels awesome, especially at the beginning of the game. You cut some grass, it plays the Get Item theme and you got a Kinstone. Combine this with some White Picolyte for pure awesomeness. Ta-da-da-daaa! Ta-da-da-daaa! Ta-da-da-daaa! Ta-da-da-daaa! Ta-da-da-daaa! ... Hell, yeah. I just love this feeling and fusing Kinstones always feels so rewarding, even though collecting Kinstones and finding 100 people to fuse with is by far not as challenging as collecting all 64 rings on Oracles for example or finding all 100 Skulltulas in Master Quest. But you fuse a piece and a treasure chest appears somewhere, a new cave opens or some other cool stuff happens. I loved the Kinstone feature ever since I first played it in the E3 demo at the German Games Convention 2004.

For some reason I always bother that there's nothing in the menu, that tells you that you got the Jabber Nut, the three Joy Butterflies and the upgrades for the Spin Attack and Split Gauge. You just get these things and the only way to know that you got them is by performing certain actions. Okay, they did the same with the Magic Spin Attack in Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, nothing in the menu tells you there, that you got it. But here there's just so much stuff, that I wished, that there's something more in the menu.

In a recent Iwata Asks interview about the music of Ocarina of Time Koji Kondo mentioned that it was very important, that the Hyrule Field music changes a lot, so it doesn't get boring. I wish Capcom knew this, because the Hyrule Field music in The Minish Cap really started to annoy me this time around... though I have to say that this game also got its fair share of awesome tracks. The Above the Clouds theme alone is magical, but I also like the remake of the Zelda I dungeon music in the Royal Tomb, the Caster Wilds music and the Sky Palace song.

^I always thought that it was a missed opportunity that they didn't expand the Royal Tomb to a full dungeon. I love how they made this minidungeon in the style of classic The Legend of Zelda dungeons. They even got the sounds for appearing items, pure awesome.

However, this game got one huge replay killer. The figurine collection. Getting a full collection might be fun the first time, but it's just completely boring and annoying in every single replay. The main problem is that it interrupts the game. You want to do some nice sidequests or play the next dungeon, but then you notice, that you already got 999 seashells. If you'd now find a treasure chest containing 200 seashells, those would go to waste. Which is why you have to skip your current mission, go to Hyrule Castle Town and start playing boring lottery for a while, even though you don't want to. And of course you just don't want to set dozens of shells at once, you have to play more strategic or otherwise you'll have to farm tons of extra shells at the end of the game. Which is why those figurine collecting pauses might take a while. And after you've finally wasted enough seashells to continue the game, you get yet another two treasure chests containing tons of seashells and it all starts over again... Luckily this is not an issue on emulator, I can just use Gameshark codes to get full 999 seashells or even an entire figurine collection without doing anything. This saves me the effort of doing something again, which I don't enjoy to do. However, this won't work, when this game gets rereleased on the Virtual Console...

Another replay killer are always bad minigames. I just hate playing bad minigames again, for example each time I'm replaying Ocarina of Time or Master Quest, I could rage about the stupid Bombchu Bowling... Ahhhh, those Cuccos, I hate them!!!!! Well, there's only one bad minigame in The Minish Cap and coincidently it also has to do with Cuccos. They took the awesome Cucco gathering sidequest from Ocarina of Time's Kakariko Village and transformed it into something horrible. It's not really hard, I can beat all of the tasks in my second try. It just sucks, it's not fun and you have to do it like ten times until you finally get the Piece of Heart. Having to beat a minigame two times already stresses it usually, but ten times is just too much. However, the game makes good for it with the awesome "Dungeon Simulation" minigame. I could play this many, many times and it never gets boring. Each Zelda games should have something like this.

And what's up with the Mirror Shield? Why do I get it, when there's no use for it at all? Okay, it was actually useful in my first playthrough, because I still got lots of sidequests left including some Golden Oktoroks. Killing those using the Mirror Shield is fun. But normally you would get the Mirror Shield after finishing everything else... why? Why can't I get the Mirror Shield earlier? It doesn't have any use, when there's nothing left to do!

So, these were my thoughts about replaying The Minish Cap. I don't know what will be next, but maybe I'll return to the NES Classics. Replaying Four Swords Adventures from start to finish would be another option, I usually just pick one or two levels, replay them and then leave the game alone once more. It's the 25th Anniversary of the Zelda franchise and I celebrate by playing Zelda!

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