Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Minish Cap (Wii U VC Review)

This review was originally published on ZeldaChronicles (formerly known as ZeldaEurope) and got translated for this blog in 2021 by the same author. Nintendo had provided a download code.

A week ago last Thursday the GameBoy Advance classic The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap was made available as a download for the Wii U Virtual Console. So, let's examine how the title does on the new home console and how GameBoy Advance games fare in general on the Virtual Console.

The Minish Cap uses up 61MB on the hard drive, even though the download was about 35MB larger (probably for the emulator), and costs 6,99€ in the eShop. That's one Euro cheaper than Super Nintendo titles, but that doesn't mean that GameBoy Advance titles are worse by any means. In fact, this might be the new flagship for emulation on a Nintendo system.

Link in the Minish Woods without a hat

It's not obvious at first why Nintendo went with the Wii U, instead of the Nintendo 3DS, but the Wii U GamePad feels like a big GameBoy Advance and plays like one. The upscaled graphics of the GBA titles are razor-sharp and The Minish Cap never looked better than on the Wii U GamePad (at least officially). There are black bars to the left and right on the GamePad, as well as all around the screen on the TV, but those shouldn't really bother anyone.

It's of note that the gamma values were adjusted to make the game look more natural and not as jazzy. Games on the GameBoy Advance were originally very bright to compensate for the screens without any illumination. But of course this isn't necessary any longer on the Wii U.

You can also activate screen smoothing for GBA games, which is a new Virtual Console feature and makes the upscaled graphics look less pixelated. You can change this in the options or even comfortably switch between both modes by pressing down the right analog stick. On the Wii U GamePad things look better without the screen smoothing, however.

Sound and visuals get transmitted to both the TV and the GamePad at the same time. If you don't want to play with the GamePad, you can also use a Pro Controller, a Wii Remote, or a Classic Controller. For each controller you can freely change the bindings for the buttons (unlike on the Nintendo 3DS), which gets memorized on a per-game basis. So, for example, if you want to use ZL and ZR in The Minish Cap instead of L and R, then this is entirely possible.

And of course you can also create and load a Restore Point, where you can save and load the game at any time (e.g. right before a boss), which makes things certainly easier. In the Virtual Console menu you get a small preview picture for both the last Restore Point and for creating a new Restore Point, which feels a lot more intuitive here.

Opening the Virtual Console menu can be freely assigned to any of the buttons as well. This is ideal for those who don't want to use the touchscreen with their fingers (with Virtual Console titles on the Nintendo 3DS it was necessary to use the touchscreen for all these things).

But most of this isn't really new, because it uses the same basics as the Virtual Console for Nintendo Entertainment System and Super NES titles on the Wii U. However, other than the screen smoothing, there is another novelty that comes with the GameBoy Advance titles: you get to view the original manual of the game. You can open it via a small question mark icon in the lower left border of the touchscreen, then scroll through the pages and even zoom in.

a screenshot of the manual about the items in German

This is a lot more charming than the usual manuals for Virtual Console games, where this has a lot more value, since you get a little bit more than what's effectively just the download of a ROM. So, overall the GameBoy Advance Virtual Console is really good. It's of note that Nintendo had the help of M2 here – this is another studio, which worked on the 3D SEGA Classics for the Nintendo 3DS before and therefore had already some experience with enhanced emulation.

The Minish Cap itself didn't get enhanced during all of this, however. For customers in North America this shouldn't be of any concern, but in Europe we're still dealing with the same old game, which sadly was based on a unfinished version. Compared to the versions from North America and Japan this one has a couple of downsides:

  • Stockwell's Shop doesn't have the Bomb Bag upgrade, which normally is available for purchase after the Boomerang. So, you can only carry 50 Bombs at max in the European version, instead of 99.
  • There is a bug that prevents you from fusing Kinstones with Eenie under certain circumstances. As a result you can't summon all the Gorons, so you won't be able to get one of the Bottles, Biggoron, and the Mirror Shield at the end.
  • Places where you have opened doors or helped people via Kinstones are permanently marked on the map, even if you already have visited them.
  • You can't use the Ocarina of Wind at the portal to the Palace of Winds, which means you have to climb down the entire home of the Wind Tribe before you can leave the place.

These are all good reasons for European Zelda fans to play the North American edition instead. And it would have been very desirable to get that upgraded version on the Virtual Console, which could have been even a reason to buy the game (again) for some. Of course this probably wasn't easily done with the translations, which are missing in the other versions, but as a result you're still looking at an empty shelf slot at Stockwell's or risk to miss a lot of items (make sure that you have the blue Kinstone piece with the angular shape on the crack before you fuse Kinstone with Eenie, one of the farmers).

Link in Stockwell's Shop with no Bomb Bag upgrade available

Otherwise there isn't much to say about The Minish Cap itself, other than that the game has aged remarkably well. After Oracle of Ages & Seasons and Four Swords, Capcom delivered their swan song – their final masterpiece – with this game, where it's okay to be sad that Flagship, the studio behind these games, was dissolved afterwards. The 2D graphics were painted with a lot of attention to detail and feel sort of timeless, especially when compared to the top-down Zelda titles on the Nintendo DS. And this really shows on the Wii U GamePad.

If you're unfamiliar with The Minish Cap, you'll get a carefully crafted Zelda adventure with a total of six dungeons and a lot of side-quests. Based on the idea for the Gnat Hat from Four Swords, Link can shrink himself and dive into miniature worlds. The game is quite linear and more on the easy side, but it's overall so charming that it's hard to say anything bad about it. And on the Wii U Virtual Console it plays better than ever.

Link climbing a beanstalk

No comments: