Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Replaying The Minish Cap on the Wii U

Another chapter in my quest of replaying the Zelda games during the 30th Anniversary has completed. I'm continuing to browse through the Wii U Virtual Console library and there gave The Minish Cap another go, after already completing it back when it released for the service in May/June 2014. This was the eight time that I've beaten (and completed) the game. I've did so four times on the GameBoy Advance SP, twice on emulator playing the improved US version, and now twice on Wii U Virtual Console.

And each single time was sweet. Sure, the game isn't perfect and I wouldn't rank it among my all-time favorite Zelda games. It's quite linear and way too easy, has some glaring issues for completionists like me, but it still offers a very nice experience. It's really Capcom's love letter to the series, where all their efforts from the Oracle games and Four Swords were coming to together for one final (normal) Zelda game.

The Virtual Console version is also pretty nice. It looks and plays great, where the Wii U GamePad feels like a big GameBoy Advance. It has all the good Virtual Console features, though I didn't find any good usages for Restore Points other than the figurine drawings, and even lets you view the original manual. The only downside is there for Europeans with the fact that it employs the inferior European version of the game. How is it inferior? Let's see...

  • You can't buy the 3rd Bomb Bag Upgrade from the shop.
  • There is a glitch with not correctly fusing with Eeenie, where you can't complete the Goron sidequest and this miss an Empty Bottle and the Mirror Shield.
  • Kinstone portals and helpings stay permanently on the Map and don't disappear, once you've visited these places / got the treasures.
  • You can't warp on top of the Wind Tribe's tower.

It's mostly the missing Bomb Bag Upgrade that's nagging me, but overall the other points are good reasons as well. It would be nice to have them release the U.S. version of the game on the New Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console like they did with A Link to the Past.

Anyway, my main motivation to replay the game other than the 30th Anniversary of EVERYTHING was to fill the Oracle houses with other occupants this time. In my first Wii U savegame I went for the classic Nayru in blue house and Din in red house combination. This time I had Din in the blue house and Farore in the red house. And if I ever decide to play it on Wii U again, Farore will go in the blue house and Nayru in the red house, so that every Oracle got placed in each house at least once. Let's all be salty that there never has been a third Oracle game, because if there was, we probably wouldn't have to make this choice.

Overall it's always surprising how chock-full this game is with sidequests. With a town in the center of its world, it almost reminds you of Majora's Mask, just as a rainbow-happy-shiny 2D version. There are also quite some main quests that really feel like sidequests, e.g. when getting the Pegasus Boots or the Flippers, because both have you explore nookies around the town and collect contextual items. Or some quests even have you fuse Kinstones.

Apropos, that's easily the best feature of the game. Kinstone fusions! It just always feels so rewarding, even if you're just getting "rarer" Kinstones or some Rupees out of it... But how it spawns a treasure chest in the environment or opens a new passage way, is always exciting. Such a great feature! I still remember the E3 2004 demo (playable at the Games Convention in Leipzig), where one demo level let you explore South Hyrule Field and do a lot of Kinstone Fusions. It was very different from the final product, even Malon and Epona were there. But this already had me sold on the final game!

What drags the whole sidequest sections down is the Minitendo figurine collecting, because it essentially has you pause the action for a while to play a boring lottery. It's necessary to do this ever so often, because you don't to waste any of the bigger Mysterious Shell caches after hitting the 999 shell maximum. So, you have to keep spending, if you don't want to lose in the end and do a lot of grinding. In the past I would go for the extremes, either spend only one shell (which makes a lot of sense early on, as long as you stay above 50%) or maximum. This time I usually tried to stay between 20% and 25% for very good results. I only had to do little grinding in the end, so little that I "completed" the collection and got the final Heart Piece for the first time before beating Vaati. Herb, the figurine enthusiast, only checks if you have the 130 original figurines without the six extra ones, so he lets you in his house already at this point. He then even does mention the Carlov Medal despite you not having the thing already, which is a little oversight by the developers.

What also annoyed me a lot this time was Ezlo. People say that Navi is annoying, but he can be a real deal breaker. The problem with him is that he disrupts you in your actions. For example there is a puzzle that requires the power of the Four Sword, so I start loading it, but then he pops up to tell me the solution and I have to start all over again. Ugh!!! He already has the entire SELECT button dedicated exclusively to his unnecessary guidance, which means there's no reason for him to pop up at all, unless it's story-related... Easily the worst sidekick after Fi.

I also usually enjoy replaying the dungeons, despite them being quite linear. The only real exception here is the Fortress of Winds, but that's probably my least favorite dungeon in this game. The others all have a nice flow to them and I especially like, how they tried to mix things up with the sequence of the dungeon items later on:

  • Deepwood Shrine: Map, Compass, Item, Big Key
  • Cave of Flames: Compass, Map, Item, Big Krey
  • Fortress of Winds: Compass / Map, Item, Big Key
  • Temple of Droplets: Big Key, Map, Compass, Item
  • Palace of Winds: Item, Big Key, Compass, Map
  • Dark Hyrule Castle: Map, Compass, Big Key

Getting the Big Key first in the Temple of Droplets or starting with the item in the Palace of Winds felt like quite fresh ideas. It's something that Zelda dungeons usually don't do, so this is definitely noteworthy.

That's it for my thoughts while replaying this game. If you want to read more, you can check out a similar post, where I've replayed the game for the 25th Anniversary, five years ago.

"Thus did Touri's quest come to an end.
But surely this is not the end of Zelda and Touri's adventures in Hyrule.
The legend will continue as long as the power of the light force echoes throughout the ages."

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