Ever wonder if there were little people hiding under the furniture taking all the toys and buttons and books you’d lost over the years?
I did, but then I was a fan of The Littles, that cartoon based on the book of the same name by John Peterson, inspired by another story called The Borrowers by Mary Norton, both owing a lot to the Lilliputians of Gulliver’s Travels. Basically, they were tiny humans hiding right under our noses, but only kids were curious enough to find them.
That very basic set up is what drives The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. In the land of Hyrule, these miniature Hylians are known as Picori, though they call themselves the Minish. Hiding behind small wall cracks, these tiny magical bipeds with round faces, funny tails, and brightly colored clothing are fascinated by the world of big people. (Come to think of it, the Minish also owe a lot to Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock.)
After Zelda is kidnapped (something she has a habit of doing), Link finds a talking cap named Ezlo that offers to help him on his journey. Ezlo is an interesting character, both in personality and utility. Each time you enter a new area of significance, he tells you about it. When you find yourself having trouble with a puzzle, he offers a hint. When you turn the game back on after a brief rest, he reminds you what your current task is. As potentially annoying as that sounds, he actually comes in handy. If nothing else, he provides some entertaining dialogue to go along with a game where characters normally only speak when spoken to. Ezlo also teaches our hero how to shrink to Minish size.
Like the other fictional little people, the Minish have built up a culture, interests, and abilities that are uniquely theirs. And thanks to Ezlo, our hero now has the knack of shrinking, allowing him to interact with the little, otherwise overlooked people.
This is exactly the kind of Zelda game Nintendo should be making for the GameBoy Advance, just as the upcoming non-childlike Legend of Zelda is exactly the kind of Zelda game Nintendo should be making for its current generation counsel. Nintendo caught a lot of undue flack for the cartoony look of Wind Waker (as well as their attempt to Pokémon-ize the Zelda franchise with the interconnective Oracle games, which were also developed by Flagship), and as great as Wind Waker is, having two different styles of Zelda games on two different systems is important because it allows Nintendo to approach the fantasy genre from two distinct angles. For younger Harry Potter fans who want to see mystical creatures and talking hats, there is the GameBoy line, and for the Lord of the Rings fans, well, the GameCube is ready and waiting.
Aside from the new myths added to the Zelda series, The Minish Cap offers a new gameplay element as well — Kinstones, small medallions that have been broken in half and scattered throughout the land. Every so often Link will meet citizens of Hyrule (even a few animals and objects) that want to fuse Kinstones for good luck. Whenever two Kinstones match-up a new item, area, or monster becomes available, allowing Link access to side quests and bonus features. At first this is relatively easy, but, as the game goes on, fusing every last Kinstone becomes an obsession. In fact, this is a game that once you start, you may not want to put down until you’ve accomplished “just one more thing” or fused one last Kinstone since there is always “just one more” goal that seems to be beyond your reach.
Fortunately, though the world may be small compared to other games within the franchise, Ezlo’s powers allow you to obsessively explore both the “normal” and Picori/Minish worlds. So that word — obsession — could easily describe this game, as it can all the best Zelda titles.