The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap has a pretty lousy reputation among fans. Or at least it did a decade ago. It’s probably improved since then, because there are newer Zelda games to hate. The rule of Zelda fandom is that the latest game is always the worst in the series, and with each new release suddenly the ones you hated a few years ago are brilliant. Have always been brilliant. Have always been at war with Eurasia.
At the time of its release, though, Minish Cap gathered quite a few detractors. It wasn’t a real Zelda game, claimed many critics, because it was codeveloped by Capcom offshoot Flagship. (The Flagship-developed Oracle games were OK, though, because… well, mainly because they were no longer the newest portable Zelda titles.) The last boss encounter was arbitrary (true). The trading/collecting quest was pointless (yeah, but aren’t they always). And so forth.
For my part, I really enjoyed, and enjoy, Minish Cap. Although I always feel a twinge of guilt when I think about it.
For whatever reason, Nintendo launched Minish Cap in Europe first, shortly before Christmas 2004. That was the Christmas I found myself trying to find love for the DS, so I imported Minish Cap to take along with me for when I started to feel burned out a system whose catalog consisted of The Urbz, a bad racing game, and a port of an eight-year-old platformer. It didn’t take long, truth be told. So Minish Cap mostly kept me occupied on that trip, thanks to the DS’ GBA cartridge slot.
I wasn’t entirely used to the dynamics of the DS’s physical form factor, though, so in my excitement over being able to plug in stereo headphones and listen to the game on a plane without the use of the GBA SP’s asinine (and way overpriced) headphone adapter, I didn’t really pay much attention to my thoroughness. The DS headphone jack had a surprising amount of resistance and, weirdly, the ability to seat a plug in such a way that you could hear the audio through both the system’s speakers and the stereo headphones.
Not realizing this, I played on the plane for a couple of hours, reveling in being able to hear the game, until suddenly the elderly lady next to me tapped my arm.
“Can you turn that off?” she asked once I pulled my headphones out.
“Wait, you can hear that?” I said, startled.
“Oh, yes,” she replied. “Everything.”
And sure enough, even though I was listening to the game through headphones, the plug wasn’t seated well enough to shut down the speaker circuit. I suppose three hours of scratchy music and Link’s “YAHHH!” samples would wear on anyone.
Ah well. Even if it ruins old ladies’ days, I still admire The Minish Cap. It was good, solid fun, and the concept of shrinking a character to send them scurrying through an oversized world isn’t played with often enough. It’s also much more interesting when integrated into a 2D game, since you can’t just scale down the camera perspective — you have to redraw the world and invest greater detail into elements that otherwise would simply vanish into the background.
My one complaint about Minish Cap is that I never finished the game 100%. The European version had an unfortunate bug that prevented players from completing one of the trade quests. Although maybe that was a good thing, since it disabused me of the urge to try obsessive-compulsively scraping every last little bit of content from games. Sometimes, it’s enough to simply enjoy a work.