It’s hard to believe it’s been six years since the last 2D Legend of Zelda game was released. Since that time, the series has evolved significantly. Twilight Princess showed us the potential that motion controls have in the Legend of Zelda, and Phantom Hourglass demonstrated how well we could play the Legend of Zelda using only a stylus. This year, the series’ 25th anniversary has set the stage for additional changes. We’ve already seen Ocarina of Time make a stunning transition to the Nintendo 3DS, and Skyward Sword is ready to prove that full motion controls are the best way to play the Legend of Zelda.

I recently played through The Minish Cap again. It was the first time I had completed the game (and the first time I had truly spent time playing the game) since it was originally released in 2005. I was surprised to see that, even after six years and significant changes, The Minish Cap has greatly influenced every Legend of Zelda title released since 2005.

I don’t think anyone would argue that 2D Legend of Zelda titles have no influence on the newer 3D titles, but I also don’t think most people realize just how strong that influence is. Some of the recent changes are simply the latest update to ever-changing game mechanics, but others have had a significant impact on dungeon design and the ever-changing Legend of Zelda timeline.

Some of the biggest changes from the past six years got their start in The Minish Cap.

Cities in the Sky

An intriguing aspect of both Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword are the cities in the sky. Skyward Sword puts the sky-based civilization at center-stage for the first time, but the previously released Twilight Princess gave us a glimpse of an ancient, highly advanced, forgotten civilization. In 2006, I was amazed to see the Legend of Zelda introducing something so new. Somehow, I managed to forget completely that one year earlier The Minish Cap had introduced the Wind Tribe and the Palace of Winds.

The Palace of Winds also appears in Four Swords (as Vaati’s Palace) and in Four Swords Adventures, but there was no civilization associated with it in those games.

I’m far from the first person to suggest a connection between the sky towns in various Legend of Zelda games, but I am most interested in The Minish Cap’s influence on Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. Sky civilizations were not a part of the Legend of Zelda story before The Minish Cap was released, but six years later they have become a major story element and will become even more important once Skyward Sword is released.

Placing the Focus on Unique Equipment

The Legend of Zelda series hasn’t always been known for unique equipment, but the games began adding interesting and original equipment beginning with A Link to the Past. Of course, the most famous item from A Link to the Past is the Hookshot.

The Hookshot is a neat adaptation of a grappling hook, but in the end it really is just a glorified grappling hook. It fits well with the other standard equipment that Link often carries, but the latest Legend of Zelda games aren’t remembered because Link used his standard equipment.

Over the last twenty years, Link has slowly added untraditional equipment to his arsenal. Unfortunately, for most of that time each game introduced only one or two new types of equipment and used them sparingly. When things really mattered, Link always relied primarily on his standard equipment (which I am defining as a sword, shield, bow and arrows, bombs, boomerang, and Hookshot or grappling hook).

Twilight Princess and Spirit Tracks both have Link relying less on his standard equipment and use the new equipment for more puzzles and battles. The Spinner in Twilight Princess is a favorite among Legend of Zelda fans. Twilight Princess also made the standard equipment feel new by changing the functionality of those items. Spirit Tracks introduced the Sand Wand, whip, and Whirwind.

(Oddly enough, Phantom Hourglass, which was released between Twilight Princess and Spirit Tracks, relied entirely on standard equipment and only changed the functionality of the items enough to make them work with a stylus.)

Skyward Sword looks like it will continue the trend of using new equipment more than the standard equipment, but The Minish Cap focused on new equipment before the latest Legend of Zelda games and it took the idea even further.

The Minish Cap includes all of the standard equipment except the Hookshot, but marginalizes them most of the time. The dungeon items, three of which are unique to The Minish Cap, take center stage and are used extensively throughout the game:

  • The Gust Jar is originally introduced to solve puzzles and clear debris but is also used for transportation, to defeat some enemies, and is required to kill the final boss.
  • The Cane of Pacci is used to flip over objects but is also used to access new areas by turning pits into trampolines and, like the Gust Jar, must be used to kill the final boss.
  • The Mole Mitts are primarily used to dig through caves but obstacles have been placed to make them required for a boss fight and to navigate several caves throughout the overworld. They also act as a replacement for a shovel.
  • The lantern is a classic Legend of Zelda item that has always been used to light torches or to help Link see through dark areas, but in The Minish Cap it is also used for combat.
  • Roc’s Cape remains the same as in previous Legend of Zelda games but is used in new types of puzzles.

Meanwhile, the standard equipment, aside from the sword, is rarely required. When the standard equipment is required, it isn’t used in a new way.

The reliance on new types of equipment affects the rest of the game entirely. The overworld is more interesting because the dungeon items are used while traveling, and the dungeons themselves are masterfully designed to take advantage of the new equipment.

A New Type of Dungeon Design

Dungeons in the Legend of Zelda often follow a similar pattern where you work your way to the dungeon item, use that item to complete the rest of the dungeon, and then use the item to defeat the boss. In some cases the item then becomes baggage that is rarely used once the dungeon is completed.

While this does not apply to every dungeon, it does apply to most Legend of Zelda games. The Minish Cap not only follows this formula, but it takes it to an extreme (with the exception of dungeon items never becoming baggage). The new dungeon designs are the most unique in the Legend of Zelda series due to their extreme reliance on dungeon items (and partially due to the miniature-Link mechanics).

Following the release ofΒ The Minish Cap, dungeon designs in all Legend of Zelda titles changed. Arbiter’s Ground in Twilight Princess is a perfect example of a dungeon design influenced by The Minish Cap. The series has shifted from dungeon designs based on a location (forest, mountain, lake, etc.) to dungeons designed entirely around the use of a single item.

The Lasting Influence of 2D Design

The Minish Cap introduced, or in some cases perfected, features that are now considered a crucial part of what makes a Legend of Zelda game, but you could argue that every Legend of Zelda game has provided something important to the series. Even The Adventure of Link is credited with introducing magic, sword skills, and Dark Link to the series. What makes The Minish Cap stand out among them is the timing of its release and the way it was designed.

The Minish Cap is the last 2D Legend of Zelda game and could be the last one ever released (though I hope that isn’t the case). Despite the huge differences between 2D and 3D Legend of Zelda games, it has a far-reaching influence that often goes unnoticed even among dedicated Legend of Zelda fans.

If you haven’t played The Minish Cap recently, I suggest you give the game another play-through (or a first!). The game I ignored for six years is 2D Legend of Zelda, perfected.

  • mikeypizzalover

    OMG I love this game! Its probely my fav portable Zelda, if you dont count OoT3D, naturally.

    I just realized. Mertoid turns 25 today! Do THEY get a symtony? No.

    • A_LINK_IN_TIME

      Give Metroid some love, Nintendo!

    • LinkMasterYoda

      Metroid is more techno though.

      • mikeypizzalover

        But its awsome, nontheless

        • LinkMasterYoda

          I am just saying that the reason it does not get a symphony is because the music is more techno, something which would never usually be in a conventional orchestra (unless you are Jerry Goldsmith or Hans Zimmer and his Remote Control Productions team)

          • ..so your saying that just the music is techno (which totally fits the atmosphere of the game) they can't give any credit for it being 25?

          • Jarkes

            Um… Jerry Goldsmith died years ago…

    • Darkwing

      SUPER METROID 3D! lol

    • A.J.

      I agree, The Minish Cap really used all of link's items effectively… more so than probably any other zelda game to date

    • Arctic Yoshi

      Aaargh, the grammar Nazi inside me just killed himself. D:

  • Anonymous

    Ahhhh yes, my very first Zelda game the game that made me love the series. Those were good honest times. I hope this game is in the ambassador program

  • Hero of Hyrule

    "The Spinner in Twilight Princess is a favorite among Legend of Zelda fans."

    Really? It's pretty much baggage after the temple, like you said.

    • Joshua Lindquist

      Unfortunately, you're right about the baggage. That is one of the reasons I said The Minish Cap took the idea further than the latest games. Twilight Princess had some great item-based dungeon designs and introduced some cool new items – like the Spinner – but failed to make the items useful after the one dungeon.

      I hope that Skyward Sword does a better job of making dungeon items useful outside of the dungeon you receive it in.

      I'll stand by my comment about it being a favorite among fans. In most of the discussions I've had, Arbiter's Grounds comes up as the best dungeon with people wishing the Spinner had been used more.

      • Hero of Hyrule

        Well, yeah. The Spinner was a really cool item, but was used only a few times. And it would've been cool to see it used more.

  • Karadom

    So I'm not the only one who's favorite Zelda game is MC? Being 15, I never got an N64, but I had my dad's NES with Zelda. I myself never played it, but I watched my father. On my seventh birthday, I got a Gamecube and Wind Waker. In stark compassion to the original Zelda, WW was amazing, and instead of having OoT have all of the childhood memories, it was with WW, not OoT. Then, when I was old enough to comprehend the internet, I caught wind of Minish Cap coming out. Needless to say, I was really excited.

    • You're damn right. WW and MC are the most amazing legend of zelda, for me.

      • If you put Link to the Past in the number 1 spot this would be the order of my favorite Zelda games. WW and MC were fantastic. I was 6 when the original NES Zelda came out and I have played them all. OoT was a good game, but I didn't like kiddie-fying of the story. WW's story was BADASS!

        • Also, in general, I feel that the 2d Zelda titles have always been superior to the 3d titles with the exception of Wind Waker which was an epic game all around. If only it had been a bit longer, but even so It is my second favorite Zelda game of all time with Minish Cap coming in with a strong third.

  • A_LINK_IN_TIME

    Never played the Minish Cap, hopefully it's one of the 3DS Ambassador games!

  • Pointy Ears

    MC is one of the few 2-D Zelda I REALLY enjoyed, I'd put it in my top 5. There was so much to do within the game πŸ˜€
    Nice article too! I loved all the connections that were made.

  • MinishCactus

    I LOVE Minish Cap! I really hope it is a 3DS ambassador game…that would be fantastic! Gah, what a great game…

  • Darkstar

    MC and Four Swords would make awesome ambassador games

  • Ashmic

    How I was able to finish this game I have no idea

  • Snow_Leopard

    Woot! Go minish cap!

  • David

    Yay! Minish Cap recognition! My first Zelda and my first game <3 Its extremely underrated. It has gorgeous visuals, great gameplay and the soundtrack is fabulous (especially the Minish themed ones like the village and woods).
    I hope the fandom takes interest in it they way they did with Majora's Mask πŸ™‚

  • Pedro

    Well, you were saying about Phantom Hourglass… I think this game were just a test by Nintendo so they could see how much things they could fit in the next DS Zelda game. As you see, Spirit Tracks went incredibly nice and far better than PH. See it like a Beta Version of the Spirit Tracks, if you want to. Maybe that work…

    • Joshua Lindquist

      Just to clarify, I wasn't disregarding Phantom Hourglass. I agree that it does feel more like a "test game," but it did bring some new ideas to the table. My note was only meant to point out that the game didn't introduce any new items.

      I will give Phantom Hourglass credit for some interesting puzzles. The games' use of the grappling hook is new (though I still argue they only changed it to make it work with a stylus). One puzzle in particular stands out: using the grappling hook to ricochet arrows.

    • Spirit Tracks was worse than Phantom Hourglass. That's why not a lot of people talk about Spirit Tracks but they always include Phantom Hourglass when they're talking about something Philosophical about Wind Waker.

    • Oh com' on how can you say that spirit tracks is FAR(?!?!?) better than PH?? I think It's one of the worse and most disconnected zelda games ever, even comparable with the CD-I games. I enjoyed it for 2 reasons: It's similar to PH and is a zelda game, damn! πŸ˜‰

      • Jarkes

        Wait… CONTRADICTION ALERT! You think it's as bad as the CD-I games, yet you still enjoyed it. Also, it's "worst," not "worse." For that matter, why do you think that? Give some reasons instead sounding like an idiot by contradicting yourself.

  • I have several things to say about this.
    1. I have played and beaten The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap 4 times and I'm working on my 5th time right now (because it is my favorite Zelda game tied with Twilight Princess).
    2. This made me think about the time line a bit. You reminded me that there was no civilization in the clouds. I was thinking that Minish Cap would come after Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures because the Sky People in Minish Cap keep saying that they came here after being pushed out of the land below.
    3. I would argue that 2D Zelda games before Minish Cap have influenced 3D Zelda games. A Link to the Past influenced Ocarina of Time a lot. Kakiriko Village and it's music were the same as in A Link to the Past and in Ocarina of Time. Even the story was close in hand.
    4. The Spinner was my least favorite item because it was only used like 2 times after the temple of the dead.
    5. I think that every Zelda fan should play Minish Cap. It really was a great game and it is really under rated.

    • I totally agree with you.
      I don't know why so many people dislikes minish cap only because it's short. I just say them "what did you expect?" it's only a GBA game that introduced lots of great new features and important information on the zelda's story, only because it lasts early can't make the game bad, because it also has a lot of seconday quests.

      • Jarkes

        …"Because it lasts early?" Dude, I like the Minish Cap, but… there's a term for this sort of thing. It's called, "You sound like an idiot." I don't wish to sound rude, but it's just… wow. Words fail me at the sheer magnitude of language fail in your comments.

    • Joshua Lindquist

      Regarding #2: The Minish Cap most certainly comes before Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures. It details the origins of Vaati.

      The comment about the civilization was simply to reference that Nintendo had never included a sky civilization before. The appearance of the Palace of Winds in FS/FSA suggest that sometime after The Minish Cap their civilization was destroyed by Vaati and turned into his personal palace.

      Regarding #3: I agree entirely. Every Zelda game has influenced the series, and without the first four Zelda games we wouldn't have had a 2D to 3D transition to talk about.

  • Ezluke

    I love Minish Cap articles, because it deserves so much more recognition than it gets! It's one of my three favorite Zelda games, but I think a lot of people disregard it because they think it isn't as intriguing as the major 3D titles or the more classic 2D titles.

  • matt17

    Whatsup with these editors playing A zelda game for the first time? They're on a zelda fan site and they never played all or most zelda games?

    • Joshua Lindquist

      In my defense, this was my second time. I play most of the others a lot more often, but before last week I considered The Minish Cap among the worst Zelda games for a reason I cannot explain (I must have been crazy).

      • Jarkes

        Yeah, I used to have the Minish Cap… I think I beat it ten times… Then I got rid of it, and I SERIOUSLY regret that. Which is why, like many other people here, I really, really hope it's part of the 3DS Ambassador program…

  • BandoGuy4

    I played this game through the first time only a few months, and was really surprised with how much I enjoyed it. I feel much shame for how long it took me to realize how awesome it was (to be fair though, my mom bought it and then after several years found it which is how it was given to me).

  • StriderHiryu

    If you think Minish Cap is the pinnacle of 2D Zelda, then you have no notion of what 2D Zelda was originally about.

    Miyamoto created Zelda to model his wanderings through the Sonobe hills as a boy. He could walk far and wide, into secluded places. One of his greatest adventures was discovering a cave hidden behind a rock and venturing inside it with a lantern.

    What’s different about Minish (and every 2D since Awakening, unfortunately) is that the overworld is actually *confining* until you get particular items. As you get items, huge chunks of the overworld are opened. You don’t even care that you can’t fast travel until much later in the quest, because you’re kept on rails through lack of items.

    By the time the whole overworld is exposed, you no longer have any compelling reasons to venture back into the most remote corners, because you had 80% of the items necessary to fully explore them by the time you could even get there in the first place. Only completionists will care, and the rewards frankly suck.

    In the original game, if you had the nerve to fight the hardest enemies with the weakest sword, you could go to the ends of the earth and gain powers early, then rip through the first few dungeons. Or you could discover hints for future items like the old woman’s letter, which would trigger an awesome “aha” moment when you could complete the sub quest for it.

    Even as early as Link to the Past the overworld confinement was beginning, with most of Death Mountain off limits until you could get the Mirror. But it didn’t matter, because the rest of the overworld was so large and had such good treasure tucked into its corners. Remember the thrill of exploration when you exited the Sanctuary for the first time and realized you had no idea where to go?

    But starting with Awakening, you were hemmed in to a small area limited by basic items, and Minish only made it worse. The old Zelda games let you walk into awesome places and realize you needed an item to do something there. The new ones don’t even let you get there in the first place.

    • Joshua Lindquist

      I think you're ignoring the "item confining" that took place in The Legend of Zelda. There are areas you cannot reach until you find the step ladder and others you cannot reach at all without the raft. It continued in Zelda 2 with the hammer.

      I think you have the wrong understanding of what Miyamoto's original intention was. Yes, he was inspired by his wandering, but this isn't the real world. Developers have learned over the years that players will do anything you let them do. There are games that thrive with open worlds (like the Elder Scrolls series), but that has never been the Legend of Zelda's strong point.

      And I disgree entirely with your view on how The Minish Cap handled this. From the very beginning of the game, you come across caves you need the Mole Mitts to enter and it makes you wonder how to get in (because bombs will not work). When you finally receive them, you are reminded of all of the caves you've past. Yes, the game keeps you in a particular area until you receive certain items, but you cannot discover everything in the area on your first visit. Instead, you return later with additional items to find hidden secrets.

  • theONLYzeldaFAN

    i heard there's going to be a LOZ cartoon a new adaptaion

    • Jarkes

      …Where? You can't expect us to believe that unless you have solid evidence from a reliable source to back it up. And no, a German guy who is supposedly Miyamoto's translator is not a reliable source.

      …I just made a reference to that totally stupid controversy Zelda Informer experienced before last year's E3! Go me!

      …I wonder if anyone else actually remembers that…

  • Ah Minish Cap, how I love this game. Definitely one of my favorites but kinda short and easy but still good. Well it wasn't easy the first time I played it, I couldn't figure out how to beat Vaati's Final Form until I looked it up…turns out I needed the Cane of Pacci. Geez <.<

    This game is unique in it's own way because you're using old items to complete new puzzles and use in the final boss battle which is a really nice touch which most games nowadays lack. Okami is a really good example of using old techniques to clear new puzzles especially in the final boss battle where you use all of them. If only more games were like that, I like using old items in new kinds of ways. Lets hope Skyward Sword does that.

  • BlackOwlDog

    Minish Cap was my very first Zelda game and I still consider it one of the best and most complete of the franchise. It has one of the most epic scores, it's one of the best looking, has the best items and terrific dungeons, this game BEGS for more attention!
    And now that Skyward Sword is coming out it seems that developers are finally paying tribute to that awesome game!

  • JSKT

    feels great to have ordered one from amazon few weeks ago πŸ˜€

  • Zettobi

    The Minish Cap was my first Zelda game ever. (I’m young) It will always have a special place in my heart!

  • Wingnutt13

    This was the game that got me into the Zelda series.Back in 2005 I was getting a new game boy game for my birthday,so I looked around and I saw a demo of this one game it was called The legend of Zelda The Minish cap so I thought I would try the demo and the one area that stood out to me was The Minish Woods I'm not sure why.I got the game,funny thing was I was grounded for a week from my gameboy so I took my gameboy and I hid and ill never forget the moment I turned it on.

  • this game very nice.Our vast selection of movie swords includes a variety of items from Hollywood movies to television series to comic books and video games.

  • tetraxlink

    I really enjoyed Minish Cap its one of the best games on the GBA.