2004 was the beginning of a new era in the Legend of Zelda series. After years of revising what was more or less the same gameplay formula, extensive changes were being made to the series. Miyamoto promised these changes in 2004 and Japanese and European gamers were the first to experience them when The Minish Cap was released.
In 2005, gamers in Australia and North America got their chance to experience the magic of The Minish Cap.
How Vaati won me over
On two separate occasions (including yesterday’s 2004 article), I have written about The Minish Cap and how highly I view the game. You can be sure I’ll sing its praises some more today, but I’m also going to be switching things up a bit. Today, I have a personal story to share; the story of how I came to view The Minish Cap so highly: The final boss of The Minish Cap is one of the best boss fights in the series.
At first, I had nothing good to say about The Minish Cap. The reason was simple: ignorance. I remember playing The Minish Cap when it was released in 2005. I even remember killing Vaati repeatedly because I enjoyed the fight so much. But then, I quit playing the game and could not bring myself to play it again for six years. There were a few times when I thought to myself, “I really need to play through The Minish Cap again,” but each time I barely got started before I was bored (usually not even making it to the first dungeon). My conclusion was that The Minish Cap was not a very good game to begin with.
As time went on, I began to consider The Minish Cap among the worst Legend of Zelda games (though honestly, being the worst Legend of Zelda game still makes the game better than most other video games). My views on the game were changed completely due to an article I wrote a few years ago. After an extended hiatus from the Zelda community, I decided to begin writing again. Instead of a Legend of Zelda website, I decided to begin a blog and just write about video games (though it wasn’t long before I felt the urge to write about Zelda again!).
At E3 2011 Nintendo announced that they were working on a sequel to Luigi’s Mansion. At that time, I had barely played Luigi’s Mansion (even though I owned the game). I decided it would be a fun project to play through the game for the first time and write an article about it. I finished the project and titled the article “Playing Luigi’s Mansion Ten Years Later.”
Once I was finished with Luigi’s Mansion, I thought it would be fun to do something similar again. I began thinking about games I had played through, but had not played at all in many years. The Minish Cap came to mind almost immediately, and I decided it was time to play the game again even though I expected it to be torture. So, I began playing and… I could not put the game down. I took it to work with me and played during my lunch break. I came home and played it more. It was as if a brand new Legend of Zelda game had just been released.
I expected to write a mostly negative article about The Minish Cap and publish it on my small blog with few viewers. Instead, I wrote an overwhelmingly positive article that ended with me calling The Minish Cap “2D Legend of Zelda, perfected”. I was so excited about the article that I requested to have it published at Zelda Universe instead of my blog (which in turn, led to me joining the staff here).
2D Legend of Zelda, perfected
Let me say it again: The Minish Cap is 2D Legend of Zelda, perfected.
I could go on and on about the new items introduced in The Minish Cap and how they were the beginning of a new direction for items in the series. In The Minish Cap, Link’s traditional arsenal was sidelined and new unique items took their place. Instead of a boomerang, Link was using the Gust Jar. I could tell you again how The Minish Cap was the first Legend of Zelda game to have dungeons designed with a specific item in mind as opposed to a specific setting. In other words, A Link to the Past has a swamp dungeon, but The Minish Cap has a Mole Mitts dungeon.
Those are the most influential changes made in The Minish Cap, but the game also has plenty of unique features that you won’t find in other Legend of Zelda games. Kinstones were a new collectible item that you could find just about anywhere. Sometimes they were in treasure chests, but you could also find them in the grass or after defeating enemies. Kinstones are coin-shaped items, but you could only collect one half of the coins. To complete them, you had to interact with the other characters around the world. Completing Kinstones always caused something beneficial to happen somewhere in the world. Often, completing Kinstones leads to a Piece of Heart or an optional inventory item. Some Kinstones are also used at required points in the game to open passages to new areas.
The Minish Cap was the first Zelda game to have dunegons designed with a specific item in mind. A Link to the Past has a swamp dungeon, but The Minish Cap has a Mole Mitts dungeon.
The Minish Cap introduced the microscopic Minish race. At certain points, Link can become tiny like one of the Minish. Nintendo took full advantage of this new gameplay mechanic (to be clear, they used a similar idea in the original Four Swords but it played a very minor role). Dungeons are designed so that Link is required to switch between his full size and miniature size. Even the boss fights sometimes require that Link change back and forth.
To make things even more interesting, two of the dungeons are played entirely as tiny Link. In these dungeons, Link has to tackle obstacles that would be easy for his normal self. You never realize how deadly a Chu Chu can be until you have to fight one a hundred times your size.
So what else happened in 2005?
The biggest news not related to The Minish Cap was all about the hotly anticipated Twilight Princess, which was officially given the name Twilight Princess that year. 2005 gave us our first glimpse of Midna and Wolf Link. We also learned about the Twilight Realm.
Twilight Princess was playable at E3 2005, but at the time was still only known as a GameCube game. Following the playable demo, everyone expected the game to be released that winter. Then, Nintendo delayed the game for another year. It wasn’t clear why the game was delayed at the time, but everything was made clear the following year when we learned that Twilight Princess was going to launch alongside the newly announced Nintendo Wii.
Following the E3 2005 playable demo, everyone expected Twilight Princess to be released that winter. Then, Nintendo delayed the game for another year.
2005 was a year of momentum for Legend of Zelda fans. The years that followed brought us some of the most unforgettable Legend of Zelda games. The games are not necessarily unforgettable because they are the best, but because they are different from everything we had played before.