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The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

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The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
European packaging artwork
European packaging artwork
Director(s)Hidemaro Fujibayashi
Producer(s)Keiji Inafune
Artist(s)Haruki Suetsugu
Composer(s)Mitsuhiko Takano
SeriesThe Legend of Zelda
Platform(s)Game Boy Advance
  • JP: November 4, 2004
  • EU: November 12, 2004
  • NA: January 10, 2005
  • AU: April 7, 2005

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap[b] is an action-adventure game and the twelfth entry in The Legend of Zelda series. Developed by Capcom and Flagship, with Nintendo overseeing the development process, it was released for the Game Boy Advance handheld game console in Japan and Europe in 2004 and in North America and Australia the following year.[1] In June 2014, it was made available on the Wii U Virtual Console.

The Minish Cap is the third Zelda game that involves the legend of the Four Sword, expanding on the story of Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures. A magical talking cap named Ezlo can shrink series protagonist Link to the size of the Minish, a bug-sized race that live in Hyrule (and is essentially the game's version of the hat Link wears as part of his usual outfit). The game retains some common elements from previous Zelda installments, such as the presence of Gorons,[2] while introducing Kinstones and other new gameplay features, most notably the ability for Link to shrink in size.

The Minish Cap was generally well received among critics.[3] It was named the 20th best Game Boy Advance game in an IGN feature,[4] and was selected as the 2005 Game Boy Advance Game of the Year by GameSpot.[5]


A screenshot of the top-down view used in The Minish Cap

The Minish Cap retains the general gameplay features that were present in previous Zelda installments.[6] The main protagonist, Link, must navigate several dungeons to obtain an item or enhancement at the end of each dungeon that is pivotal towards the quest. Each of the game's "bosses" are defeated using the item acquired in the boss's dungeon. The game also includes multiple "side quests"—optional tasks that are not part of the main quest but offer rewards for completion that are beneficial to the player.[7] Recurring characters in the Zelda series make appearances and some form part of side quests; for example, Tingle and his brothers must all be contacted by the player to earn a reward.[8]

A gameplay mechanic original to Minish Cap is the ability for Link to transform into "Minish size" by using one of the many "Minish portals" scattered across Hyrule. While in Minish size, Link is the size of the tiny Minish race. This changes perspective on the way the player can interact with the world, and requires them to shift from Minish size to human size in order to navigate the environment, avoid obstacles, and solve puzzles. For example, to "Minish Link" squares of tall grass are giant walls, and shallow puddles are giant lakes, whereas small structures are entire temples and cracks in the ground that "Human Link" can only walk over are holes that "Minish Link" can drop down. Enemies that would otherwise be easy to defeat also become dangerous "giant" counterparts, such as a regular ChuChu, which is the boss of the first dungeon and is fought while Link is in Minish size. The game's overworld is a map of the kingdom of Hyrule, and at its center is "Hyrule Town". The town acts as the player's main "safe space" from the monster-infested overworld, allowing them to collect rupees, gather equipment, play games at entertainment establishments to gain prizes, begin and progress side-quests, and interact with the citizens. Throughout the game's various story and side quests, Hyrule Town is also utilized as an on-and-off "dungeon" of sorts that Link must navigate interchangeably in his human and Minish size.[9]

The Minish Cap features a number of enhancements that benefit from the more powerful Game Boy Advance platform.[10] The game's camera angle is much closer to the ground, allowing more detail. In the overworld and in dungeons, the game replaces the traditional item interface of the handheld Zelda games with pictures associating items or actions with buttons,[11] similar to the item interface in 3D titles like Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker. Enemies include familiar creatures from the Zelda universe.[6] Link can also perform special actions present in the 3D Zelda games, such as rolling while running.[12] Along with returning items such as Bombs, Arrows and Pegasus Boots, The Minish Cap introduces three new items: the Mole Mitts, the Gust Jar, and the Cane of Pacci. The Mole Mitts allow Link to dig through dirt barriers to explore new areas, the Gust Jar can suck in nearby items and substances and can be used to suck up certain enemies and fire them as projectiles, and the Cane of Pacci can flip certain objects over and allow Link to launch himself out of holes in the ground.[13] The game advances the combat system from previous handheld installments by allowing Link to learn new sword techniques throughout the game, some of which are techniques from previous games and some of which are new.[14] As the game progresses, Link will collect Elements that fuse with his sword, allowing him to make copies of himself using glowing floor panels, used to solve puzzles such as pushing large blocks or hitting multiple switches simultaneously.


Kinstones are special artifacts which Link can find throughout his quest. Kinstone pieces are fragments of a medallion that are found throughout the course of the game. If the player can find a character or object with a Kinstone piece (indicated by a thought bubble above their heads), the player can try to fuse their Kinstone piece with one of their own to make a match. If a successful fusion is made, something will occur somewhere within the game's world, including the placement of treasure chests, access to secret areas and certain events which occur among certain characters.[15] While many Kinstone fusions are optional, some fusions, such as those which use Golden Kinstones, are necessary to advance the story.[16]


The Minish Cap also features a figurine-based sidequest, similar to that in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.[17] The player can collect "Mysterious Shells" like those found in hidden areas in Link's Awakening, which sometimes appear when defeating enemies and can also be found or bought in different locations throughout the world. These can then be used in a gashapon-like machine in Hyrule Town to obtain figurines of characters, enemies or locations that Link has encountered in the course of the main quest. New figurines only become available once Link has met or killed the subject of that figurine. Each figurine has a short description revealing information about the game, that particular enemy's weaknesses, or the series in general. Collecting every figurine unlocks a house in Hyrule Town that contains treasure, a Piece of Heart, and the Sound Test.[18]



Within the Zelda chronology, Minish Cap takes place in the single timeline that exists prior to the "timeline split" that occurs in Ocarina of Time. Minish Cap takes place between Skyward Sword and Four Swords, making it the second story in the chronology.[19] As a prequel to Four Swords, the plot of The Minish Cap revolves around the backstory of Vaati and the birth of the Four Sword, which were important elements of Four Swords and its sequel Four Swords Adventures.[20]


The Minish, who are also referred to as the Picori by Hylians, are a race of tiny creatures that bestowed a young boy with a green garment, a sword, and a shining golden light to drive back the darkness many years before the game is set.[21] There are three types of Minish: Town, Forest, and Mountain.[22]

The quest begins when Link is chosen by the king of Hyrule to seek the help of the Picori after Vaati, searching for the Light Force, had destroyed the Picori Blade, releasing evil monsters into Hyrule, and petrified Princess Zelda. Link was chosen because only children can see the Picori.[23] Soon into the voyage he finds and rescues Ezlo, a strange being who is a living green cap with a bird-like head. Ezlo joins him, having Link wear him as he cannot move around as fast as Link can, and can allow Link shrink to the size of the Minish. Although it is not revealed at first, he and Vaati are actually Minish (Picori)—Ezlo explains to Link that he is a renowned sage and craftsman and Vaati his apprentice, but Vaati became corrupted by the madness and hatred of men and took a magic hat that Ezlo had made for the people in Hyrule.[24] The hat grants any wish made by the bearer, and Vaati had wished to become a powerful sorcerer. Vaati then turned his old master, who had tried to stop him, into his current hat form. With the help of Ezlo, Link retrieves the four elemental artifacts and brings them to the Elemental Sanctuary, which is also the gateway between Hyrule and the Picori homeland. There, he uses them to turn the Picori Blade, restored by the Picori, into the Four Sword,[25] capable of defeating Vaati.[26]

After Link restores the Four Sword, Vaati turns Hyrule Castle into Dark Hyrule Castle—the final dungeon in the game. Link fights Vaati just before he can drain Zelda of all of the Light Force hidden within her, which would have killed her in the process. Link defeats Vaati after engaging in a fight that consists of Vaati changing into monstrous forms. When Link and Zelda flee from the collapsing castle to the Elemental Sanctuary, they are once again confronted by Vaati, who changes form for the final battle of the game. After Vaati is defeated, Ezlo returns to his original form.[27] He takes the recovered cap of wishes that he created and gives it to Zelda, and helps her combine the Light Force energy in her with the power of the cap, granting her a wish for the people that had been cursed by Vaati to be cured, the castle to be turned back to normal and the monsters that were released into Hyrule to no longer exist. The hat overflows with the power of life, disappearing after the wish is granted. Ezlo gives Link a new hat that looks like Ezlo's hat form and tells Link he enjoyed traveling with him, then goes into the Elemental Sanctuary to go back to the Minish world, just before the door to the Sanctuary closes.[28]

Development and promotion[edit]

The Legend of Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma speaking at Game Developers Conference, 2007.

After Capcom and its scenario writing subsidiary Flagship had finished developing Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages for the Game Boy Color, they began work on a new Zelda game for the Game Boy Advance.[29] Work on the title was suspended to allow the teams to focus on Four Swords, but in February 2003 Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma announced that development of what would later be called The Minish Cap was "well underway".[29] Nintendo launched a Minish Cap website in September 2004, showing concepts of Link's shrinking ability.[30] The game had a cartoonish art style similar to The Wind Waker, as it has a fairy tale setting similar to said game, within "the world of tiny fairies, a universal fairytale story".[20] An effort was made to make Hyrule Town, the overworld's central city hub, feel like a living breathing city with people going about their ordinary lives. This combined with Link's ability to shrink in size allowed for unique angles on the perspective of a "safe town", turning the town itself into a dungeon of sorts for the player. Aonuma was reportedly impressed by what the development team was able to achieve with Hyrule Town, particularly given the restrictions of a 2D game, commenting that it even surpasses Clock Town in Majora's Mask. The game's gust jar was inspired by a gourd that can suck up anything from the novel Journey to the West. Several other aspects of the gameplay were inspired or directly lifted from Four Swords and Four Swords Adventure, both of which Minish Cap serves as a prequel to. For example, the gameplay concept of shrinking to Minish size in Minish Cap is a fleshed out extension of the function of the Gnat Hat from Four Swords, a hat which allowed Link to shrink in to the size of a gnat.[9]

The game contains a developmental in-joke to the Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons titles in an optional side-quest which sees the player aiding three females travellers from distant lands who are looking for a place to stay. These characters are Din, Nayru, and Farore, from the Oracle titles. The player will only able to provide housing for two of the three women, and although their landlord makes reference to building a third house for the third woman, this never occurs in the game. The description given for Farore on her in-game Figurine also mentions that people take advantage of her which makes her upset. This relates to the third planned Oracle game surrounding Farore, Oracle of Secrets, which was scrapped.[9]

A first in the Zelda series, the game was released in European territories before North America. The main cited reason for this was the Nintendo DS: with the European DS Launch scheduled for Spring 2005, Nintendo of Europe pushed to make Minish Cap its handheld Christmas "killer app". Conversely, Nintendo of America held back on its release so not to "cannibalize" the DS market.[31] The game is included in the list of Game Boy Advance games that is now available for download for the Nintendo 3DS's Virtual Console by Nintendo 3DS Ambassadors.[32]

In Europe, the game was available either as a standalone packaged game, or as part of a special pack, which included one of only 25,000 limited edition, Zelda-themed Game Boy Advance SP. The Triforce SP is matte gold in color, with a Triforce logo stamped on the lid, and the Hyrule royal family crest printed on the lower right face.[33] As a launch promotion, Nintendo Europe also produced seven 24-carat gold plated Game Boy Advance SP consoles, with six given away to people who found a golden ticket inside their Triforce SP package, and a seventh as a magazine promotion.[34] Thirty were autographed by Miyamoto himself at the opening of the Nintendo World Store in New York.[35]

Reception and awards[edit]

The Minish Cap was the best-selling game in its debut week in Japan, selling 97,000 copies.[44] It became the 62nd best-selling game of 2004 with 196,477 copies,[45] and had a total of 350,000 copies overall in the country.[46] In North America, The Minish Cap sold 217,000 copies in its debut month of January 2005, being the fourth best-selling game of the month.[47] It remained among the five best-selling games in February and March.[48][49] The Minish Cap closed the year as the seventh best-selling game of 2005.[50] By March 2005, the game already had sold 1 million units worldwide.[51] In the United States alone, The Minish Cap sold 680,000 copies and earned $21 million by August 2006. During the period between January 2000 and August 2006, it was the 37th highest-selling game launched for the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS or PlayStation Portable in that country.[52]

The game received critical acclaim. IGN praised the game for continuing the legacy of the successful series, while GameSpot also praised the game for this aspect, saying "Classic Zelda gameplay and flavor will please fans".[6] The graphical style especially—which continues the whimsical style of Wind Waker—was welcomed by most reviewers. The music of the game was commended by most sites; GameSpy stated that "Even the music is outstanding, featuring some of the highest quality tunes to ever come out of the GBA's little speakers".[7] Despite the criticism of the dungeon lengths, praised the dungeon design, proclaiming it as superior to that of other Zelda games.[53]

The main criticism of the game among reviewers is the length of the game. Eurogamer says that "It's too short",[54] while RPGamer state that "The typical player can fly through the game's six relatively short dungeons in about ten hours".[55] There are also various other complaints from reviewers: IGN claims that the kinstone system is overly repetitive;[10] Nintendo World Report criticises the game's visuals on a Game Boy Player,[56] and RPGamer details the game's low difficulty level as a disadvantage.[55] Despite this, IGN's Craig Harris liked the way that the ability to become tiny had been incorporated to create fresh puzzles in the Zelda series. He continued to comment that "It's an idea that's so well-conceived that I'd love to see worked in the series' 3D designs somewhere down the line".[4]

The Minish Cap won the 'Best Game Boy Advance of 2005' by GameSpot over such finalists as Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones and WarioWare: Twisted!; GameSpot labelled it as "the Game Boy Advance game we remember the most".[5] In March 2007, the game was ranked as the 20th best Game Boy Advance game by IGN. In the acknowledgement, IGN commented that "The inclusion of the ability to shrink and grow was explored to some really good results."[4] The game was ranked 47th in Official Nintendo Magazine's "100 Greatest Nintendo Games" feature.[57] Minish Cap received an average score of 90 percent from GameRankings, a site that compiles media ratings from several publishers to give an average score.[3]


  1. ^ The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap was co-produced by Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development.
  2. ^ Known in Japan as The Legend of Zelda: Fushigi no Bōshi (Japanese: ゼルダの伝説 ふしぎのぼうし, Hepburn: Zeruda no Densetsu: Fushigi no Bōshi, lit. The Legend of Zelda: The Mysterious Cap)


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  20. ^ a b "Zelda: The interview!". Nintendo of Europe. November 17, 2004. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved May 30, 2010. NoE: How does the Minish Cap fit into the Zelda chronology? Is it a prequel to the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures on GameCube? Aonuma: Yes, this title takes place prior to The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, and tells the secret of the birth of the Four Sword.
  21. ^ The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap instruction booklet, p. 2.
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  23. ^ The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. King: No, soldiers will not do. The Picori do not show themselves to anyone but children. Our soldiers could search for days and still no sign of them. / Smith: I see... If that's the case, then why not send Link? / King: If Link has recovered, then yes, I would like to ask this of him. Please, turn my precious Zelda back to normal. The Picori should know how to create a new sacred sword. It will be a dangerous journey, now that those monsters have been freed. Please, take this sword with you, along with the broken Picori Blade.
  24. ^ The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Ezlo: That foul Vaati! What could he be scheming now? Link...I feel I own you an explanation of what has happened. You see, Vaati and I are both Minish. I was once a famous sage and a renowned Minish craftsman. Vaati was only a boy when I took him on as my apprentice. But...he became enchanted by the wickedness in the hearts of men. One day, Vaati took a hat I made for the humans – my pride and joy. It granted wishes of its wearer. He put it on without my permission...
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  26. ^ The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. With the power of the four elements, your blade has become the Four Sword. Focus power in your blade and release to fire a beam. Use it to break Vaati's curse and restore the people of Hyrule.
  27. ^ The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Ezlo: What's this? The curse...Defeating Vaati seems to have broken the curse he cast upon me!
  28. ^ The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Ezlo: Well, Link, my journey with you has been exciting, to say the least. In fact, I'm...more than just a little sad that we must part ways now. Please, accept this...Heh...You know, I've never actually seen you wearing a cap until now! It suits you, little hero. Take care...
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