For instance, one incredible boss fight sees Link shrink down to Minish size in order to enter a boss and deal damage to them from within. There are also numerous puzzles that require you to really consider the advantages and disadvantages of shifting sizes. Several Zelda games have played with the idea of Link needing to move between worlds or forms in order to overcome obstacles, but few Zelda games utilize that clever concept quite as well as Minish Cap. There’s also certainly something to be said for the way the game spreads those sections out in a way that makes you believe an entire society exists in and around the larger world.
For as much as there is to say about Minish Cap’s best new (or relatively new) ideas, though, I genuinely believe that the game’s greatest strength in the modern age is the fact that it’s a very traditional Zelda game in a lot of ways.
If you’ve ever played a 2D overhead Zelda game in the style of A Link to the Past, you’ll feel right at home with most of Minish Cap’s core concepts. Mind you, that doesn’t mean that Minish Cap doesn’t find ways to refine and improve the 2D Zelda formula. Actually, Minish Cap features one of my favorite collections of special items in the entire Zelda franchise. Not only are most of them conceptually clever, but you actually get a surprising amount of mileage out of them throughout the game rather than in specific situations. Minish Cap also features a few small ideas (like collecting Kinstones and special toys) that weren’t game changers by any means but did help liven up the basic Zelda formula without upending it.
No, the reason I praise Minish Cap as a very traditional Zelda game is simply that a traditional Zelda game is the thing I want most right now. I loved Breath of the Wild, and I have little doubt that Tears of the Kingdom will be brilliant. Yet, there are times when I worry that the discontinuation of Nintendo’s separate line of handheld consoles may mean the end of “classic” 2D Zelda adventures. If it wasn’t for the release (and success) of Link’s Awakening for the Switch (which at least retained the spirit of those classic Zelda games), I’d be entirely convinced Nintendo is ready to move on from the Zelda games of old simply because modern hardware allows you to play 3D Zelda games on the go or at home.
Those classic Zelda games were never about hardware limitations, though. They often remain the best source for the kind of pure video game adventures that lift your spirit, and Minish Cap is one of the best examples of the virtues of that style. At a time when so many games (even great ones) feel like these herculean undertakings, the idea of a relatively short, endlessly charming, and fundamentally fun Zelda game that is simply a joy to play feels more appealing than ever before. Besides, who wants to go from a world where we regularly received multiple styles of Zelda adventures to a world where one style of game is only released every several years?
There was a time when Minish Cap was a victim of circumstances, but that time isn’t now. Now is the time for Zelda, Nintendo, and gaming fans everywhere to rightfully recognize it as a miniature masterpiece that (much like the Minish themselves) has historically been far too easy to overlook and ignore.