The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (2004)

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is a handheld game and was one of the four Legend of Zelda games developed by Capcom. The game focuses around shrinking down to a small size and interacting with the miniature people of the Minish. I really enjoyed shrinking down and how it affected the world of Hyrule and made this game was pretty fun little adventure. That being said the game also had its fair share of issues, most of which could have been easily fixed.

The first thing that comes to mind is Kinstones, which are both a positive and a negative part of the game. This mechanic introduced in The Minish Cap allows you to fuse Kinstones, which you find while exploring Hyrule, with other characters in the game and it gives you a reward. It was fun because it opened up new paths in areas that you have already visited and added an extra layer of exploration. I think it was an interesting idea and I did find it relaxing to go around fusing Kinstones with other characters, but the system had a number of flaws. The first issue is “shared” fusions, which is when multiple characters have the same Kinstone to fuse with. This can get confusing as I was talking to every character and taking mental notes on which character needed what Kinstone, but when I came back most of the fusions were gone after fusing with one person. The next issue was “finicky” fusers, which was when certain characters only occasionally wanted to fuse with me. This was annoying when I was getting all of the fusions but as I was checking all of the characters to see if I could fuse with them I would have to check multiple times just to make sure. My biggest issue with Kinstones however was the rewards. Some of the rewards were great, like Heart Pieces or massive amounts of Rupees, but sometimes the reward for fusing a Kinstone was another Kinstone. That is just nonsensical. I think the system was unique and had potential to be a great new form of collectibles, but fell a little flat in the execution.

While Kinstones were a little disappointingly executed, there is a far worse offender in this game: figurines. There is a shop where you can play a gashapon machine and collect 136 figurines. Each new one that you get decreases the chances of you getting another new one. There was so much wrong with this mini-game and it is possibly the most obnoxious and blatant time waster that I have ever seen in a video game. Of course, you do not need to play it to complete the game, but you need all 136 figurines if you want the last Heart Piece in the game. The last Heart Piece is not even accessible until you defeat the last boss anyway, so there is not even a reason to collect that last Heart Piece other than wanting to 100% the game. It takes about thirty seconds to do one roll of the gashapon, which can equate to one figurine if you are getting one every roll, which you are not since it is a game of chance. You can increase your odds by putting more money in, but it is wildly inefficient to do so. I probably spent three or four hours just on this stupid gashapon. I just watched some Netflix or a Twitch stream while doing it, but I really wonder how this feature made it into the game in this state.

Even though figurines were a mindless grind and were frustrating, The Minish Cap also had some really great features to it that cannot be ignored. The dungeons in this game are extremely fun and memorable. They all had unique concepts and implemented them well in the dungeon designs. Whether I am sailing on a lily pad, shrinking to access new parts of dungeons, digging through tunnels, or flying across cloud tops, the game constantly feels fresh and innovative in its dungeon design. This is partly due to the items in the game; the Gust Jar, Cane of Pacci, Mole Mitts, and Roc’s Cape were all very unique items and allowed for some great puzzles. The bosses in the dungeons were also very fun. Some of the bosses were normal enemies like Chus, but you had to fight them while small which was an interesting way of adding variety to boss battles. While there are only six total main dungeons in the game, they are high quality and that makes up for the small number of dungeons. Also, there are a couple areas that acted like mini dungeons; The Royal Crypt, Mount Crenel, Wind Ruins, Castor Wilds, and the Cloud Tops all were areas that required me to think like I was in a dungeon. The Wind Palace and Dark Hyrule Castle in particular were my favorite dungeons and honestly are some of my favorite Legend of Zelda dungeons that I have played to date.

The land of Hyrule in The Minish Cap was very interesting and I quite liked how the overworld flowed together. Using newly obtained items to access older areas much more easily was a smart idea as this game does have a lot of backtracking because of the Kinstones. Hyrule Town was also very well designed in my opinion, every building and character had a purpose; it was interesting to explore at both normal and small size. The characters in the game were pretty interesting, but unfortunately you do not get to interact with them much other than talking to them once or twice. Ezlo is an interesting companion and is certainly much less annoying and intrusive than a lot of other Legend of Zelda companions. He is more than just a helping fairy and actually has a personality so I quite liked him. As a whole, the shrinking mechanic added an extra layer to exploring the land of Hyrule. Searching for little holes and passageways was certainly interesting and added some variety to the game. Everything about being small was thought out and made sense. The enemies were bugs or small critters, small streams of water became rivers, and areas that were a little larger than Link became entire villages. I personally really liked the shrinking mechanic and Hyrule as a whole in this game.

The Minish Cap was by no means a perfect game, but it certainly was entertaining. The issues with the game were only really bad because I went for 100%, but in a normal play through the problems with the Kinstones and figurines would be a lot less apparent. Overall it was a fun adventure and although it was short it had plenty to do and explore thanks to the shrinking mechanic. It was certainly a very unique Legend of Zelda, both in concept and in execution, and I do think it is definitely worth a play through if you are a fan of the series.

Metroid Prime (2002)

There are very few games that I would consider “must play” titles, and Metroid Prime is included in that group. The game was massively influential to the industry and it still remains one of my favorite games to play to this day. There are not many games that can build an awe inspiring world that is simultaneously so massive that it takes hours to explore and find all of the nooks and crannies which hide secrets, but at the same it is so compact that every room has something interesting in it and it only takes a few minutes to traverse from one corner of the world to the opposite corner. That is probably my favorite aspect of Metroid Prime, the world and its alien atmosphere.

The world of Metroid Prime consists of five major areas that intertwine and entangle to create a cohesive world. Whether I am exploring the destroyed civilization of the Chozo Ruins, the frozen cavities of Phendrana Drifts, the blistering heat of the Magmoor Caverns, the dark and mysterious caves of Phazon Mines, or the rainy and calm surface of the Tallon Overworld, I really feel like I am on the planet of Tallon IV. While the world seems rather large at first glance, it is actually very compact and flows together very well, especially towards the end of the game when all of the items are obtained it is very easy to travel across the planet. The Scanning Visor was a very clever tool that allows the player to “research” all of the different species on Tallon IV to learn about them and also how to defeat them. The Scanning Visor also doubles as a tool to scan the Pirate Logs to learn about the devious plans of the space pirates, or it can scan the walls to read about the Chozo Lore to learn about the species of the Chozo and what happened to them. Also, if I was ever stuck in a room and I did not know how to progress I could scan the room to look for clues on how to proceed forward.

Moving forward always felt natural and quick as I would never spend too long in a single area and I was always acquiring new items. The game is actually deceptively short, but not in a bad way. When I finished the game and saw that I had gotten 100% completion in under fifteen hours of play, I thought to myself “that cannot be right”. There is so much to do in Metroid Prime, whether it is collecting power ups, fighting bosses, battling through hoards of enemies, upgrading Samus’ suit, getting more weapons, solving puzzles, or just exploring the world, it was hard to believe that that was all squeezed into a fifteen hour experience. I felt like I could start up the game and get so much done in only thirty minutes, it was just fantastic. Also, completing the game 100% did not feel like a chore. With some diligent searching in every room as I was progressing through the world I was able to find about 95% of the items. They also are hidden in a variety of ways, some require you to complete a task like double bomb jumping, some need to you to solve a puzzle, and others are just hidden in holes across the world.  Almost every room has an item hidden in it somewhere and it is the player’s duty to sniff it out.  Of course these items are also valuable but not so much so that if you miss out on a couple missile expansions you are severely under-prepared.

The enemy design was also stellar in Metroid Prime. Every enemy was unique and served a purpose. Using the Scanning Visor to learn about how to defeat each enemy also felt satisfying as I would never get stuck on wondering how to beat a certain enemy. All of the minor and major bosses also were very fun to fight and had me on the edge of my seat as I was battling them. All of the different beam weapons also had a distinct purpose and were not just tools to progress in the world. Of course the beams were used to open doors, but they also had very interesting applications during combat. The Power Beam was standard and had no special effects, the Wave Beam tracked enemies and would stun enemies briefly, the Ice Beam shot slowly but it would freeze enemies, and the Plasma Beam was extremely powerful and did a lot of damage. I really enjoyed this aspect as it allowed for some creativity and let the player come up with their own strategy in every room.

I have one exception to the rule that all of the enemies were fun to fight, the Chozo Ghosts. They turn the room pitch black, the game plays extremely loud music, the ghosts teleport around the room very quickly, and they blur the screen if they hit you. They were just really annoying and most of the time I just skipped fighting them and ran through the rooms that they were in. They do not really even do much damage or pose a threat to the player, they are just annoying. I would not mind fighting them occasionally, but in the Chozo Ruins they are very common enemies and often show up in groups of three to bump into me as I was trying to jump from platform to platform. It really says a lot about Metroid Prime that my biggest issue with it was such a minor enemy.

The thing that really shocked me the most about this game were the controls. I originally played this game many years ago on the Gamecube and the controls were great, but this time around I got the full Metroid Prime Trilogy which required me to use the Wii Remote. I have a burning hatred for the Wii Remote and motion controls in general as I feel like they are inaccurate, inconsistent, uncomfortable, and do not add anything to the experience. So I was pretty distraught when I saw that I had to play the Metroid Prime Trilogy using the Wii Remote. To my surprise the Wii Remote and its controls actually worked really well.. Aiming felt natural, and accessing the different beams and visors was easy. Metroid Prime is possibly the only game where I felt like motion controls actually added something interesting that a classic controller could not do.

Overall, Metroid Prime was a fantastic experience in all regards. Tallon IV is one of my favorite worlds in any video game for its atmosphere and alien feel. It may seem daunting and long at first, but the game is actually quite compact has secrets to discover in every room. Metroid Prime is one of my favorite games and I would definitely recommend it to anybody and everybody. I believe that Metroid Prime has cemented itself as one of the greatest games of all time.