The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is the twelfth instalment in The Legend of Zelda video game series, released in 2004 in Japan and Europe, and 2005 in North America, for the Game Boy Advance. It was developed by Flagship, with Nintendo overseeing the development process. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is the first original single-player Zelda adventure to be released for a handheld platform since Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages in 2001 (although the original multi-player game Four Swords was included with the 2002 Game Boy Advance release of A Link to the Past).
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is the third Zelda game to be released that concerns the legend of the Four Sword, the other games being Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures. The game is based around the idea of a magical 'cap' called Ezlo that Link can use to shrink to the size of the Picori (who call themselves the Minish), a race of thumb size people that live in Hyrule.
The plot of The Minish Cap focuses on the backstory of Vaati and the Four Sword, important elements of Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures.
"A long, long time ago, when Hyrule was about to be consumed by darkness, the tiny Picori descended from the sky, and bestowed upon a young boy dressed in green a sword and a shining golden light. With wisdom and courage, the young hero drove out the darkness. Now, every 100 years the Picori return to Hyrule, to provide humans with magical gifts."
The Picori's salvation of Hyrule is celebrated in Hyrule with the Picori Festival, a large fair and a sword fighting tournament. On one such festival, Princess Zelda and her childhood friend Link, grandson of the royal blacksmith Smith, decide to visit Hyrule Town to join the festivities. However, these are short-lived, as the winner of the tournament, the unknown stranger Vaati, is in fact a powerful sorcerer who breaks the Picori Blade and turns Zelda to stone.
In Hyrule Castle the king of Hyrule and his counselor Potho are desperate to bring Zelda back home. They place all their hopes in the tiny Picori who have been invaluable allies, and because it is believed that only children can see Picori, they send Link to seek the legendary beings' help.
On his way through Minish Woods, home of the Minish, Link rescues Ezlo, a strange being resembling a green cap with an avian head, who joins him in his quest and can make Link shrink to the size of the Minish themselves through a ritual he can perform on Minish altars. Link then meets the Forest Minish elder Gentari, who tells him that to restore power in the magic sword broken by Vaati, he must find four elemental artifacts and imbue the blade with their essence. He directs Link and Ezlo to Melari on Mt. Crenel, as Melari is the only one who can fix the broken sword. When Link meets Melari he gives the sword to him and goes on to a human mine for the second element. When he comes back Melari tells him about the elemental sanctuary found in Hyrule Castle. Only after he fuses the four elements can he face Vaati and defeat him.
It is later revealed that both Ezlo and Vaati were once Minish, Ezlo being a renowned sage and craftsman and Vaati his apprentice. Vaati eventually became corrupted by the madness and egotism of men and took a magic hat Ezlo had made for the humans in Hyrule. The hat granted the bearer any wishes, and Vaati chose to become a powerful sorcerer. He then turned his old master, who had tried to stop him, into a hat. Devoured by his desire for power, Vaati took a twisted, vile appearance and set out to search for the mystic Light Force of Hyrule, which would make him even stronger.
When Link completes the Picori blade (also known as the Four Sword), Vaati turns Hyrule Castle into Dark Hyrule Castle - the final dungeon in the game. Link gets to Vaati just before he drains Zelda of all the Light Force (this would kill her), but the Wind Sorcerer states that he already has enough power to defeat Link. Link then fights Vaati in two different forms, the first being a larger form of himself and the second being a large sphere with an eye, and prevails. He frees Zelda from her curse as the castle is collapsing, and then he and the Princess go to the elemental shrine to avoid being crushed. Vaati was waiting there for Link, and faces him one more time. His final form is like his previous form but with arms, and seeming to be indestructible at first. Link managed to defeat the evil Minish again. Vaati disappears, after saying that he is confused as to how Link beat him, claiming he has the power of a god. Ezlo floats off of Link's head and is returned to his original form. He finds the cap of wishes he created and gives it to Zelda, since she has a pure heart, saying "Let your wishes come true!" The cursed people are cured and the castle is turned back to normal. The doorway to the Minish world is closing and Ezlo states he must go. He says he enjoyed his time with Link, and in return provides him with a cap, saying, "I have never seen you with a cap until now, it fits you, little hero." He shrinks down and goes through the doorway, just as it vanishes.
The Minish Cap features a number of enhancements that benefit from the more powerful Game Boy Advance platform and draws heavily on the gameplay of previous Zelda titles (namely the first three). 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 with pictures associating items or actions with buttons on the Game Boy handheld, similarly to the item interface in 3D titles like Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker. Enemies include familiar creatures from the Zelda universe, such as the Keatons. Link can also perform special actions, triggered by the L and R buttons. With the R button, Link can, for example, roll while running; a move also inspired by 3D Zelda games.
Kinstones are special artifacts which Link can find throughout his quest. Kinstone pieces are fragments of a medallion. In order to successfully form a complete Kinstone, two pieces of the same color and with complementary notches must be used.
After completing the first dungeon, Link receives a Kinstone Bag. This allows him to collect and store the pieces he finds or receives. The most common variety of Kinstone piece is green, with blue being slightly rarer and red considerably rare. There are also special gold pieces that are used to make fusions that advance the story. These gold fusions are the only required fusions; the others are completely optional and are not needed to finish the game.
Throughout the game world there are characters holding Kinstone pieces waiting for a matching piece to fuse with. They are identified by thought bubbles appearing above their heads when Link approaches; the symbol in the thought bubble gives an indication of what sort of special event the fusion will result in.
For example, fusing Kinstones can reveal a secret passageway in a different area, or make a treasure chest appear. Green Kinstones are, with few exceptions, minor things such as golden enemies and treasure chests due to this color's abundance, while the rarer red and blue Kinstones often produce unique results, such as beanstalks and Pieces of Heart, inspiring characters to perform a certain task or sell a certain item, and so forth.