This was the first main entry in the Legend of Zelda series to be released on the Game Boy Advance – a remake of A Link to the Past (along with a new side game, Four Swords) had been done before, but this time they decided to tread wholly new water and I think they did an exceptional job.
Done in the classic 2D, top-down perspective this game has Link travelling around Hyrule to collect different elements which can then be forged into a sword that will be powerful enough to defeat the sorcerer Vaati, who has taken over Hyrule Castle. A standard story for the series which sets up a fun adventure, but one which sets itself apart from previous games because this time Link gains the ability to shrink himself down to a tiny size, which he uses to interact with a race of little creatures called Minish. It also opens up a whole world of possibilities in terms of new challenges and puzzles, letting Link interact with everyday objects while only the size of an insect. It’s pretty cool and gives you multiple perspectives from which to look at every room and every puzzle.
Link’s trusty companion in this game is a talking hat called Ezlo (who Link wears on his head). Ezlo is short tempered and sarcastic and I found him to be quite entertaining. Indeed, the whole game is filled with a colourful cast of characters: there are many NPCs who fans of the series will recognise from previous games. You have Mutoh and the carpenters, Beedle, Tingle, Anju, Goron Merchants, Malon, Talon and many others. They all get to do quite a lot, as this game focuses quite heavily on side-quests (similar to Majora’s Mask, in that sense). These are normally built around kinstones (rare items you can collect on your travels), which can then be ‘fused’ with the kinstones of NPCs and cause something to change in the world. I thought that this was a really fun addition to the game and made Hyrule feel like a real, living, breathing world, rather than just the generic fantasy location in which the game takes place.
On another note, I really enjoyed the selection of enemies that are in this game – again, it’s a nice mixture of things you’ll have encountered in previous games all brought together. You’ve got all the classics like Octoroks (land octopuses who spit rocks at you), Like Likes (bizarre tubular enemies who eat you and steal items) and Wallmasters (creepy hands which take you out of dungeons), then also enemies from the 3D games like the Moblins as they appeared in The Wind Waker and ChuChus (strange jelly creatures). Of course, there are new enemies too (Keatons who will mug you, for example) and even some crossover creatures, like Bob-ombs and Lakitus (from the Mario series) and Puffstools (from the Pikmin series). It’s fun to fight such a variety of monsters and it actually brings to mind Link’s Awakening.
As a side note, with all these great characters and enemies to fight, there’s actually a figurine collecting side quest which gives you the opportunity to collect figures of literally every character in the game – it really makes you appreciate them all and I always enjoy collection-based side-quests in games, so it was fun for me to try and fill up my figurine set.
All in all, it’s a brilliant game. Often overlooked (even when just the 2D games in the series are considered), but I think it has a great interpretation of Hyrule and its people and is something all Nintendo fans may benefit from playing.