Link's latest quest stretches players' imaginations to help him rescue the princess.
By BILL HUTCHENS
"The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap." System: Game Boy Advance. Publisher: Nintendo. Web site: www.nintendo.com. Price: $29.95. Rating: E, Everyone. Rating: ssss out of five.
The next "Zelda" game will have to take place in outer space.
Where else can Nintendo go? They've taken Link, the elfish green-capped hero of the series, back and forth in time on several occasions. They've zapped him to evil dimensions again and again.
For themes, they've toyed with music, masks, dreams, ghosts, light and darkness. And Link has been through many earth-, wind-, fire- and water-based worlds -- as well as several based on imaginary elements -- in his never-ending quest to rescue princess Zelda and the kingdom of Hyrule.
Link's latest quest starts with a Hyrulian celebration of a centennial visit by the tiny Picori people (a/k/a the "Minish"), one-time guardian saviors of the land. When an evil sorcerer interrupts the festivities and turns Zelda into stone, it's up to Link to take up sword, shield, bow, boomerang and bombs again and search the world for a cure.
It's not long before our hero encounters a strange living hat that's part bird and part nightcap. The cap becomes Link's sidekick (or is that "topkick"?) and helps him shrink down to the size of an ant to explore the minute detail of several magical places in Hyrule.
Good game, bad game
Link will have to roam from place to place, shrinking down and growing back up at appropriate times based on what the puzzling environments call for.
Players get shrinky Link's standard tools as well as some new toys. The Gust Jar is a vacuum cannon that draws things in and then shoots them out. Mole Mitts let Link dig into walls, floors and other surfaces. And the Cane of Pacci shoots lightning bolts required for flipping items over in some very puzzling dungeons.
The Minnish Cap is a terrific cure for what seems to be a season of post-holiday gaming blahs.
Bad "Zelda"? While many "Zelda" fans have favorite "Zelda" games, there seems to be general agreement that every game with the word "Zelda" in the title has been great. But have there ever been any bad "Zelda" games? Well, yes, but you can't blame Nintendo, at least not directly.
In the early 1990s, Nintendo was working on a CD-player add-on for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Partners included Sony and Philips. When the project tanked, Sony went on to produce the PlayStation, and Philips created the CD-i system.
A licensing problem meant Philips could hold onto some of Nintendo's characters for a short time -- just long enough to create three forgettable "Zelda" titles. They were the side-scrolling "Wand of Gamelon" and "Faces of Evil" games and "Zelda's Adventure," a game with an overhead view and real actors portraying "Zelda" characters during awful movie scenes.
We can be thankful that the situation dissolved, but those games, bad as they were, now are sought-after collector's items.