The Minish Cap Dungeons: Cave of Flames

Axle the BeastAugust 6th, 2013 by Axle the Beast

Last week, despite saying that The Minish Cap has some of my favorite dungeons of the series, I said that Deepwood Shrine was a bit of an underwhelming first dungeon during my review. So, is the Cave of Flames the same way? No, definitely not. While the Cave of Flames is located at the end of the obnoxious Mt. Crenel climb — in my opinion a truly frustrating part of the game — the dungeon itself, set within a human mine, is pretty cool.

Like with Deepwood Shrine, I think the lore is pretty neat here. I like it because it’s so simple: The dungeon is a mine. Having a mine as a dungeon hadn’t been done before this game came out, and it was a good reversal of Deepwood Shrine in my view. Deepwood Shrine was the first of the game’s two entirely Minish-sized dungeons, but the Cave of Flames and the rest of the dungeons in the game are human-sized, and having characters blatantly tell you it’s a human mine just brings it together nicely. It would have felt more jarring if this were a generic temple or cave, but taking the time to say it’s a mine justifies what initially will feel like a change since the only precedent-setter for dungeons thus far in the game was tiny. There’s a reason this dungeon is normal-sized, and that’s good for the first big dungeon of the game.

The theme doesn’t extend much beyond the mine aspect, but the colorful sprites of the game make it look cool, and each room is different. The “Flames” part of the name comes into play in the deeper parts of the dungeon, which are full of lava and a mist or heatwave effect, so the dungeon fits its simple themes rather well. The dungeon is also infested with traps, making it feel hazardous. This brings the mine theme together even farther; mines are perilous even when occupied, but are far worse when abandoned. The actual flames in the Cave of Flames are only found in the lower levels, but the upper ones still carry this theme of hazard, with many blade traps of various kinds. The dungeon’s music fits this all quite well. It sounds tense and perilous, fitting both the trap-filled mine and especially the lava-filled caverns, extending those fire-filled areas’ feel to the rest of the dungeon to further justify its name. It still sounds adventurous with the part at 19 seconds. It’s a great sound for the dungeon even if it’s pretty simple.

Gameplay-wise the dungeon is also really well put-together. As I said, the dungeon is trap-filled, and that becomes one of its most defining features. Traps and environmental hazards are actually very common all throughout The Minish Cap, but the Cave of Flames was the first dungeon to use that gameplay concept and it becomes one of the dungeon’s more defining features. Primarily the Cave of Flames focuses on depleting your hearts. There are many enemy types, some of which can be tricky to fight, and there are many traps to navigate. Getting through the dungeon is primarily a feat of survival, and as a result it sort of feels like one of the classic dungeons from the 8-bit days.

The puzzle element is very minimal in the Cave of Flames. You will not spend much time trying to figure out puzzles of any kind. The majority of the dungeon is about surviving against the many hazards; dodging and avoiding traps and enemies. The parts of the dungeon that are not about that are usually about navigation. Still befitting a mine, the dungeon can somewhat easily turn you around if you’re not paying attention. In fact, the path through the dungeon is linear, but there are many points where the path forward may become unclear, either because you’re blatantly looped around where you started and may forget where the next locked door is, or due to the mine carts. The mine carts are simplified versions of the carts featured in the Oracle games (clearly Capcom has a thing for mine carts). In those games they moved slowly and let you fire out of them to flip switches, but in this game they move at high speeds and are simply transportation from one part of the dungeon to another. The doors separating the tracks between rooms can only be entered via mine cart, so trying to find your way through the areas between mine cart destinations or figuring out where to go once you’ve used them can be a bit confusing. Still, these navigational challenges are by far easier to deal with than the hazards, and navigating the dungeon is pretty relaxing to offset the panic those hazards can produce.

The Cane of Pacci is a neat dungeon item with an interesting mechanic. Though I think it is perhaps a bit under-utilized. Finding new ways of navigating rooms and hazards with the Cane of Pacci is quite fun and has cool gameplay moments, but none of them are especially creative. I feel like something as original as the barrel room in Deepwood Shrine could have been used here once or twice to make the item feel really satisfying. Perhaps flipping something large to advance, or portions of something large to solve a puzzle?

The miniboss is a neat encounter against eight Spiny Chuchus, whereas the boss battle is awesome. The fight against Gleerok is, in my eyes, where the game really starts to shine from the combat side. This fight is challenging and has multiple factors to keep track of. Gleerok, as befitting the rest of the dungeon, can drain your hearts quickly. It blasts fire and leaves burning flames where its attacks connect. If the blasts themselves hit you, Link will run around the room and potentially incur more damage if the player isn’t careful. And after taking damage, Gleerok really unloads the fire blasts, covering the limited walking space with flames. Its weakness is simple to figure out, but hitting it takes some skill and it’s just an all-around cool fight. Its challenge avoids being overwhelming since the boss provides you with infinite hearts if you just dowse the flames it leaves with your sword.

The difficulty of the Cave of Flames makes a surprising and potentially frustrating leap after the laid-back Deepwood Shrine, but in truth it doesn’t ramp things up unreasonably from the difficulty of Mt. Crenel before it, and so I think any unfair spike in difficulty should be blamed on Mt. Crenel and not the Cave of Flames. The Cave of Flames itself only challenges your health, and not your mind. Perhaps the dungeon would have been better if a second, optional bottle were available before entering the dungeon, allowing the player to prepare themselves with healing items before tackling the dungeon if they needed it. I also wish the Cane of Pacci was used for bigger things. Regardless, the Cave of Flames is a simple but cool dungeon with quite a bit of challenge and an awesome boss battle. It’s the point where I think the game picks up; the early areas and first dungeon are easy and simple, and Mt. Crenel is annoying to tackle due to difficulty and strange layout. But for the most part, the Cave of Flames’ layout is simple enough that its challenge feels approachable. I enjoy this dungeon quite a bit, and I look forward to the battle against Gleerok every time.

What do you think of the Cave of Flames? Overly hard? Just the right amount of challenge? How do you feel it compares to Deepwood Shrine and Mt. Crenel? How about the Cane of Pacci and Gleerok? Tell me in the comments, and look forward to next week when I review the Fortress of Winds!

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  • Link

    Ya know, I just finished this dungeon, took about 2 hours for Mount Crenel, and this was a pleasant surprise. It was easy, and fun. One of my favorite dungeons. Thanks for this post!
    PS: I didnt know how to rate it with stars, and it turned out for -1. I mean to make it 5 stars

  • DamagingLink

    I think this dungeon and it’s boss are really good, but it’s item, the Cane of Pacci, is kinda weird. Really? It flips stuff? Wow…

    • Axle the Beast

      I actually really liked the Cane of Pacci and thought it was suitably humble in effect. I feel like if you try to make an item do something too epic, you limit the strategy of using it. Making the item odd or specific means you can use it more creatively. My issue with the Cane of Pacci, in that case, is that it’s not used that exceptionally despite being very unique.

      I love destroying pots with it though. Pew! *smash* Pew! *smash*

      • The Logic Breather

        Minish Cap: the game that gives you 101 ways to break pots

        • asmith

          Except the ability to smash them with your sword from the get-go! That was a strange restriction.

          • Philip Kunhardt

            In most handhelds, you couldn’t destroy them with the sword from the get-go – you had to wait until you got the Lv-2 Sword. In this one, you have to wait until you get the Secret Skill.

          • asmith

            Huh, no kidding? MC was my first Zelda handheld game. I wasn’t aware this was pretty much following protocol. Thanks.

          • Axle the Beast

            Minish Cap: the game that gives you 101 UNLOCKABLE ways to break pots


      • DamagingLink

        I liked it too, but it was a little weird.

    • Guest

      That’s not entirely fair. Unlike some other truly one-shot items, at least you could elect to use the Cane of Pacci during combat to assist in defeating Stalfos, for example. I usually just relied on the sword, but you had the option (and it was a superior alternative than using the gust jar since you could use the cane more quickly)

      • DamagingLink

        I didn’t say I don’t like it, it was fun! It just just was a little weird.

    • wrendalex

      i like the cane of pacci a lot though it is extremely weird.

  • Axle the Beast

    Hmm. You know… I think after the Earth Temple in Skyward Sword, this is my second-favorite fire-themed dungeon of the series. xP

    • K2L

      I like most fire dungeons in general. OOT’s, SS’s, TP’s, ST’s. Maybe PH’s is an exception, since it was too simplistic even for a first dungeon. =P

      “I think the lore is pretty neat here. I like it because it’s so simple: The dungeon is a mine.”

      Most importantly, it served as inspiration for Goron Mines and Lanayru Mining Facility. And I happen to love those two dungeons.

      • bluelink121

        same here

      • Philip Kunhardt

        Wasn’t Dodongo’s Cavern a mine?

        • K2L

          Ehh, if it was one, then the archetypes of mining levels were very loose, perhaps too much. I never thought of it as a mine. No minecarts, no mining objects or elements, nothing.

        • Axle the Beast

          No. The Gorons didn’t excavate Dodongo’s Cavern. They just went in there and collected rocks. Mining and rock-gathering are different.

          • Philip Kunhardt

            Okay, so I mixed up a volcanic cavernous quarry and a mine; however, certainly Skull Dungeon from Oracle of Ages is a mine. It’s got mining carts, the entrance looks like a mining shaft entrance in the volcanic waterfall…

          • Axle the Beast

            Ehh. Mine carts are in multiple places throughout the Oracle games, and they’re mostly a gameplay thing. I wouldn’t say that Skull Dungeon is a mine unless the lore supports it. Else many more of the Oracle game dungeons are mines.

    • David Van Komen

      I honestly would have to agree with that. This is my least played Zelda Game, well after the other Gameboy titles, but I really enjoyed this dungeon. It was decently challenging, and was super fun to play. I’d love to see some new dungeons worked around these types of things.

    • RockyRaccoon

      The Earth Temple was great, but Scaldera was easy as hell.

      • Axle the Beast

        Can’t agree there. Took me well into the fight to realize I wasn’t actually damaging Scaldera. I thought I just had to bomb him down the hill for a while. He’s easy once you’ve beaten him, sure, but I lost a lot of hearts beating him that first time.

        • RockyRaccoon

          Nah, he was easy the first time for me, too. Dodongo made it obvious I had to bomb his mouth. The only annoying thing was his eye moving, but I was actually fortunate my first fight against him because it didn’t move once. Didn’t realize it did that until I did the Lightning Round.

          • Axle the Beast

            “Nah”? =P

          • RockyRaccoon


          • Axle the Beast

            Thing is you said “Nah” in response to: “Took ME well into the fight…”

            You calling me a liar? =P I kid.

        • Hayden

          Scaldera was a great boss battle! One of my favorite in the series, in fact! Pretty similar to Dodongo, though. But harder.

          • Axle the Beast

            Never felt that King Dodongo and Scaldera were similar. The only similarity is… you throw bombs in their mouths. That’s it.

        • wrendalex

          i actually thought scaldera was kind of tricky. I had figured out that you needed to throw a bomb in his mouth, it was actually doing that was hard.

  • itsameluigi1290

    I love TMC. SO MUCH. I think my favorite dungeon was the one where you get Roc’s Cape.

    • wrendalex

      i love MC too, but i thought that the palace of winds was a little too hard.

      • itsameluigi1290

        Well, the boss was definitely difficult…

  • Steven Montalto

    I had a hard time with the Mt. Crenel area leading to the dungeon the first time I played “The Minish Cap”, but I had a blast beating the Cave of Flames. I loved riding in the mine carts and Ezlo’s reaction the first time you ride in one (“Jumping jellyfish!”).

    • bluelink121

      yea me too

  • Roth

    “I feel like something as original as the barrel room in Deepwood Shrine could have been used here once or twice to make the item feel really satisfying. Perhaps flipping something large to advance, or portions of something large to solve a puzzle?”

    Like a beat-up boulder clogging a crossroads that Minish Link can find his way through via small cracks at the base, which must be flipped while big to change the paths when small!

    …Why didn’t they do that?

  • Zervah

    This dungeon is quite a mystery to me. These mines used to be functional and definitely had a lot to offer, but due the aggresive nature of it, it had to be abandoned to ensure the safety of whoever dug in the mines.

    There’s a lot of mystery there, like, who were the miners that built the place? Is this place the same mountain from Skyward sword, later becoming Death Mountain in OoT?

    It’s a fantastic dungeon in my book.

    • bluelink121

      maybe it was the mogma mine

      • Zervah

        It’s curious; the mogmas are similar to the mountain Minish.

        • bluelink121

          quite true, thats a pretty cool assumption

        • Philip Kunhardt

          The Mogmas also probably had a connection with the Wind Tribe who inhabited the Fortress of Winds, considering the Mole Mitts and the Digging/Mogma Mitts.

      • wrendalex

        i doubt it, though it would be cool if it was.

  • krule274

    Man I love this dungeon. It’s certainly time for another replay of the Minish Cap.

  • Steven Gaudet

    Please do more Oracle game dungeons!

  • wrendalex

    the cave of flames is my second favorite dungeon in the game. i love the mine carts and the fun yet easy pace of this dungeon is wonderful, especially after the extremely frustrating mount creneal. the music is great. the cane of pacci is awesome although a little strange. the combat was ok. my only complaint is the boss who I found way too hard, the fight with gleerok is very cool but is not at all easy.

  • hollander

    SP dungeonnsss

  • The Sign Writer

    you did not just make such a terrible error….. you did. the Deepwood shrine is NOT the only dungeon where you are minish. the Temple of Droplets is also minish-sized.

    • The Master Sword

      he said one of the only two . READ!

    • Axle the Beast

      “Deepwood Shrine was the first of the game’s two entirely Minish-sized dungeons…”

      “first”, “two”, “dungeonS”

  • CinnamonThief

    Ah, the Cave of Flames. Thinking back on my playtroughs of the game, this is probably the dungeon I remember the most. I love the unique spin on what could have been a generic “fire-themed cave”, and the level design is just splendid. Its quite interesting to compare it to TP’s Goron Mines, which is essentially the same “fire-themed mine”.
    It never feels like its linear, yet as long as you stay focused you wont ever get lost. And the minecarts are a lot of fun. I love Ezlo’s reaction XD

    As for Gleerok, I love how despite having such an obvious weak spot it isn’t exactly a piece of cake to actually hit it. Though I do find him a bit frustrating. Once he fills the entire room with flames I constantly get set on fire and from there it goes downhill fast. The time it takes to douse the flames is enough for him to fill the room with more. But its still not so hard that it is impossible. To be honest, something being hard is probably a good thing in Zelda games. It feels great when you beat him.

    And then there is the Cane of Pacci, and I have to agree there. It should have been used more, and in more ways. What if you could use it to flip certain doors or blocks containing secret minish rooms?

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  • Maximus

    The dungeon itself was of perfect difficulty. The boss was a bit hard, though.

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