Before I even played The Minish Cap, I’d heard some of its music online and one track that really stuck out to me was the Temple of Droplets’ theme. I was looking forward this dungeon my entire time with the game, and when I finally reach it, I can’t say I was disappointed. The Temple of Droplets — the game’s fourth dungeon — has been one of my favorite dungeons of the series for some time now. It’s my favorite dungeon in The Minish Cap and probably my favorite water and ice dungeon of all-time. Although it didn’t strike me quite as hard on my latest playthrough, that applies to a lot The Minish Cap since I’ve replayed it a few times now, so it only has a small effect on my impression of the Temple of Droplets.
The Temple of Droplets is the second and last of the game’s entirely Minish-sized dungeons — a small amount, to be sure — and it makes much better usage of the theme. Deepwood Shrine didn’t measure up to its concept of a meeting place for humans and Minish (instead seeming like it could only house Minish), but the Temple of Droplets doesn’t create that problem for itself. Its purpose isn’t explained, but it’s never suggested that humans ever had any involvement with it, so there’s no thematic problem to worry about — big or small — and it’s really just a temple for Minish.
Seeing this dungeon as a small platform of ice in Lake Hylia’s waters only to enter it later after acquiring the means to swim to it — literally using it like the portals you’ve used throughout the game — was a cool touch.
On its interior the dungeon is rather simple, but it has enough themes going for it to make it interesting. There are sections that are purely ice, and sections that are more like caves, with still others that are waterways, or actual shrines that justify the “temple” in the name. These are all simple themes, but they come together really well here, and you can definitely get an overall concept of the dungeon as an important but abandoned (and now overrun) structure that the Minish built inside and possibly beneath this chunk of ice… although it perhaps raises the question of why Link doesn’t freeze to death in there (Ezlo does mention how cold it is though!) Breaking way from the themes established by size, it also fulfills a bit of the fantasy I’ve had of exploring a pitch-black area with a lantern, as there are multiple rooms like this in the Temple of Droplets. These dark caves were some of my favorite moments in the dungeon, and I wish that there were more things in the dungeon involving illumination and melting, to make more use of the dungeon’s item for cool navigational themes to make the dungeon feel more unique.
Really it’s the dungeon’s music that ties everything together into a cohesive atmosphere. It’s a bit dangerous-sounding like most of the game’s dungeon themes are, but it also sounds more peaceful than most of them, if that makes any sense. It’s a slow and awesome track to befit the slow navigation of these icy and watery caves, with an almost Christmasy or wintry sound to it alongside a calm eeriness, to give it a really distinct flavor. It’s a very unique track, and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything quite like it. It goes a long way towards giving the dungeon a very unique feel, and like I said Ocarina of Time’s Fire Temple had its themes brought together by the music that played there in the original version, so the same happens here. This is a great example of audio holding the rest of the area together in my eyes; the Temple of Droplets theme echoes all of the elements present in its design and ties them together into a single track, and this helps all of those themes feel at home in the dungeon itself.
Gameplay-wise the dungeon is both simple, yet a little bit surprising. Mostly the dungeon is all sliding block and switch puzzles, relatively simple stuff that still takes a fair bit of thought and usually makes you feel clever upon solving. Good puzzle design to be sure. The enemies are mostly the same sort fought in Deepwood Shrine — though some of them are stronger varieties — so they’re mostly there to nickel and dime your hearts away as you’re distracted trying to perform other tasks. And the lily-pad traversal of the waterway returns from the first dungeon of the game as well. None of these are original or fresh, but they’re used very well here.
Where the dungeon is a bit surprising is the way it treats your navigation and goals. This is the first dungeon of the game where it treats the core dungeon items in an unusual manner. In this case, the Big Key is acquired at the beginning of the dungeon, and the door to the boss room opened after going through only a handful of rooms. In fact, the boss room is the central lobby of the dungeon, and the Water Element you’re after, along with the boss, are both thawed out after flipping switches you can activate on the ledges of this room once you find your way up to them. None of this really changes the gameplay of the dungeon, but it does lend the navigation a different flavor, and it’s refreshing.
The dungeon is filled with mini-boss encounters, including a redux of the first dungeon’s mini-boss and main boss in the form of two Madderpillars that must be fought at the same time, along with the Big Blue Chuchu battle. While most of the dungeon’s enemies are the weak nickel and dime sort I mentioned earlier, these abundant mini-boss encounters alongside multiple of the newer, tough-as-nails Scissors Beetle enemies, provide some tough fights. Most of the dungeon is puzzles, but the puzzles break up a handful of very tough encounters, so the combat element is here as well. It’s a very balanced dungeon. The main boss itself, the Big Octorok, is one of the most interesting boss fights in the game, with many phases. It’s quite challenging and one of my favorite boss fights of The Minish Cap.
My one real gripe about this dungeon is a gripe about both the dungeon’s themes and gameplay, and it’s that I wish the dungeon made much more use of the Flame Lantern. This item is very familiar to Zelda fans, but Capcom made it into a really useful multipurpose item in this game, used for both lighting your way and burning things. There’s some cool puzzles with the lantern, but mostly it’s just used to melt barriers or light the way. The dark rooms in which you do this are awesome, but there’s only a few, and the melting is never very interesting. I feel like this item should have been used more, more interestingly, and for longer than it was. There was a lot of room for cool expansion of the Flame Lantern.
A much smaller and more trivial gripe I have is the chests hidden in ice blocks long before acquiring the Flame Lantern needed to melt them. It’s not too bad backtracking to these because of the warp points that are found in every dungeon (bravo Minish Cap!) but nonetheless I felt these could have been less out of the way, or at least there could have been more incentive (I.E. more chests and unlockable pathways) in this part of the dungeon to really justify making you go back. But this is a small concern, in the end.
All in all the Temple of Droplets is my favorite dungeon of the game, and one of my favorites of the series. Its themes are really basic individually, but they’re interesting when together and they’re tied together extremely well by the dungeon’s soundtrack. The puzzles are simple but interesting, and the fights are challenging and spread apart pretty well. It’s an exceptionally well-paced dungeon that offers you lots of different things to do at the right times, and all in-keeping with its themes. I think it under-uses its core item and I’d have loved to see more of it, but in the end it’s still really fun and it doesn’t lose any of its status in my mind.
So how about you? How do you feel about the Temple of Droplets? Do you think it’s an awesome dungeon? Do you like its puzzles, battles, and music? Or do you think it’s not really that big a deal, and that it has more problems than I do? Tell me in the comments, and look forward to next week when I review the game’s one mini-dungeon, the Royal Crypt!