The story of Cave Story is interesting in of itself. Cave Story is a 2D scrolling platformer/shooter for the PC that was made by Japanese programmer Daisuke Amaya (aka “Pixel”) over the course of five years. Pixel released Cave Story for free download in 2004 and the game eventually gained popularity, an English translation and found its way onto the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DSi via their respective download services.
Cave Story 3D for the Nintendo 3DS is the latest version of Cave Story and is bought to us courtesy of developer Nicalis and publisher Nippon Ichi Software. In the game, you play as a silent protagonist with no memory as he navigates a series of caverns full of enemies, friends and adventure. If this review sounds a little vauge in tems of the story and characters it is because I really do not want to spoil the game.
I first played Cave Story on my laptop a few months ago and didn’t get too far because I found using the keyboard to control the character a bit frustrating. On reflection, I probably should have dug up my old Gravis Gamepad out of storage.
Old-School Gameplay - In this interview with Destructoid, Pixel states that the Metroid series was one of his big influences when making Cave Story, and it shows. The entire game is a well-done love letter to the eight and sixteen bit era of videogames. The graphics, sound and music are only the beginning of how well this game is done. Its all the little things, like the simple controls (jump and shoot), the way your character jumps, the little tune you hear when you get a powerup and the sound you hear as text is written onto the screen; everything just feels right.
New School Graphics - Cave Story’s visuals have received an upgrade for the 3DS, all of the characters are rendered in 3D and the backgrounds are now filled with detail compared to the original PC version. A “Classic Mode” is also available that forgoes the 3D characters and uses the original 2D sprites. The 3D gives the backgrounds some depth and really not much else.
Difficulty Is Just Right - Cave Story is not an easy game, its caves are filled with many tricky jumps and enemies and some of the bosses can put up a pretty good fight. I found myself dying many many times in the just over eight and a quarter hours it took me to finish the game on my first playthrough. Even though I ended up playing certain parts over and over, the game never felt cheap or unfair. If I died, it was because it was my fault.
Teeny Weeney Cavey - The graphics in Cave Story 3D zoom in and out depending on the size of the area you are in. While this works well for the most part, there are a few instances where your character gets really small and hard to keep track of. One more than one occasion, I found myself looking for damage text to pop up so I could figure out where I was.
Explore! Discover! Get Stuck! - While it is great that this game leaves you to discover everything for yourself, the lack of guidance can leave the player stuck at times. This happened to me once or twice during my playthrough and while I was able to figure things out and move on less-patient players may find themselves easily frustrated.
Re-Re-Re-release? - As I mentioned previously, this is the third release of this game on a Nintendo system. The $39.99 price tag can be a little hard to swallow considering Cave Story is already avalialbe on WiiWare for $12.00 and on DsiWare for $9.99. Of course, the original PC version is also available for download for free.
Despite the occasional frustrating section, I enjoyed playing Cave Story 3D. It is a refreshing change of pace to have to explore and discover everything on my own without having a giant arrow or auto-map dragging me along everywhere. 3D graphics nonwithstanding, the game otherwise nails that old school feel and has quite a bit to see and do. It isn’t perfect and it isn’t the longest game out there, at just over eight hours, but what is there is very good. It is challenging without feeling cheap and will require a few playthroughs (and maybe a few visits to GameFAQs) to see everything.
Cave Story 3D is a throwback to a bygone age, it is a simple game with simple controls, but achieving that goal is anything but simple. Players old enough to remember games like this and those curious about the ‘good old days’ old fogey gamers like myself are always yammering about owe it to themselves to give Cave Story a playthrough regardless of the platform.
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