Genre(s): Action, 2D platformer, RPG components, non-linear plot
Alternative Name(s): Doukutsu Monogatari
Author: Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya
Year of Release: 2004
Licence: Free (original version)
Ports: WiiWare, DSiWare, Nintendo 3DS, Linux, Mac OS
Spinoffs: Cave Story+, Cave Story 3D
Cave story was created entirely by “Pixel” over a period of about five years. During this time he created all the graphics, music and code needed to bring his vision to life.
Cave Story’s gameplay is primarily somewhere between Commander Keen and Rockman. That’s jumping, shooting and using the right weapon — for the right enemy those who don’t know what I mean. But above this primary layer exists another, thinner layer of sophistication that one would find in RPGs and adventure game; the old find-that-item-talk-to-that-person routine. This is a good combination as it help break the monotony, integrates the story and gameplay nicely and helps separate the games into more distinctive segments. Though there are some other RPG elements, for the most part, the player must rely almost solely on his/her own dexterity to progress. For this reason, the game boasts some of the most fluid and intuitive controls I’ve come across. Still, for all the good there is some, albeit very little, bad. The game’s flaw lies predominantly in its inconsistent difficulty. While the first part feels a little tough, one soon finds oneself breezing through the game after gaining a rudimentary understanding of the mechanics. Then quite suddenly one reaches the final areas and finds oneself bombarded with handicaps and difficulties that include gauntlets of terrible battles with no save points in between. While this difficulty is actually a positive thing since most games today require nothing more than smashing random buttons to finish, the immense inconsistency almost detracts from the game. All in all, Cave Story still gets a gold star for being fun enough to play through several times. All in all, I’m giving the gameplay 9/10
Judging 2D graphics is difficult by today’s standards because of all the advantages that come with modern technology. Larger capacity allows a greater number of tiles, more colours and higher resolution graphics. Modern graphics editors, even basic ones, higher productivity rates with quick copy-pasting, flipping, colour adjusting and filters. Still, despite all the available technology, Cave Story keeps it fairly leans and simple, maintaining the retro look. But despite this lean approach, Cave story manages to produce rich and vivid environments with beautifully smooth parallax scrolling. Furthermore, the chibi-style of many of the characters captures their essence perfectly and is reminiscent of the old Famicom days. At the end of the game, the player is treated to an impressive slide-show of truly amazing pixel art (or is it Pixel-art). My only criticism would be that occasionally, in certain areas, it becomes hard to make out enemies clearly due the complexity of the the background, foreground and characters all working together but against one another. All in all, the graphics deserve an impressive 8/10.
The style of the music and SFX in Cave Story is truly a journey back in time to my childhood. Filled with nostalgia and packing some awesome beats and great synth, Cave Story has one of the most excellent sound tracks I’ve heard in a long time. While the music occasionally not suit the environment, it does for the most part and helps create an intense atmosphere. The compositions themselves are great and pack such a powerful punch that it’s easy to get immersed in the rythm of combat and great tunes well into the early hours of the morning. For this and for originality, for sticking to the style and for fitting the rythm of the gameplay, the game’s soundtrack gets a solid 9/10.
The story itself is by far the most intense, complex and immersive I’ve ever encountered in a one-man indie game. The characters are all rish in subtle detail and exceedingly well-developed. The plot and setting are quite unusual as are the Mimiga race that play such a vital role in the story. This makes the game special and unique to anybody who’s creatively inclined. On top of all the story has to offer is the fact that it is not one but several endings derived from three primary plot-forks the player can follow. While multiple endings can often be seen as as sort of gaming fad, in Cave Story they are as much an essential component to the game as the gameplay itself. Cave Story’s story is in the same league as any AAA game title — better than most in fact — and earns a full thumbs-up rating of 9/10.
Conclusion:Cave Story passes with flying colours at an average of 92% which earns it the A rank it deserves. There’s no wonder that this humble indie title has been ported to so many platforms and and received two commercial remakes. One of the few games that could silence even the most vocal of critics, this game is a must-play.
You can download this game along with the translation here.