Cave Story. If you haven’t played it yet, then what the hell is wrong with you?
I know, with a title like Cave Story, you think it’s going to be another dungeon crawler with all the appeal of a gopher’s testicle. But trust me, this game is way cooler than a gopher’s testicle, maybe even two gopher’s testicles.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say Cave Story is the best game ever made, but I am absolutely gutted it didn’t occur to me to vote for the game in the GC Top 50.
Cave Story is a freeware Windows game that has received nothing but the highest praise. If it were a commercial game, it would do absolutely well and sell loads of copies. Well, now it is a commercial game, courtesy of Nicalis, so get your ass over to the Wii Shop Channel.
I mean it.
Cave Story is the best freeware game ever. Chex Quest 3 comes incredibly close for me, but falls due to using an existing and widely available engine. There’s also iji, Echoes and La Mulana to contend with, but Cave Story manages to beat them all. Maybe it’s because the entire story, scenario, engine, graphics and music of Cave Story were all created by one man.
If you’ve never played Cave Story, you’re in luck, because it has been ported to Nintendo’s finest.
This game didn’t need to be ported, mind you. But in doing so, Nicalis has opened the game up to a potential new audience, and dare I say those who have played the game before, as well.
If you’ve played Cave Story, you know and sure as hell can’t deny that feeling you got twenty minutes in—where you wanted to blow your life savings on it, but couldn’t.
Well, now you can.
Wii-Ware hasn’t been all that much of a hit for me. Sure, it can boast the rather good Tales of Monkey Island series, but those games are also available for PC. Sure, so is Cave Story, but… but… all right, you stumped me there, moot point.
Not that many Wii-Ware games have been truly well regarded, either. This is changing with Cave Story, because, just between you and me, freeware fans… Nicalis is porting La Mulana to the WiiWare too.
Two of the best games you can get for free, you can get by paying for! Isn’t that great news? Of course it is!
Nicalis has added a number of features to Cave Story, to make this commercial version worth owning. I thought, “So long as some of the profits are going to Pixel (the original developer), or a charity/organisation of his choice, then I feel it is my duty”.
As it is yours, also.
The main additions to this re-release of Cave Story are the new difficulty modes, “official” translation and bundled DLC (and support for more), the addition of EDTV support (480p), updated graphics and updated music.
The updated graphics are, even for a purist such as me, a very welcome change. Characters look a lot more refined, the lines are smoother. It still retains the “Fami-Clone” look that makes the game so appealing, but makes the necessary changes to ensure the game looks good on a television capable of Extra Definition.
The soundtrack changes are unnecessary and unwelcome. First of all, music playback is handled differently, probably to make the newer soundtrack fit in the place of the older one. At times, the new arrangements of the classic melodies are good, but for the most part, they just plain aren’t. The jingles themselves have been slaughtered, eaten and removed via liposuction… and then eaten again.
Thankfully, you can switch back to the original graphics and soundtrack at any time outside of gameplay. Also, I appreciate that you can change either or both, meaning you can play Cave Story with the sexy graphics but keep the original soundtrack. Kind of like the promise that we’ll be able to play the next Insert Word Here of Monkey Island remake with character voices but keep the original graphics.
Cave Story itself is reminiscent of Metroid and Turrican. It is a blend of exploration and shooting, which would feel at home on any number of older gaming systems.
The world itself is spanningly vast, and for a freeware game, this packs more hours of gameplay than you’d imagine at first.
You meander your way through large levels and smaller hub areas, all interconnected. The exploration is the key element, but the shooting isn’t to be sniffed at.
It is true that the open-ended exploration is less open-ended and more “levelly”, which was my one flaw with Crash: Mind Over Mutant, but it still hits the hunger spot for free-roam, with that big juicy steak and fries that you’ve been hankering for.
The game uses a levelling up system for weapons, which goes from Lv.1 to Lv.3. A weapon’s rate of fire, projectiles and damage changes with each level of the weapon—but the key difference here to the other games that have tried this is that your weapon is constantly changing level.
When you take damage, you lose health, but you also lose experience in the weapon you are holding. Keep getting hit and—given the damage doesn’t kill you—your weapon will end up far worse.
Collecting experience from enemies is absolutely vital, and it is always good to stockpile a little more experience than you need into each weapon, just so you’re on the safe side if you take a blow and your experience is damaged the most.
I haven’t played another game where you find yourself scrambling for experience this erratically, with consistent inconsistency.
I need the experience, but it has landed all the way over there. Well, do I try to get it? Oh no, it’s going to disappear! I need it. I need to grab it quickly! Then I walk into the spikes and die. It isn’t frustrating when this happens—no, it’s hilarious.
The Nemesis, the hidden comedy weapon of the game, does insane damage at Lv.1, and shoots harmless rubber ducks on wheels at Lv.3, requiring you avoid all experience shards that enemies drop! If you grab experience whilst holding the Nemesis, you have to deliberately inflict damage on yourself, which I think is hilarious.
Cave Story also has a brilliant and well-planned storyline, which slowly leaks the facts about your character to you as you’re playing.
It’s a mix of the average “amnesia” story, with a sudden twist of magic, gunfire and rabbit-people. I’d hate to spoil any of it for you, so I won’t. My lips are sealed shut.
Up there with Noitu Love 2 and La Mulana, Cave Story is all about the quality AND the quantity.
I would never have it any other way.
Known for its cause-and-effect driven endings, Cave Story spawned the phrase, “There’s another ending!?”
So many of your actions made in short, fleeting moments affect the ending and the events that follow. Swap the Polar Star for the Machine Gun? Bad ending. Grab the Booster v0.8? Bad ending, sorry.
This creates an immense amount of replayability, as the game’s very addictive nature draws you back, and you want to succeed where you previously failed. I found myself playing my fifth run with a guide, trying to make the perfect run-through.
Shortly after the PC version (and translation), a homebrew port was released for the Playstation Portable, which added a widescreen video mode. Cave Story feels absolutely stunning as a handheld game, but as a console game, it feels just as good as ever.
The controls aren’t quite as good as they were on the PSP port (that goes without saying; weapon switching on L and R was a godsend). Even despite this, playing the game on a sideways Wii-mote feels okay. It isn’t great and it isn’t dreadful, and it’s certainly playable. Perhaps not using the B trigger for weapon changes would be better, as I don’t like to find myself unintentionally switching weapon mid-way through a battle.
If the controls are not enough to give you slight difficulty, this is a painstakingly difficult game. The difficulty stems from the trying to achieve the better endings, and also the harder nature of DLC—The Sanctuary and Boss Rush modes—which has been bundled with the game instead of coming seperately as originally planned. These modes will happily oblige in making you their bitch, which if you’ve played Cave Story for the harder endings, you’re more than ready for.
Even if you’re new to Cave Story, you should drop the $12 on this. I know you won’t though.
I know you hate how the Wii’s points system operates.
I know you hate how you have to buy more points than you’re going to use.
I know how you hate the idea of paying for a downloadable game when you’re happy to shell out full price for a re-release of a crappy game with two new characters and a handful of stuff that should’ve been there first time around.
Super Street Fighter IV, I just described, by the way.
But, you know, you can change this. Downloadable games are substantial games too. They’ll sustain you just as much, if not more, than Capcom’s latest IP milking. You want fun? The first letter in fun is C, the second is A, the third is V—actually, I can’t be bothered; that joke is lame.
Only just recently, Michael Gray ripped into the Wii version of Jammy Sammy, for it being an unfaithful port that stripped out some of the best features. Luckily for Cave Story, the port was handled by a company that loves and appreciates the game, and with full involvement of the original developer.
The result? Only the best damn port ever made, truth be told, honest to God.
Hell, you read reviews on GameCola. You’re a real gamer. You and Mario are best of friends. You grew up with the old-school NES. You know what and where the warp whistles are. You owe it to yourself, and Pixel, to purchase this game.
The only gripe I can truly think of would be the new translation. I knew the script for Cave Story rather well, and lines of text I’ve expected have been translated differently. The area “Grasslands” has been renamed to “Bushlands”, and you probably wouldn’t fathom how much that pisses me off.
But I understand why they needed to re-translate the game—Aeon Genesis’ translation was done for free, as a non-profit translation, and it would be illegal to sell the game with that translation. So fair enough, just annoys me is all. The story is still very much clear (perhaps now more so, devoid of all confusion over particular word meanings).
The Wii has been eternally graced with the best game ever made by one man alone.