Developer: Studio Pixel
Publisher: Studio Pixel
Format: PC (Reviewed)
I am reviewing the original Cave Story, not Cave Story+. I am only covering the original freeware game, not anything about the remake. (Also this is another re-upload that is on my website. I haven't found much time to write but I'm trying to. I've been busy with my book and reciept poem project on top of work and school. I'm trying to work out another VGMC but the next one is actually over the OST for this game, which is why I found it fitting to re-upload this first.)
It's about time I reviewed this game. Considering how huge and influential it is, it was really only a matter of time. Cave Story is a full-length 2D platforming shooter all made my one man, Daisuke Amaya. It's got everything covered, be it the aesthetics, mechanics, narrative, or so on. While I think that this game is just short of a masterpiece, I'm not surprised by the people who think it's more!
Mechanically, this game can take some getting used to, but once you've got it down it becomes very good. This pertains mostly to the platforming. You can jump high but run somewhere between moderate and slow, but once that's adjusted to the pace becomes enjoyable. As you progress into the story, you eventually get a jet-pack. It's dependent on what you've done in the story thus far whether or not you get the normal one, which provides you with a limited boost up, or the good one, which provides you with a limited amount of boost in any direction. The jet-packs make the game more fun and makes platforming feel more tight, especially in the later levels.
As the levels progress they begin to require greater amounts of skill, so you're forced to get good, and quick. This game can get difficult, and not always in the right ways. A major way of supplementing difficulty is a technique I have dubbed "cluster-fucking". There are moments where things are everywhere. It doesn't feel fair when you're barraged with tons of different enemies and obstacles everywhere, and can often be what takes the toll on your health.Some sections of the game don't even pose an actual challenge, and just feel like it because you're taking out a load of enemies. True, the extra enemies feed the game's unique weapon-upgrading system, but I felt it relied on that technique a little too often.
Let's talk about this weapon-upgrading system. Enemies can drop one of three things: health, missiles, and power crystals. Power crystals come in the shape of small yellow triangles and have varying sized dependent on how much power they provide. They bounce around and you have to collect them in the middle of the fray. What they do is add up a little bar that, once it's filled up to the next level, levels up your weapon. Weapons can all be leveled up to a max of three levels, progressively getting stronger with each level (in most cases). Weapons can be upgraded relatively quickly, but with the trade-off that you lose some power when getting hit. This can be annoying with some weapons, which are close to useless in their first level, but for the most part I found that once you're good enough you don't loose levels that often and can easily get them back.
Shooting is fun in this game with almost every weapon. They all work differently, do good amounts of damage on their third level, and are fun to use. You can shoot up, down, left and right, and in mid-air, so there's a lot of versatility with combat. My one true complaint with this game is that in order to get a bunch of weapons, you must trade in some in exchange. For example, the first weapon in the game can be traded in for three different weapons, creating a situation like the beginning of Pokemon, except one is obviously superior.
With story in the title, you should expect this game's narrative to be on point. I can confirm that this game's narrative is indeed, on point. It starts off with a lot of out-of-context foreshadowing dialogue, but later begins to pace itself very well. It ends up like Treasure Adventure Game, where there is still a good amount of dialogue, but it's all the juicy stuff you wanna hear. The characters are well portrayed, the villains have amazing backstories, and the story itself has three endings.
The endings aren't dictated by morality, but rather by how much you do on the island. The bad ending makes you feel bad about the choice you've made, and the normal ending is a satisfying ned to the story, and the good ending is the one that makes you feel truly triumphant. The major issue with the good ending is that getting it requires the most arbitrary things. You have to skip over getting the first jet-pack so you can get the second one, get items that wouldn't even appear otherwise for some arbitrary reason, and go on side quests that blow my mind that people would figure out. It's one of those game that I didn't feel bad about getting the normal ending and then using a walkthrough for the good one.
A second thing about this game that is a definite design flaw, possibly worse than the cluster-fucking technique, is the lack of save points and health stations. As you progress, save points become more and more scarce, and at the final level, it becomes a huge problem. Once you get good at it, the final level isn't hard, it's just the fact you have to go through it every time you lose against the final boss.
The art-style is a retro-pixelated style that I've grown to love. It's got a good amount of detail while still retaining an elegant simplicity. The sprites are simple, but the animations extravagant. The backgrounds are a little boring and could've used some character, but the foreground is so chocked full of stuff that you don't really pay attention to it that much. The color pallet is appealing with almost every level as well.
For someone who didn't know anything about music, Daisuke Amaya knew how to whip up some great tunes. Working up is own chip-tune from scratch, he created some magnificent pieces of music. They're memorable, catchy, and strike every emotion in every way. It adds immensely to the soul of this game, only making it's atmosphere thicker and the world more immersive.
Despite it's flaws, Cave Story is an amazing game. It's beautiful, immersive, fun and full of soul. It's good definitely outweighs it's flaws. It is considered the Godfather of indie games for a reason, after all. The fact that this game that can have so much time dumped into it was entirely made by one man is an amazing feat to this