Review by Iubaris
"A refreshingly fun, deep, and well-designed game."
Cave Story, developed solely by Daisuke Amaya, is an extremely enjoyable 2D freeware platformer. Most games will cost you upwards of 50 dollars these days, but Cave Story is completely free. Just download it and start playing a couple minutes afterward. It's easily accessible and you really have no reason not to start playing right now.
The story in Cave Story is well-written and surprisingly deep for a freeware game. In Cave Story, players take control of the robot Quote, the silent protagonist who wakes up in a cave on a floating island with no memories. You first encounter the mimigas, a peaceful group of rabbit-like creatures, who are being enslaved by the evil Doctor. It seems like a typical Save The World And Beat The Bad Guy plot, but it's deeper than that, with engrossing plot twists sure to keep you interested. The characters also prove interesting and varied. From the friendly supporting characters to the plentiful villains, all have a distinct personality and style. The villains are not just evil for evil's sake, but have reasons and a past that explain their actions. It's hard not to grow attached to the characters, especially some of the recurring bosses.
The sound and graphics are, unsurprisingly, very polished. The 8-bit pixelated screen is very nostalgic, reminiscent of old-school games on the NES. Weapon shots are easy to see, and missile explosions are satisfying. My only gripe with the graphics is that you can sometimes get lost in the action, but it happens only rarely. The music is both pleasing and memorable, and you might even find yourself humming along. Each tune is fitting for the area or situation, and most are very catchy.
The gameplay, though, is where Cave Story truly shines. Cave Story is a 2D platforming-shooter. The weapons are varied and each one has its particular area where it excels. The main gun shoots straight, but has three upgrades (one makes it automatic, one charges for extra power, and one shoots through walls). In addition, players can obtain a nice variety of other weapons, including a fireball, a knife, missiles, and a bubbler. Weapons all start at level one, and by obtaining experience that drops from defeated enemies, players can upgrade weapons to a maximum of three. However, getting damaged causes you to lose experience in the equipped weapon, so players have to be careful. The action is incredibly fun, with imaginative enemies and lots of crazy bosses filling the game from start to finish. In addition to the basic gameplay, players can explore the island to find various powerups- namely, maximum health boosts and missile upgrades, reminiscent of the Metroid games.
Finally, replayability is excellent. Not only will a normal first playthrough run 8-10 hours, there's an extra hard mode accessible by making a series of choices halfway in the game for more experienced gamers. Hard mode's main addition is an optional dungeon accessible after defeating the normal final boss, which not only adds a great deal of challenge but also fleshes out the history of the island and the source of the Doctor's power. This dungeon includes a timer that records how long players take from entering the dungeon to defeating the final boss, so speed runs are easy to manage. In addition to all this, players wanting even more challenge can skip the extra weapons and health upgrades, all of which are optional, and try to beat the game without all of that.
Cave Story is a game that never gets old, and it would be worth every penny if you had to pay for it - and you don't, so why wait?
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/04/07
Game Release: Doukutsu Monogatari (JP, 12/20/04)
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