Review by Gillomidil
Cave Story is one of those games that slips under your radar until someone tells you about it passing a few years after it's been released. You don't think much of it at the time, but then you get bored one day and it pops into your head that you should go check it out and maybe give it a try, and the next thing you know it's 4:30 in the morning and you just can't sleep until you've finished that next level.
Take Super Mario's lackadaisical attitude, mix in a little of Metroid's side-scrolling, weapon gathering mayhem, and throw it all together with atmosphere that would send Bioshock reeling and you've got Cave Story in a nutshell. Everything feels right, your character is responsive, and you can pretty much do anything you think you can do without running into any arbitrary gameplay walls. The difficulty curve is a steady slope that allows you to get a feel for the gameplay and weapons before throwing you into anything nasty while at the same time remaining challenging enough to make you feel like you're accomplishing something.
The weapons are fun and powerful, yet simple to use, and while some of them are better than others in certain situations, they all have their place in the grand scheme of the things, and they don't feel gimmicky or useless like many weapons in other 2d-shooters feel.
The game really shines here, featuring a cast of memorable characters that the player really comes to identify with throughout the course of the game. Even though I disliked a handful of them at first, I found myself empathizing with them later on, truly caring about their fates within the bond of the game. Based on a few actions the player can choose to accomplish in a certain order that can be either discovered or found in various faqs across the internet, there's a secret ending and a vast quantity of events that play out differently depending on whether the player's unlocked them successfully or not. The most difficult stage in the game is unlocked in this manner as well, offering another level of challenge to the player unlike anything I've encountered outside of the original Megaman games. It's fantastic, it really is.
This isn't a next-gen 3d game with dynamic lighting or physics engines or anything fancy like that. 2d sprites and backgrounds make up the game's entire graphical repertoire, but they're all top notch and do nothing but add to the atmosphere of the game. The style is consistent and fresh, and never ceases to keep the player wondering at what's around the next corner. Think late-generation SNES quality, and you'd be right around where Cave Story is in terms of graphics. Not many games are 2d these days, a disparaging comment on modern-day gaming, but Cave Story pulls it off with flair and makes me wonder why more games don't revert to the sprite-based graphics of old.
Everything sounds like it should, and the music is top notch. There are several people who've even remixed it into downloadable .mp3's that I listen to all the time, and I often find myself humming them to myself when I'm bored. You won't be blown away by positional audio or anything like that, but again, simplicity prevails.
Buy or Rent?
It's free. It's a small download. Go get it. Play it. Love it. You'll be doing yourself a favor that you'll never ever regret.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/15/07
Game Release: Doukutsu Monogatari (JP, 12/20/04)
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