Review by Ofisil

"Freeware???"

Cave Story, (AKA Doukutsu Monogatari), is a Freeware Action\Platform\RPG developed by Pixel Studios… who is actually one talented individual. This, my friends is the reason I'm always on a hunt for freeware games. Most of them are crap, but once in a while I manage to find a gem among crap. No, I don't care about the lack of price tag, it's just that I love all kinds of stuff created by “amateurs” and not corporations. Why? Because these people are driven not by money or success but by love for what they do and what we have here is, without a doubt a game created by a perfectionist, who absolutely loves the wonderful charm of old-school 8-bit\16-bit games. The result: A game that belongs amongst the great classics of gaming history…

Story: 8/10
Presentation: 10/10

The plot of Cave Story is very similar to the plot of any classic NES game, however it is at least 10 times better! Sure it's not something extremely original, but it IS original nonetheless and furthermore it is bucked up by excellent presentation. In Cave Story you control a small anthropoid that wakes up in a dark cave without any recollection about his self or the reason why he is in this unknown place. Soon he'll discover that in this “cave” world, (since everything takes place underground), some cute creatures have to deal with a very dangerous invader, a mysterious doctor who kidnaps them and uses them in his evil plans. Throughout your quest to stop the doctor you'll get to meet a lot of the nicely developed characters and interact with them, learn about the evil doctor, the cave that he poses a danger to and most importantly, find out who the heck you are! I'll say it again… the plot is great, since the game is filled with -not at all boring- cutscenes with great dialogues. Even better the world, “feels” real. I always find it hard to explain this, but Cave Story is one of these games that have a certain atmosphere. The world and most importantly some key areas have a certain aura. It makes you feel as if you are truly traversing through a real world and not just some videogame levels. You'll actually care about stopping the doctor and you'll actually feel sorry about the various characters' mischief. You know… Cave Story has that retro game magic…

Gameplay: 10/10
Replay Value: 6.5/10

The developer of this game spent 5 years in creating every single aspect of this game. The result? A fusion of Super Mario, Metroid, Castlevania and Mega Man… the undisputed Action\Platform game masters of the 8-Bit era. Cave Story is so refreshingly old school, so amazingly flawless and so damn fun that it's no wonder that Nintendo has put her greedy Japanese hands on it, in order to create a port for WII. But I digress with all this admiration, so let me tell you what this game is all about. As I've said it's a fusion of classic 8-bit games. It's a platform\shooter with a lot of exploration involved, all given in the right amounts.

First things first: unlike most freeware games, (and commercial games to say the truth), the controls are absolutely flawless something that makes the game extremely fun and easy to play. Left, Right & Up to run and jump, Down to search and enter doors. One key for shooting and some other keys for swapping between weapons, opening the inventory or the map. From there on it's all about exploration and killing baddies. Along your quest you'll find various weapons, but even after acquiring the very first one you'll see how awesome the weapon system of the game is. You see, each weapon has three upgrade levels, but instead of finding these upgrades you'll have to gather a few items from your dead foes and after gathering enough your weapon will become a lot stronger. Furthermore getting hit by an enemy means that you loose upgrade points, so there is an element of strategy\skill involved, since avoiding damage has an additional meaning besides not loosing health. The weapons involved are simply wonderful. Pistols, bouncing fireballs, a multi-hitting spirit sword(!), missiles and various others… all very well designed and wait to see the bosses where you'll use them on… simply magnificent, especially some of the later ones.

Besides all these shooting Cave Story is excellent as an adventure\role playing game. There are lots of secrets to be found, lots of well-written dialogue, (despite the game being more action oriented), and great levels with all sorts of challenges available, with many of them in need of a certain amount of gray matter, something that is always welcome in my book. However I just have to mention the only flaw of the game, (yes, only one). Cave Story, despite its epic quality, is relatively small and has a somewhat low replay value. No, it's not the kind of freeware game that can be completed in 30 minutes but I guarantee that 6-8 hours are more than enough and even though there are multiple, (and great), endings and lots of secrets Cave Story isn't Super Metroid… although it's pretty close :)

Graphics: 10/10
Design: 9.5/10

WHOA!!! Simply excellent! This, my dear friends is the epitome of the 8-bit style of graphics. We've got all the usual stuff here: Tiles, (the building blocks of 2D games), sprites, (characters & items), and all use just 3 to 5 colors max, like all oldies, however everything looks magnificent. Usually because of the tile-based structure of old games the levels look somewhat repetitive, here though, there is some much variety in tiles that not a single area of a level will look similar to another one. All levels look wonderful and are immensely detailed, with the right colors used and with nice backgrounds that add some sort of depth. By the way besides all the technical stuff the levels look good design-wise and since everything takes place inside a long array of caves, it has a certain kind of atmosphere that I love. Furthermore the characters, despite their simplicity look very good and are obviously a product of a very talented individual that knows what he is doing, mixing old style 8-bit design with modern pixel art perfection.

Sound: 10/10
Music: 9.5/10

Like everything else in the game the sound & music of the game is both exceptionally good but also an obvious tribute to its roots, the golden era of 8-bit games! When I first started the game, the tune that welcomed me gave me such a strong feeling of deja vu that I looked down on my hands expecting to see a NES controller instead of my cold black keyboard! The title theme… ROCKS!!! Each and every tune in the game screams NINTENDO, (or any other retro game legendary company), extremely well composed and fits like a glove to each area or situation making it quite hard for me to believe that all these come from one single developer! The same goes on with the sound effects, which are of classic game quality and not decent-freebie quality.

[+]:
-Wonderful story and presentation with multiple endings
-Great weaponry & excellent boss fights
-Very good platforming & exploration
-Magnificent controls
-Exceptionally good 8-bit style Graphics, SFX & Music

[-]:
-Small and with low replay value

Also Play:
Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night (Playstation)
Donkey Kong Country (SNES)
Mega Man 2 (NES)
Mega Man X (SNES)
Metroid (NES)
Super Mario Bros 3 (NES)
Super Mario World 1 & 2 (SNES)
Super Metroid (SNES)

Overall: 9.2/10

Just the fact that I, the ultimate nitpicker, have only found one single flaw in this game says a lot. The game is simply magnificent. It is a game that I would buy without a second thought… but it's actually free, so… DOWNLOAD IT NOW!!!


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/17/12

Game Release: Doukutsu Monogatari (JP, 12/20/04)


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