Review by AJ507

"The best things in life really are for free.."

Cave Story is a very unique game. Unique in the fact that it's an action/adventure game with a great original story, and the fact that it's absolutely free. The gameplay does resemble Metroid games more than any other type of game, but it has enough differences to make it totally unique in itself. The game was developed by Studio Pixel, and was originally in Japanese only, but a very good English translation has been released.

While it is a freeware game, make no mistake, it is very polished and easily just as good, if not better, than any game you would have paid 30 bucks to own on a handheld.

Gameplay: 10/10

Cave Story manages to be a lot of great things, and one of those things is plain fun. At the very beginning of the game, this may not be apparent, as all you can do is jump and run until you get the pistol type weapon that can only shoot in a straight line. All this changes, however.

Cave Story is an action adventure game with gameplay that I will be comparing to Metroid's. You get different weapons, like a missile launcher, a machine gun, a type of flame thrower, the bubble gun, and a few more. Also, just like Metroid games, you get health and missile upgrades. But what really sets it apart from a Metroid game is that the weapons upgrade as you get experience points (sort of like Ratchet and Clank games). When a gun upgrades, it's firing animations look different, but sometimes the gun itself may operate in a completely new way. Also, the machine gun lets you actually hover in the air with it's recoil when you fire downwards. A good example of just how much thought and polish has been put into this game.

Another thing that makes the game unique is that the weapons themselves are so different from each other. In a Metroid game, you'd get new weapons, but they mostly shoot forwards with the bullets/beams looking different with every weapon. But in Cave Story, the guns are clearly different. They fire in some pretty unique ways, the most notable way being the bubble gun's ability to surround the player with bubbles as they hold the fire button, and then when the fire button is released, the bubbles pop firing so many projectiles in the direction the player is facing showering the enemy with fire. It's a very cool weapon.

The way you explore in-game is again pretty similar to Metroid games, but with a little less backtracking. You basically explore areas to reach your destination, and fight baddies along the way. Unlike Metroid though, the game is driven by the story, and you will usually be told where to go by the characters in game. They don't pin point exactly where it is you need to go however, but leave it up to you to explore an area, and find what or who you are looking for.

There is quite a bit of platforming too. You need to jump over pits with shiny red spikes at the bottom that will kill you instantly. Also there are some instances where you have to be quick or you'd get smooshed by a trap. The game is very fair though; it's never too hard and the traps are always apparent to anyone observing their surroundings properly.

Graphics and Sound: 10/10

The graphics and sound have a very retro/classic gaming feel to them.

The graphics are in 2D, and the game has a sort of pixelated cartoony look that does a great job in being both consistent and and setting the atmosphere of the game. The graphics on the game would mostly resemble the kind you'd see in a GBA game, they may not be the greatest looking ever, but they are more than sufficient at the same time. Even for a free game, the graphics look very comfy and polished.

As for the sound, it mostly resembles the type of sound you get in NES or old PC games. You get the "pew pew pew" when firing your weapon, and the retro music. It all sounds very fitting though, and manages to subtly set the mood for the game.

Story and Characters: 10/10

Now action adventure games rarely have a stories this good or this original. The comparison to Metroid games ends here, because this game is really quite heavy on plot, story, and characters. Action games are usually all about the gameplay, but this one focuses just as much on story. So much that it has multiple endings.

Now the game may strike you as light hearted at first, but actually, it can be pretty realistic in the way the story is presented. It is deep... I think I can safely say deeper than any previous game of its kind. It seems to depict the cruelty of the world, where survival of the fittest is all that matters, and the weak are exploited. You, the main character, are in the midst of all this conflict taking place underground, in a world separate from the surface. The game doesn't have you saving the entire world, or anything so grand. But mainly helping out your friends, and some of the creatures in this underground world. Still though, you will probably feel some remorse for some of the things you'll have to do in this game. It's not often that a game can play with your feelings like this, and that's why this is the type of game that you will remember. It looks cartoony and light hearted, but in its depth, there is something altogether more serious.

The characters are a lovable bunch. Even the bad guys, it's really hard not to like em. What really helps is the character portraits displayed when one of the characters is talking, they usually mirror that character's feelings or personality. A good example is this one lady you'll encounter in the game. She is rather old and strained, and indeed when you look at her face, you can see that she is tired, but at the same time a very kind person despite some of the things she must have seen in her time underground. And the villain of the game has this haughty you-are-nothing way of looking at people, with his head tilted so he always appears to look down on you. This simple picture next to the words the character speaks really does speak a thousand words all by itself.

There are also miscellaneous other characters to talk to throughout the game, and while only the main characters have character portraits, these other guys look very cool too. Some of them are very mysterious as well, and relay some interesting information to you. Curiosity is stirred as you wonder exactly where these people came from, and what they are doing in the place.

Overall: 10/10

This game is can be considered one of the best games ever made, especially if you appreciate the subtle story telling that manages to say very little, but remain very deep. It's really the story that makes this game what it is, but to top it off the gameplay is right there, and great too. The game is also quite long, taking around several hours to complete for the average gamer their first time through. But it's multiple endings and many secrets give it a ton of replay value. "It's not the type of game you only play once", I've heard so many people say this before, and that's only because it's true.

Another thing is that it's free. There is no excuse not to at least try the game out, as it's available for download and the file itself is very small. A quick search and a few clicks will get you this game in around 3 to 5 minutes at most, as quite a few sites have it available for download, the most notable being this one :

So give it a try, you're bound to find something to treasure in Cave Story.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 08/19/07

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