Review by SoulRaiderX

"A Freeware Masterpiece for the PC? BLASPHEMY!"

Cave Story is a 2D side-scrolling game developed by Studio Pixel. Although originally named Doukutsu Monogatari (Japanese), it was later translated with a patch into English, thus spawning Cave Story. Many freeware games can be considered a waste of space, as they aren't very fun or entertaining; Cave Story, however, is an exception. It's actually almost the extreme opposite of such games and can be considered a masterpiece of it's time.

Cave Story is entirely etched into 2D. This is usually a downside to most games because of the low graphical gameplay; however, in some cases, 2D graphics have been done very well. The animations in Cave Story flow extremely smoothly and almost never drops beyond it's regular frames (unless the screen is overly-clustered with monsters). The environments are compiled cleanly and look very unique. The NPC and monster sprites are very unique with hardly any recycled graphics being reused as another type of monster. The graphical components of Cave Story are overall astounding.

Cave Story offers an entire soundtrack worth of original catchy tunes. The music tends to match the scenery very well. The tracks themselves are unique and are easy to follow but hard to get rid of, as I often hear myself replaying some of them in my head. Sound effects are done unnoticably crispy and they blend in with the game itself very well.

Cave Story's gameplay can be best shown if you throw Super Mario, Metroid, and Castlevania into a blender. You have your basic HP bar, as well as an Experience bar just underneath it. The HP bar should be obvious enough; you take hits, you receive damage, and your HP will hit 0. However, your Experience bar is an innovative level up system. When you destroy monsters, they drop items. There are points at which you may notice it drop a yellow triangle, which you can collect to raise your weapon's Experience. With enough Experience, your weapon will level up and grow stronger (for most weapons). Furthermore, if you receive damage, your experience will drop, thus forcing you to reclaim more Experience orbs.

There are 9 total weapons in the game (Missiles and Super Missiles being 1 weapon) which can be collected over the course of the game. There are also other upgrades to be found along the way, such as Missile Expansions and HP Increases. However, one cannot collect all the weapons through one playthrough, so the game shows some replay value here. The game also has 3 different endings, which adds even more replay value. There is also the discovery of hidden plot secrets. Tie that into a secret, extremely difficult cavern, and you have a game you may get hooked on even after the first run.

Unfortunately, the game is fairly short when compared to other PC games. There are roughly 8 large areas you must explore, which then leads to the competition of the game. This can be considered a downside, although the replay value indeed makes up for it.

Cave Story's outer storyline is not too unique but still interesting. However, if you do decide to do a few more playthroughs of the game, there is also an inner storyline that ties up any lose ends and small things that one can otherwise consider to be plot holes. Once again, unfortunately the story is somewhat short, but the replay value makes up for it.

As I stated at the beginning of the review, Cave Story can be considered a masterpiece for it's time. The gameplay is innovative and addictive, with a very long span of replayability. The graphics are executed very well and smoothly in 2D. Sounds are arranged very well and sound effects add a spicy touch to an already-fabulous soundtrack. The basic story is lackluster but can be redeemed by playing deeper into the game and uncovering hidden plot events. This should be a definite addition to any PC gamer's collection.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 03/31/08

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

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