Review by MirrormanEXE

"Crikey, now what we have here is something that makes me proud to be a gamer."

Well then, Cave Story. This is a phenomenal game, it must be said. The fact that I prefer to play this game to many console games is testament to that claim. Cave Story is a freeware RPG created by a Japanese designer known to his fans as Pixel.

The game was translated to English and released to the public, allowing the rest of the world to experience its greatness. I'll be reviewing this game by the standards it was made to emulate, not necessarily by today's standards of technicality. So, without further ado, let's be off.

Graphics: 8/10

It has to be said, this is a bit situational. As I said, I'm judging it by its influences and games that it emulates, good old 8/16-bit games. Even today, the sprites and such are beautifully done, but could be a bit better by today's standards. Most of the effects are quite lovely as well as the terrain itself. Extremely well done.

Weapon effects are very nice and colourful. Laser blasts look like typical laser blasts, fireballs get more extravagant, more advanced weapons fill the screen a bit more, you know the drill. Part of the fun of the weapons you pick up in the game is waiting to see what effect it has when it is more powerful.

The main points for this score get knocked off for some of the character sprites. There could have been a lot more detail put into them, to be honest. Despite this, the graphics of Cave Story are very successful at what they do. For retro gamers, it'll be a nice blast to the past, and for newer gamers, it may serve as a gateway game into the retro world.

Music: 10/10

Ok, lets not lie. Top marks. This is amazing.

Again, the music is made to be reminiscent of old-school style music, done wonderfully as MIDI style tracks. The true genius lies with Pixel simply banging the tracks together in a program for composing. It worked perfectly, and flows smoothly with the game.

Each song is simply very appropriate for its scenario, which is the important thing. It doesn't matter if the song is technical or dynamic; if it doesn't complement the setting or scenario of the area, it sounds worse than it could be.

This is where the music absolutely excels, since each track is simply so nicely integrated with each scene, it really is capable of invoking emotion and wonder into the player, particularly in scenes like the Outer Wall.

The soundtrack is included with the download of the game, so any music that may catch your ear is easily accessible again and extracted if you so wish. Definitely a soundtrack you'll want to hear again.

Gameplay: 10/10

The core of any game, and executed perfectly. The difficulty curve of Cave Story is just right, as well as being able to customise the difficulty yourself, depending on how much you power yourself up over the course of the game.

Everything is pretty much as good as it could possibly be. Perfectly gliding jump physics, a real-time battle system that doesn't slow down the pace of the game or interrupt your fun travelling the world.

The difficulty towards the end could be a bit frustrating for some people, especially should they choose the hidden final dungeon. Be warned: Not for unskilled players. But a few playthroughs and understanding of the physics will nicely prepare you for it, and this process will also be enjoyable, given the variety of the game.

The variety and replayability is shown in the three possible endings of the game. Chances are, first-time players will run into the Bad Ending first, as I did. The Good Ending is only viewable after completing the last hidden dungeon, which is not only very hard, but requires a certain route to be taken for most of the game. You probably won't reach it if you don't know how to get there.

Combat is in real-time, as I said before. No battle scenarios, you just run into enemies occasionally as you travel across the world. Choosing to take enemies on one by one, or choosing to pull a whole swarm towards you is always a fun choice.

The weapons are all picked up over the course of the game, either by completing small side-quests or through natural storyline events. You'll start off with the typical shoot-em-up peashooter, and eventually progress to less subtle weapons that allow for a little bit of decorum across the entire level.

Weapons are levelled up and made more powerful by picking up spoils from enemies in the form of small triangular jewels that fill up the weapon bar. When the bar is full, the weapon levels up, to a max of level 3. Whenever an enemy hits you, the bar decreases, relative to the amount of damage taken.

Damage itself is something you'll need to worry less about as the game progresses. I kid you not when I say you could die very easily on the second room, thanks to traps that inflict more damage than your max HP. However, over the course of the game, you will pick up health capsules that increase your maximum HP permanently, kind of like in Metroid.

Collecting as many as possible will allow you to withstand more punishment and endure through basically anything except instant-death traps. This is, of course, unless an enemy hurts you too much during a fight. Health can be restored through picking up health drops from enemies, just like picking up the weapon jewels.

Storyline: 8/10

Blimey, a nice effort here. It could be slightly more comprehensive, but the basic storyline is pretty nice. If the game were a bit longer, by a couple of hours, there may have been room for a bit more storyline development.

The basic storyline involves a floating island that houses a demonic crown of epic power. A science crew is sent to investigate this island, along with a Doctor who accompanies them.

This Doctor, however, has an ulterior motive; to seize the crown and use its magical powers to take over the planet. To do this, he seeks to enslave the occupants of the island, a rabbit-like race of creatures called the Mimiga.

When a Mimiga ingests the red flowers that grow on the island, it is overcome by an uncontrollable rage, transforming it into a killing machine. The Doctor's aim is to force all of the Mimiga to eat these flowers and unleash them on the planet, rebuilding it later.

The main protagonist of the story is a silent robot whose name is only revealed late in the story. He has lost his memory of how he came to be on the island, but it is later revealed that he was formerly part of a battalion sent to the island to seize the crown.

After coming upon the Mimiga village, he becomes involved in stopping the Doctor's plans and rescuing the abducted Mimiga. This story later develops and progresses as more characters are revealed in the storyline.

To conclude, this is a must-have game. Everything about it is done virtually perfectly, and it is a very pleasing experience for old and new gamers alike. The replayability of the game is up to you, since the game itself is rather short at a few hours long, but with plenty of gameplay options. You can try the hidden final dungeon, try a challenge playthrough, and many other limitations or challenges you can place on yourself to enrich your gaming experience.

Pick it up now. You'll thank me later.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/24/09

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

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