Cave Story+ – Indie Game Review

Games like Metroid, MegaMan

TL;DR

Time played: 4 hours

Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya took his weekends casually. Starting in college, Pixel started working on a game that would recreate one of his favorite childhood memories: the Metroid series. Coding in his free time, Cave Story was finally released after five years of weekends. Initially as a freeware title, Cave Story slowly gained popularity and was picked up to be ported to the Nintendo Wii and the DSi. It’s hard not to mention Pixel and his triumph when discussing the core that is indie gaming. One person, a dream, and a ton of free weekends created an excellent platform adventure game that has taken the gaming community over.

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The helmet to end all helmets.

Cave Story+ was released on Steam containing all the extras that were seen in the DSi and WiiWare ports including a remixed soundtrack and an extra stage known as the “Wind Fortress”. Having this kind of background, you can expect the controls to work perfectly. Although still giving outlet for those keyboard cowboys, Cave Story+ gives you the option to remap the buttons to give it the nostalgic feel it deserves. I would also recommend using the directional pad (provided the Xbox 360 controller is in play). As many platforming games I’ve played in my lifetime, I still can’t get over how awkward it is to use an analog stick for movement. Old habits die hard.

But who's?

But who’s?

The game starts off with a single image of three characters surrounding a chair laden with rock and upon it a helmet. The doctor (the one in the white coat) grabs the helmet and places it on his head giving him command over the floating creatures around him that we will soon learn to be Balrog and Misery. Having them under his control, he sets out take over a floating island that houses the village Mimigas.

And you awake, knowing nothing.

And you awake, knowing nothing.

You, on the other hand, awake in a cave knowing none of this. As you progress through the game, the story slowly starts to unravel itself. You are a robot from the surface with no memory of how you came about this place. Stumbling upon the village of Mimigas, you find out that the doctor and his minions are in pursuit of one Mimiga in particular, Sue, who happens to have been a human that was transformed into the cuddly, rabbit like creature. From here you meet a wild cast of characters and stop at nothing to right the wrongs of those that came before you.

Why does everyone want Sue?

Why does everyone want Sue?

It’s a treacherous arena that Cave Story places you in. Going on missions to save innocent lives or to take down the baddies, you’ll be strapped with a rapid fire machine gun with unlimited ammo that can become overheated requiring you to allow the gun to cool off if shot for long periods of time. Along the way, you’ll pick up more weapons some having limited ammo that requires pickups left from enemies while others do not. Each weapon is also upgradable allow for more ammo to be stored or each shoot doing more damage. Most of the powerups are out in the open allowing you to pick them up while casually playing through the storyline. Others, however, will require you to journey outside the traditional means of adventuring even requesting a trade of a current weapon.

Attack of the Belrog!

Attack of the Belrog!

You’ll also have to keep track of your health and weapon power. Upgradable as well, each knock from an enemy will lower your weapon’s attack power as well as your health. If you can locate the different life capsules (it even gives you an eerily similar sound effect when collecting energy tanks in Super Metroid) you can have a maximum 50 hit points. Your weapon’s power, however, maxes at level three. With each level up, your primary weapon will react with level three hitting the hardest and the farthest. At one point you can even shoot down to propel yourself upwards in the air as a type of jetpack (another item you’ll acquire as well). All of this is true with the exception of the Nemesis weapon. This gun will power down the higher your meter is. You’ll go from rocketing out bolts of energy devastating your foes at level one to shoot rubber ducks from the barrel at level three. Because why not?

Collect power ups to super charge your main weapons.

Collect power ups to super charge your main weapons.

Sure you may have a ton of health, possibly some killer weapons, but that won’t stop you from falling to your death ontop a pit of spikes causing a hard game over. There aren’t enough enemy pickups in the world to stop a cold, hard spike straight to the chest to end an adventurer’s quest. Luckily there are quite a few save locations spread throughout the entire game so use them wisely. There’s nothing worse than running through, collecting a ton of items, powerups, and opening new areas only to beef it in a bottomless pit having to push you all the way back to do it all over again. There seems to be a few too many of these 1-hit death pits in my opinion. I see the point of them, to keep the player on high alert, but there is definitely an absurd amount.

Choice must be made during the game to receive different items and multiple endings.

Choice must be made during the game to receive different items and multiple endings.

The land of Cave Story is a complex one. Each area giving different enemy types and obstacles to overcome. Along the way you’ll meet new friends and foes that will challenge you either to a fight or a journey of item collecting. This sense of adventure breaths into the air of Metroid. Although you won’t be covering multiple areas again and again after receiving a new item or weapon upgrade, you will have to journey back and forth to achieve certain exercises. Every once in a while, walking back to previous areas will award you with weapon power ups or items to collect that may or may not help in you taking back from the evil Doctor. This is one spot I feel Cave Story could have built on to. That feeling of remembering certain areas you’ve passed that require a certain form of attack only to go back and know that you were right in your thinking created a masterful way of level design with games like Super Metroid. Cave Story teeters so close to the edge in this aspect that it’s dying to be done only to fall a tad bit short. Missed opportunities if you ask me, but I had to find something about this game I didn’t like, right?

Huge boss battles to fight for you and your friends.

Huge boss battles to fight for you and your friends.

The world is colorful, diverse, and fun to explore. Pixelated graphics litter the screen with hard hitting chiptunes blasting through your eardrums. With the proper controller in hand, you might be surprised to find that you are not playing Cave Story on a Super NES. Every piece is fine combed to tailor itself to the hardware that Pixel really has outdone himself. It’s really no wonder why this game, although slowly, took the community over. Everything from the character design to the storytelling is extremely charming and is set to appeal to anyone who can stomach a fun, difficult platformer.

A very unsettling sunset.

A very unsettling sunset.

Cave Story+ is an adventure platformer with a massive world that harkens the likes of Super Metroid with fast paced, bullet shooting action like Megaman. What can only harness the true sense of an indie game, developed by one man over five years of weekends, Cave Story+ has a beautiful design, well written plot and character development, that has a way of holding on when you feel like you want to stop. A great title for anyone who’s looking for a challenge in a charming, yet strange world.

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