By Locke on July 23rd, 2012
For years, I’ve been trying to describe a game I’ve been wanting to play. That game fell under the criteria that it had to recapture the magic of the SNES’s best titles. That being a game that was big in terms of scope and had memorable characters, locations and characters. The game would have RPG elements but be action-oriented, with differences in play-throughs based on player decisions. I had long given up hope that such a game would be developed.
Cave Story is that game. And it’s amazing.
I realize that I’m quite late to the party, the game has received several ports, but I’ve only heard about it by name. I’d heard that it was good, but nobody ever mentioned why. I think it has that same effect on people that most of their games did in the 90’s. It was awesome while you played it, but only stuck with you if you dug deep into it’s story and recognized some of the genius for what it is. Egoraptor has been doing this with his Sequelitis series, and he’s right on the money. The reason why we remember these games is because they were lovingly crafted with the player in mind. It’s the equivalent of a DM spending hours writing and designing sessions days ahead of time.
Cave Story’s plot starts simple, you awaken in a dark underground cavern and must navigate your way to the surface. On the way you get recruited to stop a villain known as the Doctor. The Doctor plans on using Red Flowers on a ground dwelling race of Mimigas, rabbit humanoids who live peacefully in their village. When they consume Red Flowers they turn into unstoppable berserkers without any sanity. Using the monster Mimigas, the Doctor intends to fight a war with the humans on the surface. It’s your job to put a stop to his plans, and discover the origins of your identity, and his mysterious power.
The game plays a lot like Metroid; there are weapon sets, upgrades, and various areas that you explore in sections based on the upgrades you have acquired. Combat involves slaying foes with your weapons and upgrading them with experience cones that drop from enemies. If you get hit, you lose health as well as experience. As your weapons gather more experience, the way the weapon fires changes and becomes more deadly. Choosing the right weapon for the enemies you face becomes crucial to your survival. And you WILL die. The game isn’t deceptive, it’s just challenging. Enemy placement is arranged to keep you from just running your way through the game. It will punish you for not considering your jumps and attacks before you make them.
What I love most about the game is how the music, writing and art just pop and carry you through the game. There’s plenty of shooting and mayhem, but they know just how to pepper in the story without getting in your way. The game never does seem to lose its pacing, the story and the exploratory aspect of the game go hand in hand and you always want to continue learning about the world the game is set in. They drop hints of the mythos rather than wave it in your face, a technique that is used in gaming scarcely nowadays. I’ve seen it used well in the Portal games, and I really enjoy that rabbit hole approach to it.
All in all I highly recommend it. It’s amazing to think that this game was created by a single person over the course of five years. You can get your hands on the enhanced version on Steam for $10. It may be the best ten bucks you spend this summer.