Wonderful controls; varied and entertaining weapons; great level design; surprisingly intriguing story; and fantastic music
A few tedious game portions and a sad map menu
My second time through Cave Story reinforces my high regard for the Metroidvania-like title. The game, which also feels similar to earlier Mega Man entries, boasts clever level designs and entertaining weapons. Its personality hooks you from the very start, too, bringing you into a world brimming with secrets and a surprisingly intriguing narrative.
Attributes like these are undoubtedly a major reason why publisher Nicalis continues to push this game to as many systems and services as possible. This enhanced eShop edition of Cave Story— supporting stereoscopic 3D with widescreen visuals as well as additional modes like Boss Rush and Curly Story– is the third entry of the game for 3DS alone, following a polygonal 3D retail release and digital DSiWare version. Picking a premier version comes down to device preference and aesthetic taste.
Cave Story packs varied and creative weapons, which become even better with a unique upgrade system. Throughout the title, main character Quote picks up different guns, each boasting new firing abilities. There’s the standard, straight-shooting Polar Star, while the Fireball delivers bouncing bullets that ricochet off structures. But that’s not all; the weaponry levels up with the collection of gold shards from fallen foes.
This upgrade structure creates a risk-reward system that serves as the backbone of the title. If Quote takes any damage, whatever weapon is equipped loses experience and possibly drops a level. As such, switching weapons on the fly, courtesy of the shoulder buttons, and choosing cannons carefully for each situation becomes vital. But the system also offers a wide range of choice, which was noticeable during my double dip.
Great level design and a plethora of enemies complement the firearms. Without these two aspects, the weaponry would not shine so brightly. The game’s different areas keep play fresh, but more impressive are the depth and variety of foes, including the bosses. Each locale packs an assortment of new baddies to dispatch, with different patterns and attacks. Cave Story definitely keeps you on your toes.
The story surprises as well. The title contains quite a bit of narrative, but it never overstays its welcome and actually delivers some mystery. The plot gives each character a lot of personality on top of their charming visual designs, which further invests players, and the soundtrack elevates the game’s presentation even higher, echoing the top titles from the 8 and 16-bit eras.
Not everything is perfect with Cave Story, though. There are a few parts in the game that seem a bit more tedious than fun, especially a few fetch quests around the halfway mark, and while these sections by no means kill the pacing, they do slow it down. In addition, the map display– a necessity of any Metroidvania game– is severely lacking. The game doesn’t contain as many long and maze-like corridors as some entries in the genre, but a more-detailed map would be welcome.
Minor complaints aside, it’s great to see an enhanced version of Cave Story available on eShop. The stereoscopic 3D adds a little depth, which is nice, and the game controls as wonderfully as ever. But once again, choosing the best version depends on personal preference.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.