Cave Story is firmly on the 8-bit tip, but manages to feel modern, fresh and brilliant because of it.
Cave Story is a platformey, upgradey, explorey, Metroidy jump ’n’ shooter. In a nod to Samus’ adventures, save stations usually replenish health and missiles, and capacity upgrades can be found for each via some exploration. Enemies respawn when you leave and re-enter areas and there’s a whole world of can’t-get-to-Y-until-you-find-thingamebob-X to enjoy along the way.
While its influences are obvious, it never feels as vindictive as NES classics like Mega Man. That’s not to say it’s not tough. There are annoying bits of insta-death frustration. There are a handful of platforming challenges that’ll have you visibly clenching every muscle in your body as you try, time and again, to overcome them. And there are a few points where you have to repeat significant item collection tasks, bosses and cutscenes because you died though some stupid mistake. But these incidents are a rarity and easy to cope with given Cave Story’s uber-generous save points.
To labour the NES comparisons would be unfair though – Cave Story is leagues ahead in so many respects. The controls are spot on, the levels and challenges dotted around the stages – divided into distinct, easily digestible explore-o-nuggets – are expertly crafted, and the art-style is full of charm, while enemy types and patterns behave in a manner that suggests real thought and care has gone into their invention and placement. If this game had been made during the NES era it would have towered above even Nintendo’s output and that, surely, is recommendation enough.
It’s worth mentioning, of course, that the game is already available to download for free on your PC, but doing so would be a shame. It looks nicer on Wii, plays much better with a Wii controller from the comfort of your sofa, and those Wii points will go a long way to showing your support for this truly excellent title.
Apr 5, 2010