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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Cave Story+ Review!

Well here's a blast from the past. The game I'm reviewing today was originally released all the way back in 2004, then was remade for the Nintendo Switch, Steam, and the 3DS. The version I played was on Nintendo Switch, in case you were wondering. But what kind of 13-year-old game managed to earn this privilege?

Image result for cave story switch

Cave Story. The Story of a Cave! Anyway, originally released back in 2004 and made entirely from the ground up by one person (Daisuke Amaya, who is better known as Pixel), and went on to become one of the most beloved indie games ever made, with some folks arguing that Cave Story is a much better game than even Undertale, which, in addition to being my personal favorite game, is also considered a masterpiece by almost everyone (at least when that game was released in 2015, nowadays the Undertale hype has died down). Which really says a lot. Especially since Cave Story is over 10 years older. But arguing over which game is better is pointless, because it's all rather subjective, and the two games aren't even in the same genre (Undertale is a Turn-Based RPG, Cave Story is a story-driven half-platformer, half-shooter hybrid). If these two games were both RPGs, or both Platformers, I can justify arguing over which game is better, but any argument you can make is rendered moot by the simple fact that the two games are nothing alike.

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The story of Cave Story starts with a plucky robotic protagonist waking up in a cave (redundant statement is redundant), with no memory of how he got there. My first praise for this game is the tutorial. It goes by the logic of "Show, but don't Tell". Not a single pop up telling you what to do appears at all during the game, leaving you to figure out the controls for yourself, and relying on your common sense to figure out which parts of the environment can be interacted with, and which cannot. I love this, as it's smooth, fluid, and most importantly, doesn't kill the mood with redundant pop-up text telling you how to do something you could have figured out on your own.

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After some exploring, our robot hero stumbles upon an underground village populated by the insanely adorable Mimiga, who all look like a cross between Alvin and the Chipmunks and bunny rabbits. After some more exploring, the robot gets caught up in a war between the Mimiga and a villainous Doctor and his two minions, Balrog (HUZZAH!) and Misery (yes, her name actually is the word "misery"), who plan to use the Mimigas' tendency to transform into feral, flesh eating monsters should they eat bright red flowers to take over the world. Oh, and speaking of the villains...

Image result for cave story balrog sprite

The story starts off simple, and I gotta give credit to Cave Story for having a surprisingly compelling narrative. Also, I just have to say that despite the fact this game is rated E10+ as well as being "That sort-of retro game where one of the bad guys henchmen is literally a toaster with legs" (HUZZAH!), it deals with some seriously dark themes, most notably slavery and loss. And there were a few moments, which I will NOT spoil, that are legitimately sad, and there are even some moments in the game where you actually have to mercy-kill some of the Mimigas that the Doctor and his cronies have mutated/enslaved. That's not to say this is a dark and brooding overly edgy game. It has plenty of charm and humor as well, like basically any time Balrog (HUZZAH!) is around, or the fact that the adventurer's female counterpart (Curly Brace!) is so happy and peppy and energetic in complete contrast to rest of the relatively serious cast, or the fact that in the original version of the game, a random Mimiga insults the Doctor in a way so surprisingly profane (for a kids' game that is) that it's almost a shame the remake's localization made that line more family friendly. Almost a shame.

.Image result for cave story king
The main difference between the original Cave Story
and the Nintendo Switch remake is all of the sprites got
updated, as one can see with everyone's favorite Mimiga,
King the red-eyed samurai bunny dude.

Oh, and the game has FOUR different endings, based on your actions. Unfortunately, one of the choices to get the best ending possible requires a direct violation of common sense (I will not elaborate because of spoilers). For a game that has an otherwise stellar tale to tell, getting the Best ending is a little annoying due to the immense amounts of foresight and preparation needed, as well as the aforementioned violations of common sense (unless of course you look up a guide on the Internet). It gets even more annoying because that particular moment is somewhat counter-intuitive in it's execution. The only logic I can see behind that design choice is the off-hand chance that Pixel doesn't want you to get the Best Ending on your first playthrough. Which, ironically, is how I normally play video games with multiple endings. First I play through normally, then after seeing what ending I get a replay the whole game and try to go for a better ending. Or you can just throw spoilers out the window and look up a guide, but Cave Story is game that is best played with as little knowledge going in as possible (this review contains the bare minimum of info you may or may not need). Unless you want the best ending on your first try, but then, what's the point of seeing multiple endings if you only want to get one?

Image result for cave story screenshot

But ignoring the ludicrous amount of foresight needed for the Best ending, the plot is actually really good. The characters are lovable and charming, but alas, Nintendo Switch remake lacks the charm of the original since they redid all the dialogue (yes, ALL OF IT) and while they did fix some grammar problems, the original localization gave the cast their own unique quirks that make them stand out. The remake, while it does keep the core personalities and plot intact, it lacks the whimsy and charm that the original localization had, in addition to over-simplifying some lines. It's kind of a shame, but which localization is better depends on whether you want fluency and accuracy (the original version), or legitimacy and officiality (Nintendo Switch/Steam/3DS remake). Oh well. At least the official localization is better than Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth's.

Image result for cave story+ screenshot
Cave Story also has it's fair share of boss battles

But enough on the story, what about gameplay? Well, you can jump, shoot, interact with objects, and collect items to add to your inventory. Some items are required to progress and/or unlock a better ending, while others are there for a quick one off joke. Something neat is how every time you destroy an enemy, they will drop either a Heart that heals you, spare ammo for the Missile Launcher weapon that you unlock early on in the game, or little golden triangles (and no, it's not the Triforce). These triangles work as EXP points. "But wait!" You cry. "I thought you said that Cave Story is a Platformer/Shoot-em-up hybrid! Why is there EXP, a traditionally RPG element, in this game!?!?". Well, the EXP is not for your character. It's instead for your currently equipped weapon. You see, collect the triangles while holding the weapon in question will gradually level it up, giving it extra power, range, and a more visually impressive visual effect. Chief among them is the Blade weapon. At level one, the Blade itself is thrown like a boomerang. At level three, instead of throwing the sword, our plucky robo-adventurer uses it to summon the ghost of the Blade's previous owner, who then slices and dices any enemy caught in their path. However! The weapons are balanced in a very simple way; If you take damage, you will lose experience. This makes it so you can't just go in guns ablazing and encourages you to play it safe, in addition to just making the gameplay challenging, but fun.

Image result for cave story+ screenshot
EDIT: This right here is the worst boss in the
game. For more details, see the second editor's
note at the bottom of the post.

As for visuals and music, the original game's 8-bit sprites were charming, but made it difficult to tell what was what (in my opinion). But in this remake, the sprites have been updated, so they are crisper and nicer looking. The levels are also nicely designed. Each one runs with a specific theme, and does SOMETHING to stand out from the rest of the game. The game's soundtrack is also catchy and memorable, and one of the advantages to playing Cave Story+ is you can play the game while listening to not one, but FOUR different versions of the soundtrack (changeable in the settings). All of which sound pretty good. Based on my experience, there's not a bad song in the soundtrack.

Image result for cave story curly
You can also unlock a secret mode called 
Curly Story, which essentially swaps the roles
of the adventurer you play as with his female 
counterpart, Curly Brace. The dialogue changes
accordingly, and unlike with the adventurer (who is
mute), Curly Brace actually talks during cutscenes.

At the end of the day, Cave Story is a fantastic game that has aged phenomenally. But is it better than Undertale? Yes and No. There are things that Undertale does better (like how it handles it's alternate endings), but there are things that Cave Story does better (fast, energetic gameplay). But the games are so drastic in genre that it's really unfair to both games to compare them. But anyway, I give Cave Story/Cave Story+ a 10/10 for being a fun, challenging (but not unfair) platformer with a great soundtrack and a compelling story, the only real flaw being the oh so frequently mentioned criterias for the best ending, which require either improbable amounts of foresight, or a walkthrough/guide. But which version of Cave Story should you get? Cave Story+ (aka the Nintendo Switch/Steam version) is mostly faithful to the original, but has updated sprites, multiple versions of the soundtrack, and Curly Story, but it suffers from a lesser localization and rather unnecessary dialogue changes. The original version, which you can download off of Pixel's very own website, doesn't have as much content as the remake, but it DOES have a better localization. The 3DS version also gave the design of basically everything a massive overhaul. So my advice? Get whichever version of the game is on your system of choice and/or preference.

P.S. For some inconceivable reason I never explained what my rating scale actually means. Just like Cave Story, I relied on you, the reader, to use your common sense and guess that the higher the number, the better the product in question.

P.P.S. In case you're wondering why I don't use the main hero's real name, it's because you are actually not supposed to know what the main hero's name is until after you beat the game. But just like how Princess Zelda and Sheik are one and the same and how Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father, just about everyone knows what Cave Story's main protagonist's real name is. Except the people who never heard of Cave Story. For obvious reasons.

P.P.P.S. The Mimigas are officially the cutest video game creatures ever created and nothing will top the cuteness of the Mimigas. NOTHING. Not Pikachu, not Asriel Dreemurr, not even Kirby.

EDIT: I almost forgot to say this but it needs to be said! *deep breath*

"HUZZAH!"-Balrog, 2004

EDIT 2: I did, however, forget to mention that I only managed to beat the game on Easy mode because I actually tried playing on Normal and had to reset the difficulty because even on Easy Mode, this game is really challenging. Ironically, I praised the game for being challenging but fair, but that's because I forgot that the Monster X boss exists (and was painfully reminded this evening when I went to play through the game on Normal mode), which is by far the worst boss in the game. It's not plot-relevant, it deals way too much damage and moves way too quickly, it can launch homing projectiles, which are inherently annoying, and the room starts with half a million of the already annoying Gaudi-type enemies I could have put up with all of these brutal shenanigans if it weren't for the fact that you don't even get a chance to save beforehand, which means if you die to this boss in particular (and unless you are an unstoppable Chuck Norris-esque prodigy you WILL die a LOT) you have to hoof it all the way back to that boss area. But wait! There's More! While on your way back, you have to deal with even more Gaudi and you have to platform around not one but TWO instant kill obstacles! So chances are you aren't even going to be at full health when you start the fight! It's almost as if Pixel designed Monster X to be as frustrating and unbearable as humanly possible while still making him actually beatable. The only things I like about Monster X is it has a neat design and it's death animation is admittedly kind of funny. That, and finally beating him is oh so satisfying.

1 comment:

  1. Always thrilling to be challenged in adventure games . In 2004 all I recall are four hurricanes and disaster cleanup for months.