The Cave Story phenomenon completely passed me by when first released as a free to play game a few years ago, a labour of love and dedication to a sole programmer who wanted to create a game similar to those played as a child. Overall, Cave Story 3DS manages to keep close to its pixel based roots, although it does not make it easy to get into.
The story literally drops you off in the middle of a village, with no clue whatsoever as to what is going on, you are treated to a brief cut scene involving someone looking for Sue? And that is all you have. Presented as a platform game, it’s down to you to start running and jumping around this strange village, talking to a few characters and trying to figure out what is going on and also what is needed of you. Only partway through the game you finally start to get wind of what is occurring; the village you are on is in fact an island floating above the surface that is inhabited by the rabbit-like Mimiga. It turns out you are a robot who had previously been sent to wipe out the Mimiga’s but something happened to you and you now fight alongside the inhabitants trying to defeat an evil Doctor and his minions who plans on using a strange red flower that sends Mimiga’s into a rage and try to take over the surface world. That is the basics but do expect plenty of twists and turns in this classic platforming adventure game.
The visuals of the game instantly remind you of classic games of yesteryear, alongside the retro looks you have gameplay similar to the old Metroid and Castlevania games, with jumping across platforms, unlocking secret passageways and finding new items that open new areas to explore. There are also plenty of bosses to take care of, from murderous Mimiga’s to a strange boss that cross up from time to time called Balrog, who looks like a TV. Each of these bosses come with their own tactics and attack patterns for you to learn and abuse if you want to win.
You robot character starts off with a simple Polar Star pistol which fires rather weak bullets and though it has infinite ammo it really needs more power. Thankfully as you shoot enemies they drop small gold pyramids, that if collected will slowly rank up your weapons for a max of three tiers. So the feeble Polar Star that shoots little pellets starts to have a rapid fire then gets a final boost which creates a huge laser beam that will kill most enemies with ease. Your robot can carry a few weapons which can be swapped with the shoulder buttons. The Fireball pretty much is that, spewing a ball of fire with later upgrades shooting arcs of fire that bounce all over the screen and a Rocket Launcher, firing single rockets initially and upgrading to shoot three or four at once, unleashing serious pain on whoever gets in the way.
As you venture around the many maps you will come across other characters that will offer to swap certain weapons, like a Machine Gun, that has an even faster rate of fire than the Polar Star and also has a nifty second use which I found by complete fluke. The secondary use has you firing down when jumping, allowing your character to hover for a short period, very handy on some of the later, more precarious, instant death areas.
Speaking of death, when you are downed in battle or jump into a set of spikes the game really does not punish you, either sending you back to the level entrance or to one of the many save points that are dotted around the levels.
The way the level design and enemies have been created show there is clearly a lot of love gone into this game; it seems someone really got what the old NES titles were all about. Twitch reactions are required to shoot some of the enemies and pinpoint precision is required on some of the tougher jumps with each level hosting a variety of secrets. Adventuring and also locating new items is vital to get the most of the game.
There is plenty of re-playability on offer within Cave Story 3DS, with multiple endings to unlock and also a classic mode that allows you to replay the game with its original looks. The 3D effects used for the game do work but is are essential to the gameplay, offering depth to an otherwise flat 2D game, with platforms jutting out of the screen. There are some issues in playing on a 3DS, the screen size, or more to the point, the size of the characters; they are tiny, making it extremely hard to see just who you are talking to, though on the flip side, this does allow for plenty of space on the screen to allow for platforms and enemies.
Cave Story 3DS is a perfect “retro” game with modern gameplay attributes and is a must have for your 3DS collection (if you don’t already own it on your Wii).
Rating: ExcellentReview Policy
You can order Cave Story 3D here.