In 2004, a man named Daisuke Amaya released a freeware game known as Cave Story for the PC. A labor of love, Amaya spent the better part of more than five years developing, designing and programming the pixel-sprite 2D platforming game. Publishing the game under his pen-name “Pixel”, Cave Story is Amaya’s loving homage to many of the 2D platforming games of his youth.
During its initial release in 2004, Cave Story was a bit of a slow burner in the gaming world, but the little indie game that could eventually found an audience. With characters ranging from charming to diabolical, an engaging story and old-school gameplay, Cave Story had begun to receive near universal acclaim from various gaming outlets. The success of Cave Story eventually lead to the joining of forces between Pixel and Nicalis, an independent game company, to develop an improved version of Cave Story for Nintendo’s WiiWare service. Released in 2010, the WiiWare version of Cave Story, known as Cave Story+, featured improved artwork and additional gameplay modes; it is this version of the game that would later be released on Steam for PC, Apple’s Mac App Store and Steam for Mac. Cave Story+ was also released to Nintendo’s DSiWare, which made it the first time that Cave Story was available on a portable device without using homebrew methods. Around the same time that Cave Story+ was being released on the WiiWare shop, NIS America published a curious photo of their mascot, Prinny, dressed in the garb of Cave Story’s silent protagonist. Wearing the familiar hat and scarf while carrying the Polar Star gun, Prinny’s image was used by NISA to promote their ambitious 3DS remake, which had been created with the cooperation of both Nicalis and Pixel himself. Finally, in late 2011, NISA released Cave Story 3D to be enjoyed by both new and old fans on Nintendo’s newest handheld powerhouse.
In the same vein as popular 2D platformers that inspired him such as Metroid, Castlevania and Mega Man, Cave Story tells the popular tale of good versus evil. The protagonist, a silent male robot that goes by the name of Quote, must travel through various locations to not only save the world from an evil Doctor hellbent on world domination, but to also recover memories he’s lost. At the start of Quote’s journey, he comes across the Mimigas which are rabbit-like creatures that inhabit a village that’s been terrorized by the Doctor and his two henchmen, Misery and Balrog. From there, Quote comes across several memorable characters such as King, Professor Booster, Kazuma, Jenka, Sue, and Curly Brace, a female robot who later becomes your partner. To defend himself, Quote can arm himself with a variety of weapons, one being the iconic Polar Star, and is able to level up the strength of his weapons; although, if he takes too much damage his weapons will lose strength too. Life capsules can also be found and collected to increase Quote’s life meter.
For the 3DS release, the visuals have been updated to have a 2.5D look to them which can become 3D when using the 3D slider on the 3DS. Like the backgrounds and stages, the characters have also received a slight upgrade in appearance to match the new visuals. Gameplay has remained the same so old fans can easily jump into the game while new fans can pick up the game quite easily. If not a fan of the characters’ new designs, players can select Classic Mode and have the characters appear to be 2D. And like Cave Story+, Cave Story 3D also features bonus modes and easter eggs, one of which being a Prinny Cap for the player.
As much as I enjoyed playing the game, it’s hard getting used to the visuals in Cave Story 3D as I also own Cave Story+ on my Wii. Part of the charm for me really was the pixel-art style in the original game, but I do appreciate the options available in Cave Story 3D. Gameplay and music remain as memorable as ever, especially the little tune that plays when you find a life capsule; it sounds very similar to the tune used in Metroid. Definitely, one of the benefits of owning Cave Story 3D is the simple fact that I actually own a physical copy of the game, rather than just digitally like I do with the WiiWare version. Also, the bonuses in the game make an already replayable game (due to multiple endings) even more so. The updated look of the characters not only fits with the new visuals, but they do bring a fresh appreciation of how iconic everyone in the game looks - especially the Mimigas as well as Balrog.
In short, Cave Story 3D is a welcome addition to the Nintendo 3DS’ library, and it does take advantage of the system’s 3D capabilities in a great way. Being able to own the game physically is also a nice plus for long-time fans of the game as well as the fact that it’s portable; the DSiWare version of Cave Story+ is also available on the 3DS Shop for those who want to play the game in its original form. With charming characters, a great story and lots of replayability, Cave Story 3D can be enjoyed by fans new and old.