Cave Story+

Cave Story+
Cave Story+ Cover
Platforms Windows, OSX, Linux, WiiWare, DSiWare, 3DS
Genre Mega cave spelunker
Score 6  Clock score of 6

In the last few years, I’ve had trouble focusing on beating games. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve built up such a huge backlog from Steam sales and Humble Bundles, that I was getting closer to owning more games that I hadn’t conquered that had. This was personally my big reason for green-lighting the new Indie Impression feature: it would give me an easy way to at least try out lots of games without necessarily committing even an entire hour.

Having recently featuring Cave Story+, I quickly plowed through it after finishing up my impressions. It is one of those games you hear about for years as being great, and it keeps getting re-released with newer graphics on more platforms, once Cave Story+ hit Steam the time was right.

My initial impressions were positive, viewing the game as a pretty solid Metroidvania with tight controls, let’s see if I found the rest of the game as appealing.

Since the 2D Castlevania series has pretty much died out after what I thought to be a hugely successful run on the Nintendo DS, fans have had to pick their way through titles to get their Metroidvania fix (Metroidvania being the combination of Super Metroid and Castlevania style gameplay, kicked off famously with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night). There’s been some good and bad games to be found, but sometimes looking into the archives is the best source.

Cave Story+ seemed like the perfect Metroidvania solution, but even though the game features a wide array of weapons and upgrades, it was really not to be. It turns out to be a pretty linear, though decently fun spelunk through a series of cave systems connected loosely by teleporters and story MacGuffins. There are very few situations where you will discover some kind of entrance that you cannot either reach or bypass without the assistance from some future item, most of the time you enter a cave and make your way all the way through it before moving on to the next one.

This isn’t the end of the world, obviously, it’s just a different style of game than I was expecting. But honestly, this site is defined by the expectation and early impression we interpret as gamers, and sometimes that can be built up only to be knocked down later. Maybe that’s why I’m a little more disappointed than I ought to be.

Cave Story Machine gun Jumping

Either way, Cave Story+ still holds a few entertaining hours inside. The gameplay is really sharp, with Mega Man quality combat, an inventive weapon upgrade system that rewards not getting hit, and an awesome machine gun that lets you hover! Most deaths can only be blamed on yourself, but at the same time, what kind of developer places insta-death spikes literally four feet from where you start the game?

The story is rather ridiculous, with you playing a mute protagonist stumbling upon this underground colony of rabbit like things. A bunch of side characters are introduced but are barely fleshed out beyond their original intentions. They mostly just show up at convenient times to interrupt the flow of gameplay with extended dialog scenes. Of course, they’re unskippable, so don’t lose to that boss or you’ll have to watch the same scene again (and potentially again).

The tale is also mostly incomplete unless you make a series of obscure and non-obvious choices. This isn’t Final Fantasy XII Zodiac Spear level crap, but it’s still pretty obnoxious to find that because you wanted to upgrade to a better gun, you can’t get the good ending. I beat the game once and while there were still plenty of threads left open, I had no interest in playing the game again to wrap them up.

Cave Story+ is a well-crafted game that suffers from pacing and design problems. While the gameplay is excellent, everything around it is found lacking, but if you’re looking for a cheap shooter/exploration title, this is probably it.

Overall: 6