Cave Story 3D Review (3DS)

Posted by Jim Cook, Nov 08, 2011 07:13

Cave Story 3D started its life as just ’Cave Story’, an indie release on the PC. While I never played that version, many others did and liked what they saw; enough so that it was ported to WiiWare and DSiWare, bringing the 2D platformer to a wider audience. Now Cave Story 3D takes the original and keeps it almost completely intact in terms of how it plays, yet adds new 3D graphics (yet it’s still played from a 2D perspective) and offers some new content. These changes basically add up to the best version of a great game, and one that I deeply enjoyed in my ’semi-blind run’ through it.

Cave Story 3D (3DS)Clearly a homage to classic 2D platformers of the 80s and 90s, Cave Story is a ’Metroidvania’ title where you run and jump around while shooting at enemies much like Mega Man or Mario would but with one major difference: You’re in a huge world and can backtrack to find items you may have missed before. This is actually an important part of the game, as you’ll regularly come across challenges that your character cannot get past at first. Various equipment lying around the game world will let him overcome these problems however, and in time you’ll go from not even having a weapon at all to flying around on a jetpack and shooting through walls. This sense of gradual but distinct progress is one of the best things about the genre, and Cave Story 3D definitely gets it right.

Much of the genre’s flow is intact here, as players will spend much of their time just making their way through the large, cave-like world. Being thorough is a must, as there are lots of minor power-ups that will add up to a great help and some optional equipment makes the game’s worst challenges much more bearable. It’s not just exploration and fighting generic enemies though, as you’ll regularly come across bosses that serve as the major threat in an area. Most of them fight with patterns you can study and memorize to avoid their attacks, though many of them hit very hard if they do catch you and others flood the screen with so many attacks that it’s sometimes a challenge of picking the least harmful one to be hit by. All of this manages to evoke a feel similar to classics like Metroid and some Castlevania titles.

While Cave Story does so many things right, its flaws stand out just due to how jarring they are. Having great controls and a ’floaty’ jump with lots of room to adjust your path through the air means the designer apparently felt free to use some very difficult segments that require absolutely mastering how your character moves. Instant-death traps aren’t used constantly, but they show up just often enough to remind you that they exist and can force you to restart from an earlier save (which may be several minutes or more back, especially on a first run). Some jumps require perfection as well, including one leading to the game’s best ending and special challenge stages. Thankfully, these rough moments do not dominate Cave Story’s playtime; it isn’t as intentionally impossible as various Mario ’ROM hacks’, it isn’t as brutal as Ninja Gaiden, it’s just very challenging and has the occasional mean spot that you’ll overcome after a few tries.

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Our Rating for Cave Story 3D Review (3DS)
6.0 Replay
While generally a linear game in what you have to do in order to progress, there are a few things that might bring you back. Exploring to find hidden weapons is pretty satisfying, as is trying special challenge areas.
7.5 Graphics
The 3D visuals really help convey the scope of the world you’re exploring, though they do sometimes make it hard to tell whether some things are part of the background or an obstacle that can hurt your character.
8.0 Sound
Excellent music with an intentionally retro style captures the feel of classic 2D adventures, though the sound effects are a bit underwhelming for precisely the same reason.
8.5 Gameplay
Great controls, generally good level design, classic-style boss fights, and more add up to a fantastic experience. The only significant flaw is the occasional and unnecessary use of instant-death traps in unfair places, but this isn’t too bad.
0.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
N/A; this is a single-player game.
8.5 Overall
As the deepest version of a top-notch ’Metroidvania’ title, Cave Story 3D has a lot to offer those who haven’t played any other version or are deeply devoted to the game. Others may wish to buy a more budget-friendly version on a different system, but this deluxe release has its merits.

Rating: 4.5, votes: 2

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