Cave Story Review

xandermartin98 CAVE STORY REVIEW

"Best (indie) game ever" is a very slippery thing to specifically aim for when designing (indie) games, since you KNOW for a fact that there will always be new things that come along and effectively render them obsolete by comparison. It very much happened with Ocarina Of Time compared to many of the 3D Zelda sub-series' later offerings, it happened with Classic Doom compared to basically any good modern shooter with a map-editing system, it arguably happened with Super Metroid compared to the Prime trilogy and Samus Returns, it (to name an incredibly obscure example) technically even happened with Um Jammer Lammy compared to Gitaroo Man and Guitar Hero...

and most of all, it especially happened to the 2004 gaming world's independently-developed, massively product-of-its-time cult phenomenon known as Cave Story, when compared to almost ANY other more recent indie offering from its 2D-platforming genre alone, such as Axiom Verge, Shovel Knight, Guacamelee, Braid, Spelunky, Super Meat Boy, Dust: An Elysian Tail, VVVVVV, Rogue Legacy, Super Meat Boy, N (Ninja), Alien Hominid, Mutant Mudds, Mibibli's Quest...

oh, and that's not even mentioning indie games from OTHER genres, such as Undertale, Lisa, OFF, Castle Crashers, Faster Than Light, Binding Of Isaac Rebirth, Bastion, Pixeljunk Monsters/Shooter, Papers Please, Valiant Hearts and Hotline in conclusion, does Cave Story REALLY hold up when compared to all of THESE competitors? Well, HAHA, no...but it's still LIGHT-DECADES better than Xeodrifter, that's for sure.

STORY: Yes, I am WELL aware that Cave Story shares the exact same infamous "saddest game ever" label with both Mother 3 and Undertale...and no, this game definitely does NOT deserve it either, even though it does have some strikingly messed-up moments (that even I would much rather NOT spoil) scattered throughout it.

Basically, you wake up as the amnesiac and ironically speechless humanoid military robot known as "Quote" in what appears to be a dimly lit underground cavern but is later revealed to be an entire SYSTEM of them once you finally get your gun and proceed into Mimiga Village, wherein you meet quite possibly the cutest thing in video game history; why, I'm obviously referring to said village's namesake Mimigas, of course!

After spending a minute or two talking to these unbelievably adorable and cuddly sentient hybrids of little plush bunny rabbits and equally plush kittens, the amazingly cutest remaining member OF their race (Toroko, nauseatingly innocent little sister of the Mimiga Village's unsettlingly angry-eyed, sword-wielding, scar-faced and fluffy little leader King) hilariously tries to kill you with a stick and ends up getting ambushed, kidnapped and gets trapped in a fittingly round and tiny little soap bubble (AWWWWW) by token emo witch Misery and her giant anthro toaster named Balrog, who then proceed to immediately take her (via teleportation, of course) to a remarkably creepy and unsettlingly tall man known only as "the Doctor", who wears a giant demonic priest crown atop his head and wears (incredibly) scary shiny prescription glasses. Did we mention that this guy is VERY obviously evil yet?

In short, the Doctor VERY predictably turns out to be enslaving the Mimigas so that he can later feed them his oh-so-very-EEEVILLL red flowers and thus effectively recruit them into his army of rabidly drooling, mindless zombies so that he can first take over the massive floating island that the local cave system is quickly revealed to be, THEN PRESUMABLY THE WORLD AS WELL! In short, it's a story purely about characters; if you want to see the TRUE extent of how astonishingly much this game actually manages to accomplish storytelling-wise with how astonishingly LITTLE material it gives itself, then you're just going to have to go and plays the darned thing yourself. Trust me, you do NOT want to keep Ballos and Curly Brace waiting...

GRAPHICS: Not exactly the greatest faux-8-bit art style I've ever seen, but the developer (Studio Pixel) uses it to shockingly well-executed atmospheric effect. It really does look AND FEEL just like a classic Mega Man game, and in all of the right ways as well. And yes, even with minimalistically pixelized, those fracking Mimigas are cute enough to make even the aforementioned Lammy jealous. That, and also, some of the boss sprites and tilesets (especially Grasstown, Sacred Grounds, the Undead Core and Ballos) really are shockingly detailed, just to add icing onto the already indulgently nostalgic NES-homage cake.

SOUND: Now this right here is what Cave Story REALLY became legendary for...I mean, granted, I personally really don't see the overall appeal of this game's music either when compared to QUITE a few of its aforementioned successors (especially Shovel Knight, Undertale, Hotline Miami and Super Meat Boy), but if nothing else, it IS emotional and atmospheric to the maximum and beyond...and yeah, the boss themes are pretty awe-inspiringly fantastic as well. Most importantly, the game actually SOUNDS the same way that it LOOKS (looking at you in particular, Undertale), so I definitely HAVE to at least give it credit for that if nothing else.

GAMEPLAY: Ehh...while Cave Story (for what it is) is indeed pretty phenomenal in the story department, its gameplay department is horrendously lacking. Quote jumps as if he's on the Moon or something, the Metroid elements are completely lacking at best, the game is overall so stupidly easy that NOT using keyboard controls could actually be considered cheating for it, you can only hold one of each item type at once, and there are also a whole annoying slew of painstakingly long fetch quests just to get through Grasstown and Sand Zone...yeah, once again, have fun.

It's mostly just "trudge your way over here so that you can activate the next plot point, then this one, then this one" but with incredibly (albeit understandably) third-rate shooting mechanics that very truly bit off WAY more of Megaman and Metroid than they could properly chew (though the whole gun-leveling system IS actually quite cool and unique, I certainly WILL admit).

Overall, there's seriously not much to say here, but seriously, watch out for the difficulty spikes!

(And definitely do NOT forget to consult a walkthrough if you're planning to get the true ending, either, let's not forget that...)

OVERALL: Good game and an EXTREMELY iconic one indeed, at least when it comes to the sheer ungodly amount of influence that it had on classic indie-game pop culture at the time (ACTUAL classics, mind you, not games like Minecraft and FNAF)...but in the long run, given its somewhat shoddily made and ludicrously broken gameplay as well as its impossibly cliched and one-dimensional storyline and more importantly the fact that just about literally EVERYTHING about it has already been done VASTLY better by other indies (most notably Axiom Verge and Undertale), I'm honestly going to have to give this game a solid 8/10 in retrospect.