Cave Story 3D (3DS Review) by Carl B.
Cave Story 3D
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nicalis, Studio Pixel
System: Nintendo 3DS
Release: November 8, 2011
November 6, 2011, by Carl B. - Cave Story is the ultimate indie game experience. It was created by one man, Daisuke Amaya (also known as Pixel), over the course of five years and was released on PC in 2004 as a freeware title. Cave Story instantly gained a cult following that hasn't died down at all over the last seven years, as the game has spawned several remakes, most notably by developer Nicalis, for platforms including Wii and DS. This time, however, Nicalis and Pixel have teamed up with publisher NIS America to make the definitive version of Cave Story on Nintendo 3DS, but is it merely a simple cash-in on a once free game?
Pixel created one of the most eerie and unique storylines for a video game with Cave Story. The overarching plot isn't fully explained to the character, but small details are revealed as the game progresses and players see how characters interact with one another. Players take control of Quote, a robot soldier who has lost his memory, while he explores the caverns of a floating island. The island's inhabitants, known as the Mimigas, are being captured by an evil scientist called the Doctor in an attempt to exploit their ferocious power by exposing them to a special type of red flower. Quote is tasked with helping the Mimigas and two human scientists in preventing the Doctor from unleashing the Mimigas' hidden power upon the humans on the surface.
The story is almost depressing as players get to the latter stages of the game, and even makes use of alternate endings and player choices that affect the ultimate outcome. Cave Story manages to pull off an atmosphere that few other games can match, particularly because the title takes place in dreary environments.
That's why I was worried when I first heard of Cave Story 3D. Instead of giving the classic sprite-based game the 3D treatment, Nicalis and Pixel decided to re-create every environment and character with 3D models, something that could have potentially destroyed the game's atmosphere and mood. Thanks to a great art team, Cave Story has never looked better – models are incredibly crisp and detailed, the framerate is smooth, the 3D effect is absolutely brilliant, and most importantly, the atmospheric mood from the original versions is 100 percent intact.
Being a sidescrolling platformer, the 3D effect in Cave Story 3D has a lot of effect on how gamers view the action. The original game had basic backgrounds, but in this version, backgrounds are very detailed and are even multi-layered. With the 3D on – there's no reason why it shouldn't be at full blast for this game – objects in the background go all the way back into the screen. Even objects on the foreground benefit because of the 3D effect, with pillars and other walkways jumping out of the screen at the player. The coolest use of the 3D is something that can only be done on this system; when players move left or right, the camera pans to a diagonal angle, allowing players to see crevices in walls that they wouldn't be able to see with the 3D effect off. This allowed me to find an energy tank that I would have otherwise missed out on.
Cave Story 3D plays similar to a classic Metroidvania-type game, only with a few innovative features thrown in for good measure. There isn't a significant amount of backtracking in Cave Story, so in that vein it isn't as deep of an experience as Super Metroid. Instead, Mimiga Village acts as a hub world where players can teleport to different zones as they become unlocked. Early in the game zones are pretty straight forward, but as players progress, Quote will be tasked with different objectives to continue on, including having to find an old woman's five dogs before he can access the Sand Zone Warehouse. Cave Story also makes use of energy tanks and missile expansions as seen in Metroid titles, as well as save points and health re-fill stations.
What makes Cave Story stand out from Metroid and classic Castlevania is its unique take on weapon upgrades. Quote will acquire various guns over the course of his adventure, each of which can be upgraded three times by acquiring golden triangles left over by defeated enemies – it's essentially experience points for the currently equipped weapon, and different enemy types will leave different amounts of triangles. However, if players are damaged by an enemy, the currently equipped weapon will lose EXP and gradually lose its level as players take more and more damage. This forces players to constantly be aware of not only their health but their weapon status as well. As weapons level up they'll increase in power and gain special abilities – for instance, the level three machine gun allows Quote to "fly" in the air when he shoots at the ground.
In addition to the visuals, the soundtrack has also been re-mastered and sounds fantastic.
Cave Story 3D is tragically short, running at roughly four to five hours, making it a questionable investment at $39.99 from a pure content perspective. It does get pretty challenging, specifically the final boss, so it's certainly not friendly to the casual gamer. Once players complete the game, they'll be able to play through it again as Prinny, the mascot for NIS.
15/15 - A re-mastered soundtrack that sounds amazing.
19/20 - Fantastic visuals and great use of the 3D effect. There are a few framerate hitches in the Sand Zone.
19/25 - Only lasts roughly five hours, but it's a fantastic five hours. Definitive version of Cave Story.
38/40 - Superb blend of classic Metroid and Castlevania gameplay with several innovations to combat. The game gets rather difficult at the end.
91/100 - Cave Story 3D is the ultimate version of Cave Story, and is an essential title in anyone's 3DS library. The re-mastered visuals and amazing use of 3D are enough for gamers who have already completed the game to buy this version.