Cave Story 3D – 3DS/DSi

6 Overall Score

Fantastic combat | Good platforming | Great world building

Waste of $30 | Unengaging story

Cave Story is a bit of a difficult thing to review, not because it’s not a good game (it is) and not because it’s hard to play (it’s not) and not because I hate the creator (he seems like a good guy).  It’s difficult to review, because it’s been free for 7 years.  And now they want $40 for it.  If I could just review Cave Story by itself, it would be pretty straightforward, but I can’t look at that price and not take it into consideration when I score.  To me, value is part and parcel of a game.  If Cut the Rope was $60, I would still say the mechanics worked, it was very polished and fun.  But then I would chop a whole bunch of points off, because that would be terrible value for a smartphone game.

Now I’m not saying that this game should have remained free, far from it.  But it also came out as a $10 title on DSiWare, and a $12 title on WiiWare many moons ago, which makes the value proposition that much harder.  That was the version that I first experienced, and I felt it was well worth the $10, but I wouldn’t have paid $40 for the experience.  So the question is, did they add enough to the 3DS version to justify you spending four times as much for a game you can play on the same system.  Quick answer is no, for the long answer keep reading.

Cave Story 3D is really a return to the games of old.  It plays in the (sorry I’m using this word) ‘Metroidvania’ style.  If you aren’t familiar with that word, it means games made in the style of the old Metroid and Castlevania games, which involved a massive map, 2D gameplay and backtracking to areas that you’ve already visited when you get new items that allow you to do more things in those areas.  It’s a perfectly valid style of game to create today, as the excellent Aliens: Infestation for the DS proved so very well.

Cave Story starts with you, a nameless character who awakens in a cave.  There are funny rabbit like creatures that are being kidnapped, and you decide that you should help them, which is the basic premise of the story.  I’ve had a fairly fundamental disagreement about it, most people seem to absolutely love the mysterious story with the quirky characters and twists and turns.  Personally it didn’t really grab me, and I found the creatures I was supposed to be questing to save, rather annoying.  It may be unfair of me to pick on the story in a game like this, but I felt it was a down point, I wasn’t really invested in it and wasn’t motivated by it to continue playing.

However what did motivate me was the rest of the game.  There are 5 worlds, a hub and all kinds of mini-zones that you revisit, but instead of being the same areas you can watch as they degrade and fall apart.  This changes them significantly, and even though you’re visiting the ‘same’ area, it can feel and play fundamentally different.  Apart from that are the different worlds, that play and feel unique themselves.  The environment building is fantastic, and I think that’s really where the 3D port shines.  It was fundamentally designed as a 2D title, and it still plays that way.  But the added depth and complexity of the backgrounds and even the foreground to a lesser extent, highlights what was already great design.  Not to say they were perfect however, as I found myself turning off the 3D in a couple parts as the tricky platforms melded into the background a little more than they should have, and (I think) more than they did on the original version.  There is a 2D graphics option as well, that you would think gives you the original graphics, but it doesn’t.  Also changed are the wonderful chiptune tracks of the original, but they were modified with a very light touch, so the remix doesn’t feel like it made anything worse.  They were enjoyable, but the best part was the combat.

You can carry 5 of 10 weapons, and each of those weapons levels up and levels down.  What starts out as a terrible pea shooter at level one is a monstrous death cannon at level 3.  You level up your weapons by picking up little crystals that enemies drop.  They upgrade the current weapon that you’re using.  But if you get hit, then the process reverses.  It’s a great mechanic, and really makes you think about the weapons that you’re using versus the enemies, environment and possible boss battles coming up.  Those battles are another strong point, which is rare to say about a 2D platformer.  They are surprising, and have some strategy to them because of the levelling system. I think it outshines the rest of the game, even though it’s such a small mechanic.

I could continue, but the basic points are made.  If you enjoy 2D platforming with neat world-building, a debatable plot and fantastic combat mechanics, it’s $10/$12 very well spent.  However, if you only want to experience the best Cave Story that you possibly can, and don’t mind spending $30 extra, then this is for you.


Want to know what our review scores mean? Read about it here.


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Author: Micah View all posts by
Micah has been playing games since his first pong machine, and has been writing for as long as he could grip a pencil and not drool on the paper. So, for about a week.

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