‘Ever played Cave Story?’ I often ask my friends – and the answer usually comes back ‘No’. This amazes me, in my mind, everyone knows about Cave Story. Along with Touhou, it’s the Doujin game everyone knows – maybe not played – but certainly know about. In fact, Cave Story has been so successful, that the free iteration has gone ‘paid for’ on Nintendo platforms three times!
That should be as good an indication of the game’s quality as you should need. In fact, so much has been written about Cave Story in the past, that you’ll wonder if I can possibly add anything more than what’s already out there in the whole of the internet.
Short answer is, ‘I can’t’ – that is except to remind you lovely, lovely people out there that it exists, and if just one of you is in the ‘No I haven’t played It’ category – and then goes on to play it – then I have already justified this post.
Think of Dokutsu Monogatari (to give it its full/original name!) as a cute MetroidVania – you know the kind of thing right – big sprawling world, some places you can get to, others you can’t, until you have the right power up to make it accessible, and in between, you’ do an awful lot of platforming and killing. It’s a well worn style for sure – but when all those elements combine? HEY PRESTO! Rewarding feelings of discovery are pumped into the pleasure circuits of your brain.
That’s what you’re getting here. In the original free PC version – which I’ll point you to in a second – you’ll discover that it’s all represented in a charming 8ish-bit kind of way. Simplistic pixel characters and environment – give it all a decidedly retro feel, though there’s a more ‘knowing’ quality of game design here, afforded by the creator’s (lone dev’ Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya) 2004 release and five year gestation period.
It’s an exceptionally well put together action platformer, which not only handles nicely, but benefits from some very smart level design, oodles of retro charm and more atmosphere than you’d ever have thought possible from a fairly rudimentary patchwork of pixels.
Particular respect should be paid to the story – which is actually far, FAR better than it has any right to be for a free game. The concept is simple, you wake up lost, explore a cave only to discover a race of rabbit people persecuted by an evil doctor. Sounds like nonsense, but goddamn does it kinda tug on your heartstrings a little. You don’t think you’re going to care much when you first fire it up I mean, this is a FREE game right? You’re going to want to spend five minutes on it and then forget about it right?!
WRONG! You’re not! I can almost guarantee it. I say ‘almost’ because – well, some people are so miserable, they’re practically dead inside. But I’m figuring that’s not you! Once you reach the village of the Mimigas I reckon you’ll be sucked right in – due in no small part to the fact that the English translation patch for this game is actually pretty good! Dialogue skits are nicely done and also prove good incentive to the already satisfying exploration elements.
Lastly, the game just FEELS right to play. From the way you move, to the manner in which weapon power is handled, there’s always a satisfying feeling of progression, even though, as is often the case with this particular style of action platformer, some backtracking is an inevitability.
So there you have it. If you’d prefer to pick up the paid for version – which boast some graphical enhancements – on 3DS or WiiWare (or on PC) then go right ahead, it’s well worth the money.
If you’d rather go for the (still free – and very good) original: you’ll find it right here, alongside the English patch, on this superb tribute site.