Friday, June 11, 2010

Cave Story: What I was missing...

Let me set this up for you.
  • I have never played Cave Story before on my own.
  • Most of my information came from the updated sprites for the WiiWare version of the game.
  • I played a version of the game briefly last year at E3, with little or no knowledge of what I was actually doing.
Cave Story was a game that appealed to me in two ways: its indie status and its retro style. Nevermind that this game is 6 years old, has received game translations and tribute sites, and was completely free. Some how, some way, the game never got through to me.

Until now.

After I downloaded the game, I told myself I'll play just about 5 minutes since it was late, and then call it a night. An hour later, I was forcing myself to turn off the system.

The gameplay mechanics are so simple and addicting. You collect life capsules to increase your total health, and you have weapons in your inventory that level up depending on the triangles that you collect from defeated enemies. Collect enough of those triangles, and you can level up your weapon to a stronger level, up to level 3 max (when I first played the game, will probably increase later, I'm sure). The devilishly evil aspect is, when your character takes damage, so does his weapons level. Not only does this force you to desperately try to level up your weapon to maximum status, but it reminds you that you can't blaze through a corridor of enemies in a split second unless you're not taking damage at all. Suddenly, this has become a horizontal SHMUP!

The story is as eclectic as its character design, both done by Daisuke Amaya (aka Pixel). It starts up with a character that has no knowledge of himself or why he's there, but that's where the game shuts up. It's not constantly in-your-face that he has amnesia, nor do you get any reaction from him of any concern for that fact. Unlike most games using the "lost memory"approach, Cave Story just lets you explore the world and worry about it later. The nicely-decorated levels and assortment of random art explains itself as you traverse the world. It's a nice no-nonsense approach to giving the gamer what they want, while letting the environment and ambiance tell the story instead.

While I've heard there are some audio issues, the game is still a much-needed departure from all the "next-gen" content that comes out on a weekly basis. If you feel adventurous, download Cave Story on WiiWare and go spelunking. Hopefully, you'll encounter a gaming nirvana you've never realized you were missing.
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