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Review: Cave Story

Table of Contents

Quick Info

Gore & Brutality Magic Sex Civility Religious Objections
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Additional Notes
This game is also available for Linux! This game's soundtrack is available! This game is free! This game offers Achievements (or similar awards)!

Summary of major issues
The plot of this game is focused around a war that pits the timid Mimigas against a mad scientist and his magical henchmen. Thus, characters die, there's a moderate amount of violence, and a lot of evil magic.


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A rag-tag gang of misfits

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Scaling the outer wall

General Information

Genre:Metroidvania ESRB Rating:E10+ - Everyone (10+)
License:Commercial My Rating:Children (6+)
Played on:Martha, Thaddeus
Available from: Cave Story Fansite, Humble Store, Steam
Soundtrack:Comes with the game
Save System:In order to save, you need to find a red disk somewhere in the world. These are save points, and are usually found near life and missile refill consoles.

Game Overview

Cave Story is one of the more well-known indie games out there. A lot of its popularity comes from the excellent gameplay, which is on par with professionally made platformers, but quite a bit of its fame comes from the cast of interesting characters that populate its story. I'm not joking when I say this game has made a huge impact on PC gaming: despite the fact that it was released in 2004, social media and art websites still get a steady influx of new fanart for it!

The game begins with a little robot waking up in a damp cavern. As you start exploring, you'll find that you're on some sort of flying island, and there are a multitude of people living here. Most of them are a peaceful race of bunny people known as Mimigas, but there are also a few humans and some other robots wandering around. Unfortunately, there was also a massive war between the island and the surface world in the not too distant past, and robots like you did a lot of the fighting. Worse still, a man known only as the Doctor has started collecting the Mimiga for an unknown evil purpose. Thus, like most games, it's up to you and your small band of friends to stand up to this menace and save both the island and the world below.

But this game wouldn't be nearly so popular if that was all there was. The entire journey involves searching the island for new equipment and abilities, as well as several missions where our red capped hero attempts to disrupt the Doctor's evil plans. Also, since this is a Metroidvania, your ability to explore the island will be limited until you complete various tasks that open new roads. Some backtracking will be needed, but for better or worse, things are often different than you left them.

Now, there are two versions of Cave Story. The original version of the game is available as freeware. This has been translated by the game's devoted fanbase into various languages, and it comes with a few extra tools to make your experience a little nicer. In 2011, an enhanced remake was created as a commercial product, known as Cave Story+ . This version features more detailed sprites, better sound quality, and a few bonus modes to keep a good fan busy. With the exception of these extra modes, the enhanced version is otherwise the same game.

Regardless of whether or not you want to try the enhanced version, if you're a fan of Platformers or Metroidvanias, then you really need to try this classic game for yourself and see why it's captured the hearts of gamers for so long.


Multiple paths
Depending on what you do, there are several endings that you can witness. Some of them, such as the message you'll receive if you accidentally slip and fall off the island, are just special variants of a game over. The best ending is a true nightmare to earn, as you'll need to defeat some insanely difficult bosses and manage to navigate a deadly maze. In fact, you might need to check a walkthrough to find out how to pull it off, as there's a few unexpected things you need to do throughout the adventure just to trigger entrance to this ending.

Unique weapons
Unlike a lot of games, your weapons level up instead of your character. As you defeat enemies, you'll collect experience shards, and these will increase your weapon's abilities. However, if you take damage, the weapon you're currently using becomes weaker. In addition to this unique mechanic, most of the weapons in Cave Story are hidden or otherwise obtained by interacting with various NPCs at specific times. You won't find the best toys in a random chest in this game.

Many secrets
Aside from what's mentioned above, there are a lot of little secrets hidden throughout this game that players will need to keep an eye out for. Some of these are powerups, others are little side missions that can be easily overlooked. Finding everything will require both a keen eye and a lot of exploration. Once of these secrets can even help you find the others -- it's a device that displays a map of the current area, including some of the hidden spots!

Included soundtrack
The chiptune music in this game is pretty good, though I'm not sure I'd call it great. However, both versions of the game include ways to listen to it. The freeware version includes a music player called orgview.exe, which allows you to listen to a specific song or play them all in order. On the other hand, the retail version stores the game's music in its data folders as .ogg files. Some of the more popular music programs can play this format without any help, but not all of them can.

Additional features in the retail version
Cave Story+ contains a number of new features beyond the enhanced graphics. These include three save slots instead of the one, adjustable difficulty settings, a boss rush mode, and a mode where you play through the game as Curly Brace instead of Quote. The Curly mode also has an unexpected twist: Curly responds and talks to the people she encounters, which reveals that there was a side of the story you never heard in the original playthrough!

Cave Story+ also features a host of Steam achievements that will take several playthroughs to successfully earn.


Mixed difficulty
Normally, you'd expect a game to get harder as you progress. This isn't the case here, as Cave Story's bosses tend to be more of a mixed bag. Some are much harder than you'd expect, while others are much easier. Of course, some of them are best fought using a new weapon that you might not have known to look for, so this could be seen as punishing the player for rushing through the game. That said, the hardest boss in the game is encountered in the middle of the story, so don't be too discouraged by the sudden jump in difficulty.

Concerns and Issues

Characters die
This is probably one of the sadder details about the game's storyline. There are many games where the bad guys are trying to take over the world, and many games where there's a small rebel force trying to stop a great evil from coming about. However, Cave Story deviates from the standard formula in that many characters will be killed fighting the Doctor.

You can prevent a few of these deaths, but the majority of them are unavoidable, and several are rather tragic.

Unexpectedly suggestive easter eggs
Cave Story loves to reward curious players with little easter eggs. The awkward part about this is that two of these surprises are more risque than you'd expect. The first of these involves a mimiga that apparently goes to bed with a lot of people. One of her lines is a double entendre, and it really can be taken either way as Quote can wake up with her lipstick in his pocket.

The other easter egg worth mentioning is an item found in a hidden chest. This is a pair of panties that belong to Curly Brace, Quote's female robot counterpart. Finding this "treasure" earns you an achievement and a new game mode that allows you to play through the game as Curly.

When you begin the game, Quote is defenseless. To get your first weapon, you need to have him enter the home of a local hermit, and then steal the hermit's pistol. If you return later on in the game, the hermit is pretty angry that you've "borrowed" his gun. However, if you apologize and return it to him, he'll forgive you and even give you an improved weapon.

References to demons and magic
There are several references to evil magic throughout the game. A powerful artifact stolen by the Doctor is known as the Demon Crown, and one of his henchmen, Misery, is a witch who uses her magic to torment the island's inhabitants. The Doctor's other henchman, Balrog, is actually a robot despite being named after a type of fictional demon.

Another aspect of the game's story that can be troubling are the magical red flowers. These only effect the peaceful mimiga: if eaten, the flowers will transform the cute bunny person into a monster filled with blind rage. Later on, the Doctor creates a purified version of the red flower, and uses it on himself and others in a bid for greater power. It... doesn't go quite as planned.

The darkest part of the game is actually hidden from the player unless certain criteria are met. In the background of the game's story is an evil god that was trapped in the heart of the island. His hatred has slowly been rising up through the rocky caverns, emerging as red spikes and those red flowers. This is why the spikes are instantly lethal and the flowers have such a horrific effect when consumed. To truly save the day, Quote and Curly must fight and kill this "god".