Hot Take: Cave Story +

Hot Take: Cave Story +

Reigniting the love of a legend

The year 2008 is a huge monument in my life. Not only was I about to graduate the eighth-grade, I had my first girlfriend too! But those aren’t actually the highlights of that year for me. During middle school Xbox Live was the big thing with my group of friends, so generally I found myself playing online multiplayer games with friends more than single player games at the time. Halo 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare were our picks, cursing and screaming at each other until we all had to go to bed eventually. Little did I know there was a game out there that would cause the way I perceived gaming to shift. Think about it: console gaming had just made a huge jump to online in the last few years so everything had changed to me already. But, I was about to be viciously shook awake by a game called Cave Story Doukutsu Monogatari.

Cave Story is an indie game made by one Japanese man, Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya. He developed it for five years just for fun and eventually released it in 2004. It has become a huge success on almost every level of game making and proved a HUGE point, that you don’t need a AAA budget or team to make games anymore. This game, which was polished, gorgeous and fun to play, was made by just one person. It caused a huge ripple effect that we are still experiencing today in the medium.

Now back to me. I remember finding a Let’s Player back in 2008 by the name of DeceasedCrab. He had a huge back log of games that he did videos for that I never heard of, and among those videos was Cave Story. In that first video I watched him play, he mention that the interesting looking game was free, so I immediately downloaded it. At this time indie games weren’t a huge thing. Jonathan Blow’s Braid, one of the first few digital downloadable indies EVER, was soon to come out on the Xbox Live marketplace. Braid was the game that ignited and started the indie chain reaction, especially with me. Coincidentally, 2008 was also the year I decided I wanted to be a writer, and I specifically to write about video games in some form. Not only did the experience shake me into playing single player indie games more, it also planted a dream within a young thirteen year old Zach Quest’s brain.

Cave Story was a blast, and ended up being a game I played constantly, which is rare for me; most single player games that I’ve already beaten I find it hard to pick up and play again. It and Super Mario World are the two games that I can play once a month and find great solace in, and my time with these games is precious. I know every nook and cranny of Cave Story, I know how it feels, how it sounds and how it looks.

The game is about a robot who wakes up in a cave with no memories. Throughout his journey you learn a lot about him and the people he encounters. The story is charming and surprisingly has a good sense of realism to it that not many games like it have. Much of  the game’s design can be traced back to the original Metroid. (Cave Story is the originator of the Metroidvania craze in the indie scene after all!) While running through caves and levels you get weapon upgrades by collecting little orange gems. Each weapon has three tiers to it, and the attacks change accordingly. Everything about it feels classic, as if it belongs at home on a Nintendo console. It just has that magic and charm that not many other games have these days.

Cave Story+ on the Switch is a welcome home, a warm hug, a kiss from a loved one that kind of smells and a comfortable blanket that is kind of itchy whenever you move a little too much to the left. What I mean is, the game is still phenomenal — but I do have some gripes with it. As a HUGE fan the first noticeable change is that the OST is completely different (and I could do without it). However, you can go into the menus and change the audio back to the original if you want, or try three other OSTs as well. The updated visuals have a filter slapped on top of them, so the pixels kind of run together and it looks a little lumpy, lacking that original pixel charm. Thankfully, NICALIS has released a patch to let you switch to the old graphics if you want. Besides this, there are other modes which include a boss rush, challenge, a new story chapter for Curly, time attack and later down the road a local co-op mode. Cave Story+‘s game is still intact and hasn’t been changed much. Everything holds up and most of the alterations are just vanity.

Cave Story+ has it all. It’s fast paced and has tight controls, the level design is smart and subtle, and the scenery is gorgeous. There isn’t a lot to hate about Cave Story, if at all. It’s still that same wonderful game from a decade ago.

Now the year is 2017 and it’s another huge monument in my life. Not only am I about to start my third year of college, but I’ve had a girlfriend for four years. Another highlight is being able to write for SideQuesting and bring you this Hot Take of a game that ties right back into my pubescent life. Sometimes life makes connections in really strange ways. BUT. With this all said and done, there’s a reason why Cave Story has been released on literally every console in the last nine years: it’s just that damn good and absolutely worth everyone’s attention, and especially now on the device that links generations of consoles together.

This review is based on a Switch eShop code sent to the reviewer by the publisher.