|06-28-2010, 12:50 AM||#1|
Join Date: Nov 2008
Free and Worth Every Penny - Issue 50: Cave Story
I may have heard about it first on a podcastóRebelFM maybe?óor read its name somewhere on a top ten list of awesome freeware on one site or another. I may have stumbled across it in a random forum post after performing a hopeful Google search, looking for a new game. I donít know for sure how I came across it, but, until very recently, Iíve been continually and painfully cognoscente of Cave Storyís prominent position among my pile of shame.
A combination of two things has kept me from writing it up here in the past. A constant flow of new, free games has kept me busy; I always knew Cave Story would be waiting in case of drought. There was also the niggling fact that I never got around to playing the damn game. I mean, itís been on my hard drive for ages and I had played up to a pointóenough to know that, yes, there is good reason for the high regard itís shownó but I hadnít gotten much further in than just past the introduction.
During my first stab at Cave Story, and throughout my current playthrough, I felt weighed down by a constant sense of, for lack of a better word, substance... which doesnít really make much sense now that I read it. To clarify, I felt as if there was always something big waiting for me around the next corner; not just a reward, like a new gun or some XP, but a vague something that might somehow be more important than whatever was going on at the moment on the screen. This feeling, the best I can figure, was an effect of having held off playing for so many months while harboring every expectation that it would be completely awesome once I did. The funny thing is, my inflated expectations were not betrayed. They were exceeded, in fact. How great is that? I was really hoping so, saving Cave Story for our last ĎBest of Indieí pick even though I didnít know myself how good it would actually be. My bet paid off, I guess.
Cave Story, for those of you who donít know, is a sidescrolling shooter with metroidvania blood and enough charm to set it apart from all the other games that fit that description. You wake alone in, true to the name, a cave, with nothing more than a few hit points of health, an opening cinema that doesnít make any sense yet, and enough direction to lead you to your first weapon. From here youíre thrown into Mimiga Village, a hub world that you will revisit throughout the story, which begins in earnest upon your arrival with the kidnapping of one of the charming Mimigas (cute rabbit people) for whom the village is named. What surprised me most about Cave Story, yet again true to its name, is this story. For one that bordered nonsensical throughout, it was pleasantly emotional, shockingly grim, and, Iím pretty sure, not finished yet, for me anyways.
Iím mostly sure thereís another ending; I think I got the bad one. Spoilers ahead (stop reading if you intend to play this, for realsies): Remember the cute little rabbit guy I just mentioned, the one that gets kidnapped? You have to kill him later on, and itís not cause heís a bad guy. His brother (I think it was his brother), dies trying to save him. Random scientist dude that helps you out along the way? Dead. Old lady that does the same? Crushed. Fellow robot and love interest? Drowned to save your life. That one really got me; didnít see it coming. And the worst of it? This doesnít happen in order for you to save the day, killing the big bad guys and avenging all, wrapping things up nicely. Nope, this all happens just so you can save your own tail by escaping the Ďcave.í The final cinema even informed me that the villain made war upon the entire world from his hide-out, most likely successfully, while you live out the rest of your life as a hermit. There better be a happier ending than this one, which I plan on getting ASAP. This game got me to care.
It would not have been able to do this if it were not for the fact that it was fun. Cave Story is a near perfect platformer. Jumping is impeccably precise, shooting is solid, the weapons are interesting, the enemies are varied and challenging. An experience mechanic helps maintain tension. When you kill bad guys, they drop orange XP triangles that you must scoop up to keep your guns souped up. Each gun has its own XP meter and can gain 3 levels. Thing is, when you take damage, your equipped weapon will lose experience as well, possibly bumping it down a level. Keeping all your guns leveled, picking the right one for the right occasion, and being able to cope when the one you want weakens after taking too many hits are the key to survival.
All this happens in beautiful levels, between well animated goodies and baddies. Some of the boss fights in this game are, indeed, epic. Each zone, including the hub world, is slightly sandbox-y. Youíre presented with certain problems and multiple paths, and itís up to you to solve those problems in whatever way and whatever order you see fit. There are secret passages, secret weapons, and the expected metroidvania backtracking. Each zone is sufficiently imaginative to set one apart from the next (no fire level AND no ice level!), yet a coherent theme runs through the games visuals. Even the music is great.
I canít think of anything to complain about, so, yeah, just play this if you havenít. A revamped version is available on WiiWare if you want to support the devs and play on your TV. I donít really know what else to say... Best of Indie, at least until the next batch.
Cave story is:
|free, worth every penny|