Cave Story+ (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 05.06.2017 7

Review for Cave Story+ on Nintendo Switch

Time can be cruel to video games. Graphics show their age more than anything, but certain design philosophies are also rooted in their era. Losing a significant amount of progress upon death, scenarios with little room for error, and permanently missable content feel more at place in 1997 than they do in 2017. Expectations, and not just for difficulty, have gradually changed with the growth of the medium. Story is more important than ever, and a refined idea will more than likely get more buzz than a new idea. This is far from a bad thing, but it is a recent trend that affects certain titles not unlike Cave Story+. As the Metroidvania makes the Switch its eighth home, it must, once again, prove if it has a place in the modern gaming stratosphere.

Lonely is perhaps the best way to describe Cave Story+'s tone. Much of the experience is spent platforming through colourful locations and shooting exotic enemies, but it holds on tight to a feeling of solitude.

That isolated mood makes it all the more impactful when stumbling upon an NPC. It makes interactions special. Which is surprising, really, because Cave Story+ is more of a platformer than most Metroidvanias.

The brief interludes of story work so well thanks to how they're interspliced within the gameplay. Mr. Traveler wakes up in an abandoned cave, on a floating island, and without any indication of where to go. When he finally makes it out of the cave, he's greeted with a village that suddenly feels more exciting to explore than if the game had simply started there.

Studio Pixel treats plot like a reward and that shows in the design. It's easy enough to die in the opening cave, but it doesn't feel unfair. Instead, it commands an understanding of the mechanics.

Screenshot for Cave Story+ on Nintendo Switch

Mr. Traveler has momentum to his walk and jump, backtracking is at times necessary to make progress, and weapons can level down just as easily as they can level up. It's a lot to take in at once, but it feels rewarding to conquer.

The thrill of completing a challenging stage is at times enough, but Studio Pixel goes one further with story. Immediately after clearing the cave, Mr. Traveler stumbles upon a village filled with NPCs. It feels rewarding getting through a difficult set-piece and being given a respite in return.

It's important that this give and take of challenge and rest has been established immediately since this is the formula the whole game works on. Sometimes the respite isn't always a docile village, but instead a puzzle with no risk of death. Other times it's a conveniently placed house with a save point in a dangerous area.

The plot itself is far darker than the colourful world leads on, tackling themes of slavery, weaponry, and the responsibility of war. The narrative's tension ends up matching the gameplay's tension, particularly in the second half when enemies start to ramp up, creating a cohesion between story and gameplay that is seldom found in most games, let alone Metroidvanias.

Screenshot for Cave Story+ on Nintendo Switch

On the Metroidvania side of things, there are plenty of weapons and items to unlock that help lighten the platforming load - although, nothing to the point of trivializing the core design.

Unlike most Metroidvanias, however, Mr. Traveler doesn't needs to find these items to progress. In fact, it's incredibly easy to bypass a useful weapon or item, making obtaining one all the more satisfying. Items are hidden because they're meant to be a reward, not a means to an end.

Cave Story+ is also more disjointed in its map than most of its contemporaries, which might be disappointing to some, but the disconnect allows stages to breathe freely without needing to worry about how to weave in and out of one another.

What Cave Story+ does better than anything else is its boss fights. For every amazing platforming section, there's more than likely a great boss at the end of it to overcome.

Screenshot for Cave Story+ on Nintendo Switch

Bosses really demonstrate the brilliance of Studio Pixel's design. While bosses vary in difficulty, each one has the same basic idea of mixing platforming and combat together. Since weapons lose experience and delevel when Mr. Traveler gets hit, rushing into a boss and shooting blindly will ultimately lead nowhere. Proper strategy and quick thinking is necessary at all times.

Despite originally being released as freeware in 2004, Cave Story+ fits rather well in the modern industry. Studio Pixel was never just copy and pasting old-school design into a platformer. There's a level of care, polish, and foresight that many developers this generation could and should take note of.

Cave Story+ is hard because a challenge can be fun. Every story beat is rewarding because it's an actual reward for doing well. Finding a secret is fun because it's the fruit of genuine exploration.

The video game industry and its expectations will keep changing, but one thing is certain: Cave Story isn't going anywhere - and that's great.

Screenshot for Cave Story+ on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

It's almost incredible how well Cave Story has managed to stand the test of time. It isn't a particularly old title, but its limited resources and one-man development team seem like a recipe for a dated entry. Instead, it manages to justify its existence in any given generation with each re-release. The Island has yet to lose its lustre, the characters their charm, and the level design that sweet balance of difficulty, which makes defeating a challenging boss or getting through a brutal platforming section all the more satisfying. Beneath the surface lies a poignant narrative about the consequences of war that takes itself surprisingly seriously without compromising the overall whimsical mood. Cave Story+ isn't just a good game in 2017; it's downright impressive.

Developer

Nicalis

Publisher

Nicalis

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date None   

Comments

Our member of the week

I can't wait for my copy to arrive.

However there's something I'm itching to know : Is there any way to select the original soundtrack? Because what I'm hearing from gameplay videos of the switch version is that the soundtrack was somewhat remade (it's not the Cave Story 3D soundtrack, it's closer to the original, but yet it's NOT the original). So there lies my question : Is the original soundtrack in there? Or the original non up-resed tile graphics as an option for that matter?

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

Did nicalis say they were releasing this one in Europe? I know it's so difficult for them to even contemplate it, but since Isaac came over, is this one too?

Our member of the week

Azuardo said:
Did nicalis say they were releasing this one in Europe? I know it's so difficult for them to even contemplate it, but since Isaac came over, is this one too?

Another company is releasing it at an as-of-yet unspecified date, but I can't remember which company it is. It's not Nicalis at any rate which means there shouldn't be any goodies within the package like there are in the North American one (which is why I chose to spend a bit more to import a first print american copy rather than wait for an undetermined amount of time to finally see a physical release over here)

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

just import one

RudyC3 said:
I can't wait for my copy to arrive.

However there's something I'm itching to know : Is there any way to select the original soundtrack? Because what I'm hearing from gameplay videos of the switch version is that the soundtrack was somewhat remade (it's not the Cave Story 3D soundtrack, it's closer to the original, but yet it's NOT the original). So there lies my question : Is the original soundtrack in there? Or the original non up-resed tile graphics as an option for that matter?


I didn't see any options to change the graphics, but there were four different soundtrack variations to choose from. I've never listened to the original soundtrack, but one of the choices sounded like it might be it.

Our member of the week

Upgraded graphics, I can live with. It's just I first played the original on GP2X in 320x240 glorious graphics sublimed by the oled display of the machine, and then the original freeware PC release, so the original visuals are what I'm used to most. I don't mind HD visuals, but i generally prefer the original OST. I have nothing against the remastered soundtrack but, save for few exceptions, most music tracks sound better to my ears in their original form.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer
Mike from NJ, U.S.A. (guest) 20.06.2017#7

GameStop has these Today. I just picked up mine. (everything is inside the game case!)😉

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