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Cave Story 3D - 3DS Review

Game Info
Cave Story 3D

3DS | Nicalis / NIS America | 1 Player | Out Now
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6th December 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

SPOILER ALERT !  This review may feature minor spoilers concerning plot details.

Cave Story
has become an icon in the indie scene. With a legacy that still lives on multiple platforms later, I regret not familiarizing myself with the series earlier on. Nevertheless, it's great to see it make the jump to 3DS at the same time (more or less) as some of the other remakes we've seen recently. From the very start, though, I wasn't a big fan of the visual approach and was actually worried this would hinder the game from reaching maximum potential. If you’ve been feeling the same way, take heart in knowing that the game is most definitely solid and very much worth playing.

    Cave Story stars Quote, a robot who doesn't get much in the way of a proper introduction, but is nonetheless trying to get to the bottom of a crisis plaguing the in-game world. The plot focuses on the gradual killing off of the Mimigas who, you later learn, are being subjected to harmful experiments by a power-hungry human. Even if you've never been exposed to the story before, it feels somewhat familiar somehow with the way it touches on themes of oppression and the abuse of power in the quest for scientific endeavours.

    Players will start off in a cave near Mimiga Village and make their way to a series of other worlds that can be accessed through a teleportation device. Trudging deeper and deeper, you'll encounter water-filled caves and a bit of tower climbing against a cloudy backdrop. With traps being so prominent throughout, you might see Quote as a robotic version of Indiana Jones, minus the explorer appearance. Red spikes on the floor and movement-sensitive booby traps are just some of the elements you'll be battling on a semi-regular basis.

    In terms of controls, players can use either the D-Pad or the Circle Pad to control Quote in the different environments. The B and X Buttons are used to jump, while pressing Y or A will fire your active weapon. Using L or R, you can swap your current arm for the next one on the list. While firing your weapon, you can hold Up or Down to target an enemy up above or down below. And last but not least, to interact with doors and NPC's, you need to press Down (not Up). This is a really minor thing, but if you go into conversation with the machine gun equipped and press a button to speed up the dialogue, the gun will instinctively fire once the conversation is over. That aside, with much of the thanks being given to the Circle Pad, the controls work well in Cave Story 3D. I was also pleased with the simple and uncluttered approach to the overall layout. Also, the Touch Screen has become a useful Inventory menu to store room keys and any other story-related items.

    Weapon use is key in this game. You start out with a default blaster named the Polar Star, which has an unlimited supply of ammo. Slowly but surely, new items will come into view, including a missile launcher and a blade projectile. In line with this, it's great to have upgrades on your arms that you can acquire with frequent use. Building experience is done by collecting yellow triangular-shaped crystals that pop out of enemies when they are defeated. On the top left of the 3D Screen and underneath your HP meter is a horizontal bar dedicated to tracking these experience points. When the bar reaches full capacity, your weapon will level-up, with Level 3 being the maximum level you can reach. These upgrades usually involve a bigger and more powerful shot, but I felt the Machine Gun in particular was special. I absolutely loved that the Machine Gun could be used to hover in the air on Level 3 when pointing downwards as you fire. Later on, you do get a Booster item which serves as an actual hover after a jump is performed, but this still didn't make the Machine Gun's max-level feature any less relevant.

    The enemies in
Cave Story 3D vary from level to level, with bats, skeletons, and sand-dwelling crocs being the norm, as per the whole cave-exploration component. In well-spaced-out areas, players will also come up against both mini-bosses and regular bosses as well. Multiple times, you'll come up against Balrog, a servant to the Doctor, as well as a defender of the Mimiga people named Curly, who later becomes one of your allies. As far as the main threats go, I was kind of fond of the Monster X boss, for the reason that it wasn't overly frustrating (at least on Normal). But the Core boss completely surprised me over how much fun I had with it. Quite frankly, I haven't enjoyed a boss like that in a long time. And also, without giving too much away, I thought the final boss fight was well done too.

    With the change in retro style comes a natural adjustment in thinking on the part of players from the get-go. Those who are fans of the original game on the PC might not be used to the lack of sprite-based character models, so that's something to take note of. And yet, the developers did a courtesy by including Classic Mode whereby characters resemble their original forms seen in the debut release of
Cave Story. Playing in this mode makes some of the character improvements that much more visible. A simple round-shaped enemy that once featured static spikes now has those same spikes rotating like a sharp saw. By extension, playing in this mode also makes the environment improvements more evident. Revisiting the Egg Corridor, for example, gives off a totally different feeling than when you first make a trip to this location. Oh and don't worry. Playing the original game is not a pre-requisite to appreciating the new visual look -- a revision that has more to do with the increased spatial depth of the environments than anything else.

    I touched on this at the start, but originally looking at the game, you might be hesitant to fully embrace the new visual approach. In fact, you might even see it as a downgrade. But it is definitely something that grows on you after a while. What aids in your appreciation of it is the great camera work, how it allows you to see what's up above as you climb to a platform higher up, even creating a degree of perspective when standing in a horizontal passage. Added, too, is the great use of 3D in most areas of the game, which helps against any flat-looking planes or just the use of a dull colour scheme. So while it may be the biggest thing you may have to get past,
Cave Story 3D's look and feel does work.

    In keeping with the presentation enhancements, music is another area where the developers deemed it appropriate to switch things up a bit. However, I didn't think the remixed tracks I heard were all that memorable. Sure you may find a few that you consider to be significant improvements, but for me, I can count on a few fingers the number of songs that stuck out to me -- the musical themes for Sandzone, Labyrinth, Waterway, and Core being the most notable. Having said all that, the tracks do sound much better when playing with headphones plugged in, even the "item get" jingle.

    Cave Story 3D
isn't free of technical faults, sad to say. On a regular basis, the music skipped as I exited out of the system's Home Menu and returned to the game. Initially, I thought this was only happening with the title sequence, but I soon realized this was occurring even in other areas of the game. Minor slowdown also pops up now and again, like in the Core area or the bottom of the Plantation environment. There were instances where the lag was close to bad like in the Waterway area, but I still wouldn't describe the game as being wildly inconsistent or anything like that. And finally, there was a scene at the end of the game that showed all the areas you visited over the course of your journey, but because of the two-to-three-second loading screens in between, the impact just wasn't effective.

    It might just be me, but I thought this remake felt more forgiving than the Cave Story I originally experienced. Whether that's a testament to the controls or whether they actually did tone down the difficulty a tad, I can't say for sure. The increased number of Life Capsules in this remake likely has something to do with that. What I am sure of, though, is the commendable balance in difficulty. As a case in point, there was a moment later on in the game where a large stalactite unexpectedly fell from the ceiling. Because I was directly underneath it at the time, it resulted in an instant death. Other deadly surprises appeared on occasion, but in all cases, it wasn't all that upsetting to be forced to go through challenging sections a second time.

    The amount of pure fun that comes with exploring is what really overshadows any semblance of negativity found in the formula. I can recall a key moment in the second part of the Labyrinth area where I was low on health and there were lots of enemies that had yet to be defeated. As I waited at the bottom of a ledge for the right moment, I charged forward like a soldier with my heart racing in the process. While admittedly rare, it was times like these where I felt I wasn't just controlling a character through mazes, but actually felt like I was a part of the action.

    Continuing on the subject of fun factor, it was obvious to me that instead of being just something thrown together, the script played a part in making the adventure enjoyable. Throughout the entire experience, the storyline is a considerable point of interest, something that's supplemented well by the light dialogue. Within the exchanges between characters, you'll notice some odd humor here and there. For example, seeing Balrog say "ARE YOU TWO LISTENING TO ME AT ALL!?!?!?!?" made me snicker. The same goes for the line about "never [being] seen again" after falling (jumping) over the edge in the sky. For those that consider themselves to be the #1 Cave Story fan and have the script memorized, the 3DS remake features a few script changes likely with these hardcore fans in mind. Nothing major from what I could tell, but if you're playing this game for the 3rd or 4th time, it’s a nice little touch. There was one aspect of the character interaction that I didn't like, and that was the death of certain characters. I felt they were treated as unimportant, not only due to their brevity, but more importantly because they don't get much fanfare; the stage music would often continue as though nothing big was happening.

    While Cave Story isn't as much about side-quests as other adventure games of this style, there are certainly secret areas that exist that aid with the theme of exploration. One key bonus area the developers included was a room in the Inner Wall area containing a Prinny statue and a hidden Prinny Cap item. Perhaps this was done simply as a kind gesture to the publisher, NIS America. And even just standing outside the door, there's a ledge just above the room where a ghost Prinny will appear and twirl around. Additionally, Egg Corridor 2 now features an interior bonus area for players to get through, which is decent despite the fact that it’s not perfect from a technical standpoint. Those who have experience with the original version of Cave Story should be able to pick up on other new additions featured in this remake (better than I can).

    Replay value is encouraged in this game through multiple ending possibilities. One of the earlier ending paths allows you to give up on defeating the evil entity entirely and live a happy life away from the threats appearing in the story. While the game lasted me nearly 15 hours on my first playthrough, going back to see the real ending (or even play on a Hard mode) will increase playtime by at least 10 hours. This is something that should easily appeal to nearly all players.

    All in all, if you're really into adventure-platforming, Cave Story 3D comes recommended for the 3DS system. If you've never played any versions of Cave Story before, unless you prefer the sprite-based, compact action serviced better in the DSiWare version, Cave Story 3D is a great place to start. And for those of you who are wondering whether or not to purchase Cave Story yet again on a different platform, it shouldn't be hard to justify supporting Nicalis once more.

26/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 9/10 - Very solid gameplay mechanics, fun level-up system with different weapons to utilize, mostly smooth controls, enjoyable boss fights
Presentation 7/10 - Visuals take some getting used to, greater depth in the environments, great camera work, music is mixed, minor technical flaws
Enjoyment 5/5 - Challenging yet well-balanced difficulty, good script, cave exploration aspect as well as the action elements contribute to pure fun
Extra Content 5/5 - Classic Mode, multiple endings to see, script changes, more Life Capsules added, bonus exclusive areas, lasts a good amount of time

Equivalent to a score of 87% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Cave Story 3D
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