Whenever we receive something for free, we are getting something for little to no sacrifice. Since we don’t have to give anything up for it, besides our time, I usually anticipate that the amount of quality will fall somewhere in the same range as the price. Well, we may be late to the party, but Cave Story is here to prove me wrong.
Considered one of, if not the greatest indie game of all time, Cave Story was released in 2004 and was the brain child of one, Daisuke Amaya. It’s a 2-D action adventure that feels and plays a lot like the “metroidvanias.” Players run, jump, and shoot their way through different zones in the battle to save the mimagas.
This is a freeware title that has some of the highest production values in every area. The game looks like the product of 8 and 16 bit parents, but the pixels and artistic style work together to create a game that looks unique in an age old style. The sound, as well, takes older methods and weaves them together to enhance the playing experience, instead of mere background music.
The gameplay, like the music and graphics, is simple and highly rewarding. Combining both platforming and shooting, players explore the world while collecting items and weapons as they battle against the doctor. The weapon selection is eclectic, and there is even an element of strategy in determining which weapons to use in a given situation. Once you decide which weapon to use you can level that weapon up by gathering energy from fallen foes.
Each weapon can be upgraded twice which increases firing power or rate of fire. However, everytime you are hit by another enemy you lose some of the energy gathered in your equipped weapon. It promotes playing it safe during normal encounters and it makes the already tough boss battles, even tougher.
The game is surprisingly long and the story is something you would expect of a high end downloadable title or a retail title. Most freeware titles are either really short or have no definitive ending. Cave Story not only has a long adventure, but it has multiple endings and it’s engrossing enough that you care about what happens to the mimagas and is a great motivator to keep playing the game. While exploring there is a bit of back tracking that you have to do, but nothing that hampers the experience.
As I look up at the above paragrahs, I notice almost zero negativity, and honestly, I have nothing negative to say about the game. I could hop onto the nitpick train, I could say it’s graphics and sound are dated, it’s not long enough or that it’s too hard in certain situations. Yet, these negatives work in favor of the game, rather than hurt it. Aren’t we tired of the unreal engine, games handing us the ending, or something that is too long that you can’t finish? Everything in this fantastic freeware title works together to create an imaginative and rewarding experience that you rarely see in video game, freeware or retail.
Cave Story is the proverbial “diamond in the rough.” It’s a free game that has more action, challenge, and charm than a lot of the titles sitting on our store shelves. When compared to any of the other games on the market, I feel that it deserves the same recognition as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, two titles that garner perfect ratings. It’s a testament to aspiring developers that if you have the time, resolve, heart, and a little bit of talent…you can make a game that will stand the test of time.
A whimsical artistic style oozing with charm and heart that only enhances the graphics, gameplay, and musical score.
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The “metroidvania” gameplay, coupled with variety and challenge, is as close to perfect as you can get.
An excellent array of 8 and 16 bit sound styles that fit perfectly with the artistic design will have you turning your speakers up.
There is plenty of replay value with multiple endings to a game that isn’t too long and isn’t too short.
Cave Story is a title that combines simple gameplay, charming graphics, high replay value, and excellent presentation into a magnificent gaming package. Did I mention it was free?