How Metroidvania is it? Low Fit. The flow of the game basically level based, like a really good action platformer - so its almost completely linear. However, the world is continguous, and there are a lot of health and missile upgrades to be found by backtracking to old areas if you missed them.
Primary Challenge: Ranged Combat
Time to beat: ~10 hours
Review Info: This review is based on the original freeware version
Buy Cave Story+ if you like…
- Frantic and challenging shooter-platfomer combat
- High stakes mechanics
- Charming and cute characters
- Dark plots with rewarding twists
- Deducing obscure secrets
▼ Review continues below ▼
Cave Story has a dangerous focus on Story, and occasionally has confusing moments where you are simply looking for the right NPC to talk in order to progress the game. While this does tend to slam the brakes on the game’s pacing, the characters are cute and likeable, and the gameplay is still one of the best indie offerings available.
Combat in Cave Story is punishing. If you avoid damage, your guns become more and more powerful. But as soon as you get hit, you lose a portion of those upgrades, making the situation more difficult. It creates high tension situations, and makes it that much more difficult to face tank bosses. But attacks are well telegraphed, and your character is agile enough to avoid anything that comes his way. It’s fair, but it’s by no means easy. Bosses are incredibly rewarding to defeat, and the release of the tension the combat provides is one of the sweetest feelings you can get from a game. Even better, there is optional content available that will whiten the knuckles of even the most hardcore player.
A lot of that optional content is hidden, Metroidvania Style, in the nooks and crannies of the caves. While the game provides a fairly linear level progression, it invites that sense of discovery which causes many people to associate it with that genre. Some of the game’s secrets are obtuse – I think most people won’t find all of them without asking around or looking at a guide. But there is joy to be found from multiple playthroughs to unravel those secrets, even if the story content can slow things down a bit.
But I wouldn’t have the story served up any other way. I think it’s a crucial part of what makes Cave Story great. While it’s nothing that I would try to experience in any other medium, it provides an important framework of character and personality to drive the gameplay forward.
While the gameplay is the only thing I might label “perfect”, Cave Story is an exemplar of combined elements creating a masterpiece of what can be accomplished in a game.
Tension is kept high with the HP based Exp System, with some masterfully designed bosses
Maneuver dangerous pathways with delightfully scaling challenge
Relatively linear, though there are a lot of power-ups hidden in the nooks and crannies
Some well-hidden secrets to find for the diligent detective (or for the guide-reader.)
Charming characters drive the player forward into the narrative
Whether you play the original or the enhanced edition, the pixel art is charming and easy on the eyes
Some of the catchiest bit-tune music you can find
Some weapons are permanent choices adding some variety to play, plus the afforementioned secrets to find
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