Review: Cave Story (WiiWare)

Now this is more like it!

The independent gaming scene has always been a flourishing part of PC gaming over the years, but very few people were ready for the splash one indie game designer's title would make on the industry when he released it in 2004. It took Daisuke Amaya, aka Pixel, five long years to complete Cave Story, but its unique combination of shooting, platforming and exploration made it an instant hit and has had fans clamouring for a console release for many years. Now thanks to Nicalis, Pixel has updated his classic PC hit for WiiWare and attempted to recreate the magic of the original in this updated remake.

At its heart, Cave Story is very much an action-platformer. You'll spend the majority of your time running, jumping and blasting your way through the game's many areas. Having said that, there is a certain emphasis on exploration as well. When you begin the game, you don't even have a weapon at your disposal – instead you must locate the weapon and then speak to various creatures to find out what you need to do next. While the game holds your hand a bit at first, you'll soon be faced with figuring out many of the game's mysteries on your own as you explore each area. It's ultimately this combination of gaming elements that make the game such an enthralling experience.

As you explore areas you'll locate new and more powerful weapons, not to mention speciality items that many times play a key role in advancing through the levels. Some weapons feature unlimited firepower, whereas others require you to pick up extra ammunition from downed enemies. You can even switch weapons on the fly by pressing the A or B buttons on the controller. You'll soon find that being able to switch weapons quickly will play a key role in how effective you are against some of the game's tougher bosses. Add in the ability to collect Weapon Crystals to power up your weapons and you've got quite the arsenal with which to tackle the game's wide variety of enemies and bosses. There's even a wide choice of controllers to use, one being the Wii Remote turned on its side or the Classic Controller. Both work quite well, but some might prefer the larger D-Pad on the Classic Controller.

There are several different modes of play to enjoy in Cave Story. Story Mode is where you'll likely spend the majority of your time and features all of the platforming and exploration elements of the game. Of course there are a few other choices if you're looking for a change of pace or something to play after you've completed the main adventure. Boss Rush Mode allows you to tackle the game's many bosses to see how many you can beat with one life. You can also take on the Sanctuary Mode in a race to beat the level in the shortest amount of time, for those of you who like a good speed run. And if all of these modes aren't enough, you can even choose to play through the game's Story Mode as the cute and lovable Curly, although she controls basically the same way as the main character.

You can't help but love the smooth and responsive controls the game offers up and being able to toggle weapons so quickly and easily is also a big plus. The game also features a very gradual and smooth difficulty curve, although it can be a bit deceiving early on, as the game ramps up in difficulty quite well in later levels and should test even the most seasoned action-platformer fans. Toss in some RPG-style exploration elements and you've got an extremely well-rounded and fairly lengthy gaming experience that should keep you busy for some time.

Cave Story might not have the visual flash of some WiiWare titles we've seen, but don't let that fool you. The quirky visuals give the game a very distinctive look and feel and there's certainly no shortage of variety between the various areas of the game. While many of the characters and enemies are fairly small in stature, they still manage to feature a nice level of graphical detail. Even the bosses are very well drawn and show a unique artistic styling in their designs. The game even features a nice nostalgic twist for fans of the original PC release that will allow them to toggle between the updated graphics and the classic, more pixelated visuals of old. It might seem like a small touch, but it's nice to have for those who can appreciate it.

As good as other facets of the game are, the musical score in this updated release is top notch. It's quite impressive how the composers were able to update the sound quality and variety yet still retain many of the classic 8-bit qualities at the same time. The same can be said of the sound effects as they just seems to blend in perfectly with the other areas of the game's audio presentation. And just like the visuals, players also have the option of having the game's classic soundtrack played if they prefer it, although as good as the updated soundtrack is, it would seem like a bit of a waste to miss out on it.

Conclusion

It's almost impossible to convey the sheer amount of charm and personality found throughout Cave Story. The game's eccentric world draws you in from the moment you begin playing and the ever-increasing intensity and action only further maintain the game's enjoyable gameplay scheme. When you combine all of this with an engaging storyline and plenty of bonus gaming modes to tackle after you've completed the game's main quest, what you have is one of the most playable and addictive titles to hit WiiWare to date. Cave Story is exactly the type of game we need to see more of on WiiWare and a game that absolutely no platformer fan should miss out on.

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