Review: Cave Story (DSiWare)

Cave Story on the go

With the release of Cave Story on WiiWare earlier this year, Nicalis gave Wii owners a chance to experience a game that's become one of the most popular indie PC titles of all time. Now it's decided to give gamers a chance to own a portable version of the game that they can take with them on go. And while the game hasn't changed much in the transition, it does seems to fit the small screen of the DS like a glove.

At its heart, Cave Story is very much an action-platformer. You'll spend the majority of your time running, jumping and blasting, but there's 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 L or R shoulder buttons. 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.

The Story mode of the game is the meat of the package and will be where you'll likely spend the majority of your time. It's basically the same game as found on WiiWare, so its main draw will obviously be its portability. There's also a special mode that's unlockable for those who are willing to put in the time to get it, not to mention a Jukebox mode that allows you to listen to music tracks that have been unlocked in the Story mode.

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. It would have been nice to be able to keep the map displayed during the actual gameplay rather than pausing the game to access it, but it's a minor gripe really. 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 three difficulty levels and you've got an extremely well-rounded and fairly lengthy gaming experience that should keep you busy for some time.

Cave Story has never been about flashy visuals, but the game looks great on the small screen of the Nintendo DSi. The developers have done a great job of capturing the charming look and feel of the game onscreen and even as nice as the WiiWare game looked, the vibrancy and clarity of this DSiWare version seem to eclipse it in some ways. The same can be said of the audio presentation as well, as all of the musical tracks sound amazing on the DS. There are a few sound effects that were cut out, but it's difficult to complain too much considering how much audio the developers were able to pack into this portable release.


Cave Story is full of charm and personality, and its eccentric world draws you in from the moment you begin playing, with its ever-increasing intensity and action helped by the game's enjoyable gameplay scheme. When you combine all of this with the game's portability and unlockable extras, what you have is one of the most playable and addictive titles to hit DSiWare to date. As good as Cave Story was on Wii, it might even be a little better on the DSi.

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