Review: Cave Story 3D (3DS)

Third dimension is the charm

When Cave Story was first released for the PC in 2004, players quickly fell in love with its simple visual design and action-packed gameplay. And while the game has generally retained that look and feel for its subsequent multiplatform releases in recent years, Nicalis decided to put the 3D capabilities of Nintendo's new handheld to good use and gave the title a complete visual makeover from top to bottom. And unlike some remakes that end up losing much of their original charm during the transition, Cave Story 3D just got better.

From a gameplay standpoint, not much has changed in the transition to the 3DS. You'll still spend the majority of your time traversing its many areas, shooting your way through the constant barrage of enemies and avoiding the ever-increasing number of hazards that carefully placed throughout the world. As you progress, you'll pick up more powerful weapons and gain abilities that allow you to face the tougher areas and bosses. It's this exploration and upgrading that give the experience its engaging feel, and the combination will keep you coming back for more.

There are three basic modes of play in Cave Story 3D. Story is the main one and features the complete revamp of 3D visuals, including all of the backgrounds, characters, items and enemies. This mode plays out exactly like the previous WiiWare and DSiWare releases in terms of content, albeit with beautiful new visuals overlaid on top of it all. Classic Mode still features the same 3D backdrops, but this switches out all of the characters, items and enemies with their old-school 2D pixelated counterparts. While it makes a nice touch for long-time fans, the affected objects look a bit odd when presented inside the lush 3D surroundings. And for those who are able to beat a rather tricky area of the game, a unique Time Attack mode of that area will unlock for players to go back and attempt speed runs. It would have been nice to have had some new content ala Cave Story+, but it's a small gripe considering how great the original game still is.

While the feel of the controls is a bit different at times, given that you're navigating 3D platforms this time around, the overall scheme still works just like it always has. There's still plenty of intense platforming and shooting, but you won't truly appreciate the manic gameplay until you get a ways in and locate some of the more enjoyable weapon and skill upgrades. Once you do, you'll find that manoeuvring works every bit as well as it always has and, when combined with the beautiful new scenery, it makes for one intense experience.

There are really no words to describe just how gorgeous the 3D visuals look in Cave Story 3D. Not only is there an astounding degree of detail throughout the various areas, but the dark backdrops and carefully-placed lighting effects do an amazing job of revitalising the underground universe. And when you toss in the depth that the 3D brings to the table, you'll experience the world around you in a way that just isn't possible on any other platform. There's honestly not one single section that doesn't spring to life onscreen and show a side of the game that fans have never experienced before.

Not to be outdone by the visual makeover, the soundtrack has also received a rather substantial upgrade, with every track given an extensive remix courtesy of Super Meat Boy music man Danny Baranowsky and Dustin Kulwicki. And while there's no denying that some diehard fans are likely to wince at the thought of anyone toying with the amazing original score, it's difficult to deny the infectious charm these new variations all feature. As much as the updated visuals add to the overall presentation, the modern soundtrack is equally up to the task.


Cave Story has always been an extremely charming and engaging experience, but never before has the game come alive with the type of depth and realism that the 3D visuals and lighting effects provide. When you couple all of this together with the classic high-quality platforming and shooting action of the original, not to mention an amazing remixed soundtrack, you end up with what has to be one of the most impressive video game remakes we've seen in recent years and a title you absolutely should not miss.

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