Also available on PlayStation Portable, Wii, DSi, 3DS, Linux, OSX, and Windows
Cave Story is one of the most well known and prolific indie game success stories. Of course, it's not an indie game anymore - major publishers picked it up for console ports and remasters - but it started life as one dude's project to make a bitchin' freeware game in his spare time. The Switch port, obviously, has had numerous features added, a redone soundtrack, and completely remastered visuals over the freeware PC original, but the heart of what makes the game special is way it tells a fairly unique story with likeable characters and a gameplay style that very much pays homage to the 2D Metroid games.
The back of the Switch box describes Cave Story+ as a "super-challenging shooter platformer," and that's an extremely accurate statement. I played on the lowest difficulty (because I'm a punk ass bitch), and I still found the game to be extremely challenging. You play as a little robot boy who finds himself in a cave full of monsters. You eventually make your way to a village of furries...or something...and some doctor is kidnapping them for some (presumably) nefarious ends. Most of the furries are jerks, but there are a couple who are pretty cool, so you decide to help them. Then the doctor does some more screwed up stuff, so you decide to caress his fleshy, human face with your cold, robot fist. There are a few endings depending on what you do in certain parts of the game, so you could save everyone just in the nick of time and be a big damn hero. You could also choose to let everyone die. They're not the most gratifying different endings, but it does at least add some replay value.
Visually, the game uses the "retro" aesthetic of which I'm extraordinarily sick, but it is done very well here, so I have to give credit where credit is due, and in fairness to the game, it first came out back in 2004, so it was before the torrent of dime-a-dozen "retro" indie games. The soundtrack is what really stands out, though. Obviously both have been dramatically enhanced over the preceding 13 years, but the end result is a good looking game in spite of my prejudice against pixel art and a truly stellar soundtrack. The level design is clever and challenging with secrets to find and death traps to avoid. The only problem I have with the design of the game is the use of set save points. I understand that specific, pre-set save locations are part of the challenge, but it's more an inconvenience to me than anything else, although the portable nature of the Switch does mitigate that somewhat.
Cave Story+ is a hard game for me to score, and I really am almost evenly torn between giving it a 3 or a 4 on my 5 point scale. I, personally, thought it was good but not amazing due to a number of stylistic choices - set save points, pixel art aesthetic, the use of a boss rush, for example - but those are subjective complaints, and it's not really fair to hold that against a game when trying to score it. The visuals are very well done despite being in a style for which I don't care, and the soundtrack more than makes up for that style choice. Save points irritate me, but I know their intended purpose, and while I think boss rushes are bullshit and not fun, there's nothing objective flawed about them, especially if you like the challenge. The game isn't particularly memorable or outstanding to me, but it's easy for me to see why it's so popular and why so many people hold it in such high regard. In terms of design and refinement, it really is an impressive game, and given how accessible it is these days, it's definitely a game I'd recommend everyone play at least once.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.