Legendary indie game comes to Nintendo Switch
Just a few months after launch, Nintendo Switch is already proving itself to be an excellent destination for indie titles. Leading the way is Nicalis, which gave us the definitive version of The Binding of Isaac not too long ago. They’re back with another indie darling on Switch—Cave Story+—perhaps the most renowned one of all time.
Cave Story is, without exaggeration, in a league of its own when it comes to game design and storytelling. So much has been said before about the merits of this game, and it’s all true. The fact that it was entirely created by one guy (Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya) in his spare time is just astonishing.
So what does Cave Story+ add to justify its “+” designation? Well, for starters, it brings over the enhanced graphics from the highly praised Wiiware version. As well, along with the original soundtrack there’s all-new remixed music that modernizes the sound while retaining its 8-bit charm. The game’s script has also been improved, and there’s a brand new (and very challenging) Wind Fortress level to complete.
New modes have been added in Cave Story+, too, including Challenge mode (time trials, essentially) and Curly Brace mode. The latter lets you play through a slightly modified version of the campaign using the titular female robot heroine. Curly Brace controls similarly to the game’s main hero, which is somewhat disappointing, but she gives you reason to replay. And with the game’s multiple endings, you’ll almost certainly want to play through it several times.
It’s also worth considering the Switch factor. Having a fully portable version of Cave Story+ you can play in Tablet or Handheld mode is quite appealing. This is the perfect game to take on long car trips or flights, and with frequent save points it’s also well-suited for morning commutes.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
A robot with heart
Story is something Cave Story+ excels at and worth experiencing on your own, so I’ll try to avoid major spoilers. At a high level, it revolves around an amnesic robot who wakes up on a floating island in grave danger. A corrupted Doctor, who plans to use the island’s evil power source to conquer all of humanity, is to blame. Our robot hero, along with the sentient rabbit-like Mimiga creatures native to the island, conspire to stop the Doctor.
All this story is told through rather heart-warming (and sometimes, heart-wrenching) dialogue between the various characters. It’s not long before you’ll genuinely care what happens to the island’s inhabitants, a testament to the game’s outstanding writing. Thanks to this version’s enhanced visuals and all-new character portraits, the conversations have even greater emotional impact and gravitas, too.
Top-notch controls and level design
In terms of gameplay and level design, Cave Story+ is at the top of its genre. You begin the game in (naturally) a cave with no weapon, and no idea why you’re there. Through exploration you’ll soon uncover your first gun and from there the game expands rapidly. In true Metroidvania style, weapons are used not only to defeat enemies but also to open all-new paths.
Cave Story+ does a phenomenal job introducing you to new gameplay elements and gradually increasing the challenge over time. Enemies early-on—like bats and bouncing critters—have simple movement patterns and mostly keep to themselves. As you progress, enemies get larger, more aggressive, and are better aware of your presence. To counter this, your arsenal of weapons expands at a similar pace, letting you contend with far more dangerous threats. The delicate balance in which Cave Story+ doles out improved weapons to combat harder enemies is, in a word, extraordinary.
The levels themselves are also built with a smooth learning curve in mind. In one area that comes to mind, the first pit you encounter contains no hazards; it’s simply a hole. The next few contain instant-kill spikes, and the gap gets bigger between each one. That innocuous initial hole is thus intentional training-in-disguise, a technique often used in Nintendo’s Super Mario series. It’s not a one-off situation either, all throughout the game you’re given chances to practice new skills before putting them to the test.
Going back to the game’s weapons, I’d like to mention what a joy they are to use. If you played games like Contra or Mega Man the weapons here are just as interesting. Over time, and with a little exploration, you’ll discover a whole slew of weapons to add to your repertoire. These include your starter gun, a high-powered missile launcher, fireballs, and the Mimiga King’s trusty blade. There are also secret weapons, if you know where to find them, like the Bubbler, Snake, and Nemesis guns. Not only that, every weapon can be powered up three levels, which affects their damage, distance, and appearance.
Secrets and multiple ending
I’ve touched on this briefly during the review, but want to emphasize Cave Story+ is full of secrets and surprises. There are three different endings, a bad, normal, and good one, with a few variations depending of certain factors. You can also find plenty of hidden items (and aforementioned weapons) if you know where to look.
Many of these items offer valuable perks, such as health-extending Heart Tanks or high-powered Boosters that let you fly farther. While finding hidden items is a little tricky, most can be found through careful exploration. Getting rewarded for your curiosity happens often in Cave Story+, which is yet another reason to love this game.
Retail launch edition
If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on the first-run retail edition, more surprises are in-store for you. It contains a full-colour 32-page instruction manual, including original art designs and concept art. You’ll also get a Cave Story+ Famitracks Mini Audio CD containing arrangements of the game’s soundtrack. Considering how fantastic the chiptunes soundtrack is, it’s quite a nice inclusion. It’s also worth mentioning this is the first time Cave Story+ has been released in physical format ever. That’s sure to pique the interest of collectors, and long-time fans of this legendary game.
Cave Story+ should be considered a must-play titles for all serious gamers—it really is that good. It’s a celebrated piece of gaming history that has influenced countless games in the decade-plus since its original launch. The praise and recognition is rightfully deserved: Cave Story+ is simply a phenomenal game. From its captivating story, to its impeccable gameplay, to its charming 8-bit aesthetic, this is gaming at its finest. Throw in a whole bunch of nifty extra modes and enhancements, and this version has definitely earned its “+” moniker.
+ Heartwarming story
+ Beautiful 8-bit graphics
+ Inspired chiptunes soundtrack
+ Impeccable gameplay
+ Lots of secrets to discover
+ Nice graphic/sound enhancements in the + version
+ New modes even more add replay value
– Can’t switch to retro graphics like in the Wiiware version
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 5/5
Overall Rating: 4.75/5 (95%)