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Cave Story (Wii) artwork

Cave Story (Wii) review


"I knew after ages of searching through scores of dull family games, pointless platformer reboots, and obscure puzzle games that I would find a WiiWare game actually worth the price of admission. This game, ladies and gentlemen, is Cave Story. Never mind that this game is free on PC, the Wii version gives us a few new goodies, as well as updated graphics and sounds, the ability to use a controller instead of relying on a keyboard, and the same amazing gameplay that make it worth the $12 ..."



I knew after ages of searching through scores of dull family games, pointless platformer reboots, and obscure puzzle games that I would find a WiiWare game actually worth the price of admission. This game, ladies and gentlemen, is Cave Story. Never mind that this game is free on PC, the Wii version gives us a few new goodies, as well as updated graphics and sounds, the ability to use a controller instead of relying on a keyboard, and the same amazing gameplay that make it worth the $12 price tag.

True to its name, 99% of Cave Story takes place deep in a system of caves. These caves are home to the Mimigas, sentient rabbit-like creatures who are at war with a nameless megalomaniac referred to as the Doctor, who and his two cronies, a witch named Misery and what looks like a talking piece of luggage named Balrog, are working to breed a red plant that can turn the Mimigas into psychotic killing machines. The bleak environment and dark atmosphere provided by the cave system help set a bitter-sweet story, one not simply of the Hollywood variety in which love conquers all, the characters are all the better in the end, and everyone runs off into the sunset arm in arm. Characters die, and ones that you would rather have survive.

You don't play a Mimiga. Rather, you are an android formerly in service to the Doctor who begins to empathize with the opposition. Your memories have been wiped,but your fine motor skills remain. You still possess the abilities to gun down muthas like no utha.

It doesn't start off as a glorious violencefest. You have to get normed with the game's tight controls before you can do any killing. The first few rooms are just rudimentary dodging and platforming, but once you find that first that beaut' of a weapon, that shiny black Polar Star, that's when bodies start hitting the floor. As you gun down the cave's ecosystem, they drop golden triangles that level up your weapons a la Ratchet and Clank. Take damage, though, and so does your weapon, causing it to slowly downgrade. Progress and find new weapons like a machine gun, a rocket launcher, or even a sword, all of which can be leveled up twice. That sword goes from being a mediocre blade flying a short way across the screen to being a veritable Excalibur that slashes its way noisily across the screen, and when it makes contact with an enemy it'll continuously slash anything within a certain radius of said enemy. Each weapon acts in a different way, allowing you to carefully plan a strategy, and yet these weapons can be so powerful that stopping to strategize doesn't demean the action value.

Situations call for a variety of strategies, or even no strategy at all. Creep down a hallway long enough and you'll find enemies littering the floor, ceiling and walls. Go in guns blazing and you may not make it out, as many of these beasts will wake up and fall upon you, ripping you to shreds. Yet, strategy would over-complicate a situation like a cloud of bats or a devious murder of cave crows coming at you, a situation in which only ballistics and mayhem will save you. Lock and load that rocket launcher and watch that crowd dwindle and the power ups rain down.

Between fits and gasps to catch your breath you battle some of strangest and toughest bosses in ages. Crash through a reservoir and meet a giant sturgeon called Ironhead, a creature so hellbent on defending its territory that it will use its own body as a weapon. Battle your way through the ruins of a dragon incubation site to meet a deftly-flying pair of dragons called The Sisters as they circle you and expel wave after wave of super-heated balls of fire. Survive the perilous dunes of the Sand Zone and battle a robotic insectoid beast called Omega, a creature that will have you trying desperately to dodge the myriad bombs it belches or to run underneath it as it leaps from the deep sands and onto your frail, robotic frame.

You'll rip your own hair out, and you'll drop the f-bomb enough times to make your neighbors curious, but seldom are you expected to perform the ridiculous. Dodging all of Omega's bombs may feel like dodging snowflakes in a blizzard, but enough times fighting the beast reveals that the creature is beatable. Challenge is ever-present, from the meanest boss battle to the most impossible and treacherous jumps, and with great challenge comes frustration. But rarely can we use the word “cheap”, if at all.

It's not only the action that makes the game exhilarating, but the areas and platforming. Each area is a well-planned level loaded to the hilt with enemies, obstacles and secrets. You'll have to call upon your keen senses, patience and precision timing to survive, making tricky jumps across gorges full of spikes, dodging lightning quick beasts that seem to come from nowhere, and reaching plateaus of mind-bending heights. The worst, barring the hidden area “Sanctuary,” is the “Final Cave” in which you must carefully jump in tight quarters, dodging large groups of enemies, spikes and acid drops. Not only do you have to jump and dodge, but act and react. You can't sit still for too long unless you enjoy having your life slowly stripped away by malefic bats, but move too quickly and you're through; that's when you get sloppy, miss a jump, and impale yourself on a batch of life-ending spikes.

The levels branch, revealing secret nooks and crannies. Enter a boring room filled with furniture and decked out with a burning fireplace and you may not think much. Return with the right item and you can put that fire out, revealing a passageway to a life upgrade. Walk along a hallway and pay close attention. You might see a long, narrow corridor beneath the ground that looks like decoration, but blink and you'll miss its entrance, hidden by false blocks that appear to prevent ingress but are as thin as the air around you. Gain access and increase the max capacity of your rockets.

Platforming, exploring, and fighting... It's a great fusion of run 'n gun action, of Mario-style platforming, and of Metroid-style exploration, all donning retro graphics and sounds as a throwback to the eras those styles were birthed. If this sounds enticing, then Cave Story should be the one WiiWare game you download. It'll tests your wits and your reflexes, beg you to pay attention and remember details. You have replay value with unlockable modes and great challenge with mean bosses and a well-crafted platform environment. It's a title well worth the price of admission.

Rating: 9/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (January 20, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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