November 8, 2011
What is this Cave Story 3D, you might ask? Why, it's a remake of a classic action platformer. Now before you say, "balls, not another remake again," unlike the N64 re-releases of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Starfox 64, Cave Story 3D has been fully and properly remade into 3D. The original title was a humble little PC game released in 2004. It gradually garnered popularity with its charming 2D visuals (a homage to classics like Metroid and Castlevania), tight action-platforming gameplay and a compelling story.
Players step into the shoes of an unnamed character who, unfortunately, has lost all memories of his past. Long story short, a war had broken out on the floating land mass in which the game is set; there are some adorable little rabbit-like creatures called Mimigas that inhabit its cavernous interior; and a villainous scientist is bent on taking over the place. The adventure kicks off with players tumbling down into the underground caves.
The story is simple and kept quite linear. Certainly nothing ground-breaking when it comes to narrative. However, despite this, the pacing keeps players engaged and wanting to know more. There's something about keeping the malevolent Doctor's dirty mitts off of the peaceful Mimiga. While cinematic is as polar a description as any for Cave Story's in-game events, it's worth pointing out its ability to create powerful moments just based on character dialogue. Perhaps it's because of its simplicity that this is so, but if you're a softie, you just might find yourself quite attached to the characters that you meet throughout the story. The game also features multiple endings based on player choice, adding more than enough replay value.
For the nostalgic fans out there, this is quite literally Cave Story in 3D. The original was a game universally acclaimed for its tight action platforming mechanics and it's no different here. On the other hand, aside from a few tweaks, it's difficult to say if there has been any improvements. At the very least, it's not worse. For first-timers, this is an action platforming adventure you won't find anywhere else. While Cave Story pays tribute to titles like Metroid and Castlevania, its unique physics-based platforming and action mechanics make it more akin to bullet-mania titles. Players will find themselves trying to maintain momentum throughout a level, dodging and weaving through enemies that will crush, stomp, or blast you into oblivion. That's not even mentioning the rather challenging boss fights that lay ahead.
There are three modes to explore. Story mode is quite self-explanatory, players can experience the game's narrative and story here. Classic mode changes it up a bit, swapping all 3D character models out with the classic 3D sprites. It looks odd and quite funny when all is said and done. The final mode is a Time Attack mode for those that enjoy executing speed runs through each of the challenging levels.
Controls are simple enough for players of any level to understand. Movement is mapped to the circle pad and D-pad, so players have the choice of navigating through hostile environments via digital or analog. Players can jump with either the B or X buttons while shooting is mapped to the remaining Y and A buttons on the 3DS. Meanwhile, weapons can be changed using the L and R triggers. As mentioned earlier, momentum and timing are important factors of the platforming mechanics. Quote will slide to a stop if he's running at top speed, but at the same time cover wider jumps with a running start. Environmental elements like wind tunnels and spikes will serve to either aid you with a boost or damage your HP. It takes a while to get used to and can stir up a bit of frustration at times, but when you do, it's quite redeeming.
Quote starts off with only just a smidgen of health points. The game offers a plethora of ways of increasing that, from completing key objectives in the story or exploring and discovering health capsules. Nicalis were nice enough to toss in more capsules with this 3D incarnation, increasing the maximum amount of health points to a whopping 100. There are a variety of weapons to use, each quite unique from each other and almost exotic. There's the standard Polar Star and machine gun, then there are weapons like the fireball and throwing swords. Each weapon can be upgraded three times by collecting golden triangular objects dropped by fallen enemies.
All things considered, the game has some of the tightest action platforming mechanics seen in a while. It's easy to get addicted to clearing stages as fast as possible, all while weaving through enemy forces. Earlier stages feature monsters that will only hurt on contact, but the further you progress, the more you'll find enemies with long-range capabilities. Toss in a boss fight on top of that and this is one challenging game. Not to mention that there are no auto-saves or checkpoints with exception to save points and health refills strategically placed throughout a level. Death means game-over and picking up from the last save point, a mechanic that means this is no easy task (forgetting to save is something you don't want to do). That's not to say it's frustratingly difficult, while it can get very challenging, it remains a very fulfilling process. Defeating a boss and clearing a stage yields a feeling of immense satisfaction.
Now for the meat of this remake, developer Nicalis have fully remade the Cave Story experience into a 3D adventure. Granted it still plays out mechanically on a two dimensional plane. It's a subtle effect and one that should be commended considering how most 2D-turned-3D ventures don't necessarily translate into success. In fact, despite the conversion to 3D, the game maintains the tight and responsive gameplay that it's known for. Each level has been revamped with a good amount of detail and polish without making it hard to see. The 3D looks great and doesn't get mind-numbing after an extended period of play when played at home or somewhere stationary. However, keeping in mind that this is likely to be played when on-the-go, the 3D effect does cause some motion sickness when coupled with the stop-and-go movement of a bus or train. As for the soundtrack, players will likely find themselves enjoying the addicting tunes that complements the sobering story and fast-paced gameplay.
Cave Story 3D is certainly a very charming adventure. The tight gameplay mechanics, new 3D visuals and soundtrack work well to immerse players into a world and its narrative. There is something to be said when you find yourself unable to stay away from the intense, fast-paced platforming and shooting. This is definitely a must-have for any 3DS owner. Now to find that one Prinny hat.