Released in December of 2004, Cave Story landed on the PC and was one of the games to kickstart the modern indie game scene. Daisuke Amaya (known by his creative name Pixel) created the title over five years in his spare time, and it stood out in the market upon its release. It’s had numerous re-releases since then and launched on the Nintendo Switch in 2017, so we clamped on down recently and jumped on in to enjoy the experience.
It’s a fairly standard looking 2D platformer with all the common mechanics you’d expect, but what becomes quickly obvious is the extent of the surreal Japanese quirkiness involved. It’s mental, but that’s a good thing. In fact, the game has become particularly renowned for its effective use of quirky storytelling, as well as being a captivating game… let us review it then, yes?
Indie games had been around long before the 2000s, but from circa 2004 (thanks to technological advancements and the internet) it became possible for a lot more people, and small development teams, to get involved. They’re still most evident on the PC (principally Steam) and many hark back to SNES/NES era gaming, with the Metroidvania genre being particularly influential.
Anyway, Cave Story concerns an unnamed character (who’s a soldier from “the surface” of the world) awakes with no memory having apparently fallen into a netherworld. He stumbles across a small village called Mimiga where a bunch of bunny rabbit creatures live, but they’re being persecuted by an individual known as the Doctor. As the player, it’s your task to restore order.
One of the bizarre things with the Cave Story+ Switch release remains the idiotic price tag. Yes, there’s been a minor graphical upgrade and some new features, but for an indie game that’s 13 years old Nintendo went for a £27 price tag. What? Anyway, it hit the sales recently and we picked it up at a massively reduced price, helped along by an extra £3 off we had through out “Nintendo points” (NERDS!).
The explanation for the higher tag is the fact it’s revamped, it’s a recognised classic, and we should feel privileged to play the thing on the excellent Switch. There’s certainly a sense of delight whenever you get to play a game in handheld mode (the Nintendo Switch functions as a console you can play on your TV, or take it with you as a handheld), and it works particularly well with indie games like this as it makes for a more engrossing experience.
Our feelings, in summary – good game. Great in places, too. It’s reminiscent of so many warped Japanese titles from the SNES era, but there are noticeable problems. The control system is quite loose and makes for pixel perfect jumping requirements. We also found the soundtrack to be, whilst great in places, thoroughly flawed and outright bad in others.
It is, however, an engaging Metroidvania experience overall that thoroughly draws you in as you advance through it. There are frustrations along the way and we believe there are now much better indie games available to you as this side of the industry has advanced a remarkable amount since 2004, but as a landmark title and a bold step in a new direction for the video game industry this one still hits the mark.