Games of the Past REVIEW: The Many Versions of Cave Story

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

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Title: Cave Story
Publisher: Nicalis
Developer: Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya
Release Date: December 20th, 2004
Genre: Platformer / “Run & Gun”
Rating: ESRB E10+

It’s still extremely hard to believe that Cave Story was the work of one man. The imagination of Daisuke Amaya seems almost without peer, as the game stands in a league of its own in an over-saturated genre. I thought of reviewing Cave Story as a stand-alone game for our “Games of the Past” series, but I feel as though a majority of our audience (folks with a passion for Japanese / niche games) is likely very familiar with the game. Has everyone played it? Is there anyone among us who has mastered “Hell”?

Fortunately, Cave Story has gone from a lesser-known freeware game to something that’s available on almost any platform you can think of. PC, then WiiWare, then DSiWare, then iOS and Steam, and more recently as a full retail game on the Nintendo 3DS. Despite the existence of Cave Story 3D, the game’s re-release on the 3DS eShop is imminent.

Truth be told, I’ve poured over $60 into the multiple versions of Cave Story, and I will likely buy the game…again when it’s released next week. What can I say? I love Pixel, and I’m a sucker for bunny-like creatures with swords. This is my declaration: no matter what platform you decide to purchase Cave Story on, you’re guaranteed a wonderful experience.

But which version of Cave Story is best? Allow me:

Cave Story: The Original Version

Is the free version automatically the best version? It’s certainly the full experience; the freeware game is not scaled down or cut back in any way. Playing Cave Story with a controller on the big screen or on the go is much preferred, even if it does come at a cost.

Plus, that cost helps support the game’s developer and publisher. Clearly the man (or many in the case of other versions of the game) behind Cave Story is still looking for more exposure if he’s willing to help Nicalis release another updated version of the game on the Nintendo eShop.


I would say this version is best for people who aren’t familiar with the game and its wonderful world. It’s easy to get stuck in Cave Story if you’re not the world’s greatest platform-jumper, or if the difficult games of the past go a bit over your head. The best part about a freeware game is the lack of buyer’s remorse if anything turns you away from the overall experience

Cave Story on WiiWare

I’ll be honest: Cave Story slipped right under my radar until the wonderful folks at GoNintendo discussed the game at length when it was announced for release on WiiWare. This is the first version of the game I experienced, and I only played through the free version of the game because I wanted to see what the game was like going back to its roots. Indeed, the experience brought forth on my HD TV screen with Wii Remote or Classic Controller in hand is far superior than how the PC version felt to me.

The game has a handful of added features, the most notable of which is “Curly Story”, which has you play through Cave Story as Curly Brace, a character you meet during your journey. Curly doesn’t add anything drastic to the conventional formulas of the game, but the altered script and a character portrait of Cave Story’s protagonist (who switches places with Curly in her story) are certainly nice touches.


The game suffers a deficit in terms of audio, however. Many (myself included) consider the altered soundtrack of the Wii version of lesser quality than the game that came before it. The graphics and sound effects remain unchanged from one platform to the next, but I’m not sure why Pixel decided to “remix” the soundtrack when the original tunes are incredible all on their own.

You can hear my favorite track from Cave Story below; I’ve included the WiiWare version of this song for comparison.


As no other version of Cave Story exists on consoles, I imagine this will be the definitive version for many. The music may be worse, but everything about this game is better experienced on the big-screen, controller in hand. And for those of you as dissatisfied with the remixed soundtrack as I was, you do have the option to choose between the remixed soundtrack and the original one! It is currently available on WiiWare for 1200 Nintendo Points.

On the next page, things get a little dicey.

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  • you forgot the 3DS version which is probably the best one

    • Continue reading; this review has multiple pages. I covered every single version including Cave Story 3D.

    • NotshaneTM

      He might be referring to the Cave Story digital version, which is the original in 3D not the retail 3D remake.

  • I have the WiiWare version of the game, but I never did spend much time with it.  I should rectify that.

  • opThunderstorm

    The Cave Story 3D soundtrack is available on the Steam version?  I beg to differ.  Cave Story+ has a remastered soundtrack, to be sure, but Cave Story 3D has the soundtrack as arranged by DannyB, and it’s thoroughly different.  If DannyB’s version of the soundtrack is available on Steam, I’d love to know why my copy of Cave Story+ hasn’t updated and how I can fix that; if not, the review needs to be corrected.

    • Cave Story+ features three soundtracks. Original (the one from the 2004 PC version of the game), New (the one you’re probably thinking of), and Remastered (the one identical to the Cave Story 3D soundtrack). 

      I wish I could offer more tangible proof, but… here’s a Youtube link, at least?

    • opThunderstorm

       I already knew that, actually.  The soundtrack is very, very clearly different.  Yes, all three of them.  Even from the sample on the Cave Story 3D website, the difference is incredibly obvious.

    • I’ve posted the “Moonsong” from Cave Story+ in my reply to you, and the “Moonsong” from Cave Story 3D is, as you know, in my review.

      Besides the wave sounds present in the CS3D version… is there really an “incredibly obvious difference”? 

    • Here, this can help you, and proves my point beyond all doubt:

    • opThunderstorm

       Did a direct comparison last night; turns out the samples I was listening to prior were only promotional.  You were right.

  • You missed that the original soundtrack is available from the start in the wiiware version! you just need to change in options, this was a cruicial play or no play for me and i´m glad it was there! 

     -Xenoblade Chronicles, best game since “castlevania sotn”… just when you lose hope it happens!!

  • Ninty

    I’m confused as to why you had an issue with the WiiWare version’s remixed music. Wasn’t there an option to have the music be either the original or the remixed stuff, just like with the graphics? I remember seeing those options in the demo.

    • I suppose my words were a little ambiguous. You CAN pick between original and new, as these fine folks have suggested, but that still doesn’t change the fact that everything “new” about that music was…completely unnecessary. 

      I suppose I should change things to make it a little clearer. Thank you!

  • So many versions of Cave Story and I haven’t gotten around to playing a single one of them.

  • Played the original when the first patch was made for it to convert it to English. Loved it then.  Got Cave Story+ as part of a  Humble Bundle, and played quite a bit again.  Keep eyeing NISA’s version, but just can’t justify the cost, which stinks.  I’d pay $20 maybe, but hard when I already own a really good version, and not gaining much.  Price per value, Cave Story+ is the way to go.

  • I bought a PS2 style USB controller to plug into my MacBook just to play this game (and Super Meat Boy), because I couldn’t handle keyboard controls on a game like this. The game is one of my absolute favorites. In my opinion, there is only one thing wrong with freeware version, and that is the lack of a full screen option. Maybe there is a way to do it, but it’s not a built-in option, and I don’t know enough to figure out a workaround. The lack of full screen is the only reason I plan to purchase the WiiWare version.

    • I truly enjoyed playing this game on a giant screen with controller in-hand. As James Mueller has mentioned in this thread, Cave Story+ is really the ideal way to go in terms of cost-for-content, but… there’s just nothing like playing Cave Story on the big screen. @[email protected]

    • I can hookup my computer through my Mini-Display Port to on of the HDMI ins on my receiver.  With the MS 360 wireless adapter you can use the 360 controllers (which I hate by the way) to play.  So for me the benefit of the Wii version is moot.

  • SecretX

    so which version is better?

    • What version of Cave Story is best for you largely depends upon the way you game. I did my best to point out the strengths and weaknesses of each version so that you may draw your own conclusion(s). 

  • Tyler Wise

    Good, giving Cave Story anything other than a perfect score is an unforgivable sin. 

    I quite liked the 3DS version, the 3D and the backgrounds were fantastic.