REVIEW: Cave Story+

Monday, June 26th, 2017

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Cave Story Plus | Doctor
Title Cave Story+
Developer Nicalis
Publisher Nicalis
Release Date June 20th, 2017
Genre Platformer, Action, Adventure
Platform Nintendo Switch
Age Rating E for Everyone – Fantasy Violence, Mild Language
Official Website

Unlike the vast majority of the gaming world, I got into Cave Story somewhat late. While many played it when it first came out more than a decade ago, my first experience with it was when it got ported to the 3DS. Yes, Cave Story 3D introduced me to this beloved world, and while I enjoyed that experience, it didn’t hook me like I had hoped. Regardless, when I saw Nicalis was bringing Cave Story to the Switch with Cave Story+, I wanted to give it another shot. After all, it couldn’t have such a rabid fan base and name recognition for no good reason. The question then is was Cave Story+ a worthwhile adventure, or should it have stayed in the consoles of the past?

Cave Story Plus | Starting Out

Every adventure has to start somewhere. Quote’s starts when he finds this lovely weapon!

Functionally, this is the same Cave Story experience you are all so familiar with. You start at the same point, use the same weapons and face the same villains. Very little here reinvents the wheel, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For one thing, why drastically alter something that already works? For another, graphically and aesthetically this is still a very sound game. Pixel managed to build a game that doesn’t hold your hand yet which manages to deftly increase the difficulty so it logically progresses without overwhelming the player. That’s as impressive now as it was when the original version of the game released.

Cave Story Plus | Weapons

When all else fails, blast the living hell out of enemies with missiles.

One thing this version has in its favor is that the Switch played in portable mode controls the game wonderfully. Tapping the A button makes Quote leap up and pressing B blasts whatever weapon you have equipped. Best of all, the L and R shoulder buttons let you toggle through your equipped weapons with ease, making the fast and frenetic battles even more exhilarating. Best of all, the sub menu screen can be brought up with the X button, showing what weapons you have, their current level and all the key items you’ve collected. No more wondering if you have Jellyfish Juice on you like a schmuck, no sir! Everything about Cave Story+ feels very tight, well organized and expertly implemented.

Cave Story Plus | Balfrog

Still one of my favorite boss fights. Balfrog is equal parts deadly and ridiculous.

Aesthetically, the game is beautiful. Granted, it still looks like a 16 bit game, but that’s hardly a mark against it. Pixel art is hard work, and when done with true skill, it manages to captivate the imagination. That’s certainly the case here. Though I don’t know if this was a new touch, I appreciated how much emotion the character portraits managed to convey in dialogue. You can tell when Curly is depressed, the Doctor is triumphant or Balrog is doggedly stupid. Perhaps even more important than the art, however, is the amazing soundtrack in Cave Story+. Using the Jukebox, I was able to compare it to past iterations of the game, and the sounds here especially appealed to me. The music conveys the emotion and tragedy in the story, and the boss music was pulse pounding. There was nothing about the sound design that didn’t work, which helped make this experience even more rich and robust.

Cave Story Plus | Jukebox

Massive jukeboxes are always nice when the music is this good.

The thing that most impresses me about Cave Story+ is how, all these years later, this game still manages to feel like an original. Sure, you can compare it to games that influenced it like Metroid, but Cave Story is still very much its own game with a very unique identity. Even though it’s a linear experience, the story manages to draw you in, making you care about this world and the people (and Mimiga) in it. And for those who want a challenge, the game still manages to offer that in spades. While I spent about 5-6 hours in my playthough and got both the bad and good ending, I have yet to beat the Blood Stained Sanctuary for the best ending.

Cave Story Plus | Silly Robot

Despite everything, Cave Story+ still has its own unique and humorous vibe.

As for what’s new, currently there isn’t much. There is a Challenge Mode that gives you preset weapon loadouts and has you take on huge maps full of dangerous enemies. At the time I write this I’ve only unlocked one of the Challenges, the Sand Pit full of dangerous Butes and Gaudi. I’m not entirely sure how I unlocked it nor how I can open up the other challenges, but that does provide more replay value to Cave Story+ than previous iterations. It’s also my understanding that new DLC will be provided free later on, to extend the experience further.

Cave Story Plus | Challenge Mode

Use only bouncing fireballs in this desert challenge…

All in all, for $29.99 Cave Story+ is still a great deal. It takes all the aspects that make it a classic and further refines them in small ways to offer fans a reason to be excited again. I also personally appreciate that it’s on the Nintendo Switch, especially since the physical version came with sexy preorder bonuses. My only minor complaints are that you can’t skip dialogue and that it’s unclear how to unlock more challenges. Regardless, if you’re a fan of Cave Story already or are just a fan of retro games, I can’t recommend Cave Story+ highly enough. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does remind fans why this game is still relevant today.

Cave Story Plus | Preorder Swag

If you didn’t preorder the game, you’re missing out on these lovely bonus items…

Review Score

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.