Released: November 22 2011
Cave Story + is a heavily upgraded version of the original Cave Story. It's a sidescrolling action platformer where you play a mysterious boy with amnesia who encounters a rabbit people called the Mimiga. Living in the caves of a floating island, the Mimiga are being terrorized by the Doctor and his minions, who intend to exploit the Mimiga's secret to wage war on the surface.
Cave Story + doesn't have enough reviews on Metacritic to be assigned a metascore, but the Wii version sits at a healthy 89%. Reviews are highly positive, saying that Cave Story feels like a game from the early 90's that only just released, and the level of polish and quality are excellent. Many reviewers were surprised at the emotional engagement of the story, making you actually care about the characters. The only criticism was that some reviewers felt the game was a little short.
Cave Story + is the latest of several versions of the game. It includes all the features of the WiiWare version -- updated graphics and music, boss rush mode, time attack mode, and the ability to play as another character, Curly Brace -- as well as a new level, Wind Fortress, unlocked after clearing the main story. The PC version also includes the ability to play the game using its original graphics and music.
The first thing that struck me when loading up the game is the music. It's fantastic. I'm a fan of well-composed chiptunes, so Cave Story +'s music really appeals to me. Some people prefer the original music as opposed to the updated tracks. I haven't checked out the originals, but without having done so, I'm enjoying the updated version. Catchy tunes abound.
Looking at the original, the updated graphics aren't that different from the originals on the surface -- 8-bit vs. 16-bit, essentially -- but they add some extra character and emotion to many parts of the game. The character portraits during dialogue are surprisingly cute and expressive.
The game has an interesting experience system where your weapons gain experience. Enemies often drop experience on death, and when you collect it, it goes to your active weapon (I've seen some people say it's hard to level up certain weapons, but they didn't seem to notice that you can just kill an enemy with a strong weapon and swap to another to collect the dropped experience points). But when you get hit, your active weapon loses a bit of experience. Very dangerous battles might require you to frequently swap between weapons in order to maintain your damage output over the course of the battle. There's also a health and missile upgrade system, where you can find upgrades hidden in chests in the environment. The gameplay style reminds me strongly of classic Metroid, which is a good thing.
The weapons are a lot of fun. There's a surprisingly large selection. Not only is every weapon completely distinct, but there are often very major differences between different levels of the same gun. For example, the bubble gun goes from weak single shot, to rapid fire, to a delayed projectile weapon with control over the direction and number of projectiles. The blade goes from a powerful single-shot sword throw to a massive chaining area of effect.
The story and characters are surprisingly engaging. For me, one of the game's greatest strengths is repeated use of the same boss character. It manages to mix up the fights, which means you don't get bored fighting the same way over and over. And since the character is actually not a terrible guy, you build up a sense of rivalry and anticipation.
Cave Story + is $10 on Steam. I had fun with it. It'll run on almost anything, which is nice. It's definitely worth playing for the surprisingly effective story and characters and the great presentation.