This next entry, for many gamers, needs no introduction. In the world of independent freeware titles it is one that has achieved superstar status and, along with it, a legion of adoring fans. Once you’ve spent a little time with this game it’s not hard to see why. I should start by saying that native gamepad support was one of the few reasons I gave it a try in the first place. Not being a huge fan of action platformers this falls off even more when a game forces you to use a keyboard. It’s just not the way platformers were meant to be played. Thankfully, gamepad support is here and I highly recommend playing with one.
Daisuke Amaya (“Pixel”) has struck a near perfect blend of action, adventure and good old-fashioned platforming gameplay with his 2004 release Cave Story. It all takes place in a world populated with strange creatures and interesting characters, including myriad little rabbit critters known as Mimigas. You’ll do plenty of exploring with the main character, who uses primarily three weapons – each one upgradeable. There’s a decent enough degree of challenge here to say this game won’t be for everyone. Being able to execute proper jumps is an important example of this. But the action is only one piece of this game. There is also a very strong Adventure element to it as well. You’ll talk to various characters, collect items and solve puzzles…all the while uncovering the secrets of the mysterious cavernous island. Stylistically, Cave Story does show its Japanese roots with ultra cute characters. In fact, the entire game is in Japanese. Fortunately, a kind team of translators over at Aeon Genesis has created an English Language patch so that we English speakers could join in the fun. Thanks guys. You’ll want to install the game first, then apply the patch over top of it.
I’m still working my way through the game, playing bits of it here and there as time permits. It’s an enjoyable experience with outstanding retro graphics that resemble so many beloved NES titles. And the music is simply delightful. Cave Story has been compared to classics such as Castlevania & Metroid and rightly so. I might also add a comparison to Zelda II, only with much tighter gameplay and a more fully realized world. Probably the greatest testament to the success of Cave Story is its recent debut on the Nintendo Wii as a WiiWare title – featuring improved graphics, sound and some bonus content. Rest assured the freeware version is a complete game with plenty to offer.
Cave Story isn’t going to be for everyone. But those who can appreciate a solid platformer, one with a distinctively Japanese art style, will certainly want to give this one a try.
Designer: Daisuke Amaya (Pixel)
Format: Compression Pack
File Size: 1 MB
Control Scheme: Keyboard, Gamepad
Portable: I’m not sure
Version Played: 126.96.36.199
As best as I can tell the Official Homepage is only in Japanese or out of service. This link will take you to a dedicated fan site where the latest freeware version of the game is hosted.