It's kind of funny, in only a matter of a couple years Cave Story went from this beloved, free-ware PC game into a readily available digital and retail release on multiple Nintendo platforms. Its latest release, the 3DS eShop version, officially brings the touching story to the handheld for the second time, following the NIS America retail release of Cave Story 3D, and manages to recreate this near-perfect experience, again.
The story behind Cave Story dates back five years prior to the original 2004 release on PC when Daisuke Amaya, more commonly known as Pixel, began to develop, design and program the game in his free time. The finished result was a surprisingly deep, mysterious game, with extensive exploration, and even some light RPG elements. In short, it was an impressive game, even though the graphics were simplistic (the retro look was novel at the time), and the gameplay boiled down to a platformer with guns. The crisp controls, interesting characters, and compelling story set the game apart, and, for a free game, this kind of thing was unheard of. Pixel self-published the original release and word of the game spread throughout the internet, developing it a large and devoted fanbase. The game was ported as freeware to a ton of formats, everything from Linux to TI-82/84, but it wasn’t until 2010 that the game actually saw a commercial release on WiiWare. Additional commercial releases followed as DSiWare, a retail 3DS game, and now, finally as an eShop title.
The game follows the story of a robot named Quote who awakens to find himself in a place he doesn't recognize, and without a general purpose. After a bit of exploration it turns out that Quote is in the middle of a very bad situation. An evil doctor has been kidnapping an entire race of anthropomorphic rabbits called Mimigas and is enslaving them. Quote decides to help, and is thrown into an amazing adventure where he must explore the island that he found himself on, and unravel just what is happening there. Saying anything more would spoil an exceptional story... that you probably should have already played before – the game has been out for eight years.
There were a lot of games released in 2004, and while some of them still hold up (just as a quick reminder, some of the biggest games released that year were Halo 2, Half-Life 2, Metal Gear Solid 3, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas), the gaming landscape has changed drastically since then, but Cave Story has not. The eShop edition of this game, in particular, is still pretty much the same game that was released eight years ago. While various releases have come with different content, the eShop version features the original retro characters and music, alongside the additional levels and modes that were featured in Cave Story+. There are also a couple of platform specific updates like widescreen support and 3D backgrounds which help justify re-releasing the game on another platform. All together this version of the game is the most complete handheld version of the game, far surpassing the DSiWare release, which has been removed from the eShop anyways.
Going into whether or not Cave Story is a game worth playing is a discussion that ended a long time ago, when both critics and gamers alike agreed that it's an amazing game. When you add in the fact that one man created it in his free time, it becomes an even more impressive accomplishment. If you own a 3DS, and haven't played Cave Story before (and even if you have), do yourself a favor and download this game right away. You'll thank me. From beginning to end it's an enjoyable, intriguing, and challenging adventure, worthy of any gamer's time.