Review: Cave Story 3D for 3DS

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Cave Story 3D

Title: Cave Story 3D
Price: $39.99
System(s): 3DS
Release Date: November 8, 2011
Publisher (Developer): NIS America (Nicalis and Pixel)
ESRB Rating: “Everyone 10+” for Language, Mild Fantasy Violence and Mild Suggestive Themes
Pros: New 3D graphics and presentations, can use 2D character and enemy sprites, multiple difficulty levels, multiple endings, great background music, lots of weapons to collect and quite a few choices to make. Bottom screen shows the map (when you unlock it) and inventory. Beating the game unlocks a Time Attack mode.
Cons: Even the easiest difficulty level can be quite hard, especially since some areas don’t have enough save points. Sometimes jumps and boosts don’t feel as precise if you use the circle pad for controls instead of the D-pad. The DSiware version of Cave Story isn’t included.
Overall Score: Two thumbs up, 97/100, A, * * * * 1/2 out of 5

I am a huge Cave Story fan. I adored the freeware original on my computer and gladly purchased the Nicalis updated Wiiware port. Yet, when it came to Cave Story 3D, I was skeptical. I was such a fan of its classic, 2D presentation that I seriously wondered if Nicalis and NIS America could pull off a 3D 3DS port of this masterpiece.

I shouldn’t have been worried.

Cave Story 3D is the same fantastic Cave Story we all remember. Only this time, it’s prettier.

Cave Story 3D

An amnesiac soldier must save the day!

There’s an island floating in the sky. Don’t be surprised if you haven’t seen it, a lot of people don’t. That’s why no one on the surface knows the great danger it could pose in the wrong hands. A science team went up to explore it and one member, now known only as the Doctor, when rogue. He’s decided to use the power of the island and the Mimiga, its normally benign and peaceful residents, to assault those down below.

Thankfully, the Doctor, his minions, the science team and the Mimiga aren’t the only ones on the island. A strange soldier who looks like a young boy has just woken up in one of its many caves. He soon falls (literally) right into the perilous situation and could become a hero not only to the Mimiga and innocent residents of the island, but also to the unwitting people down below.

Cave Story 3D

A cult classic gets even better

Cave Story 3D is a Nintendo hard, Metroidvania experience. It’ll start out leisurely and simple with Quote exploring a few areas, fighting some rather laughable and predictable enemies, finding useful items and talking to island residents. It stays pretty that way for the first fourth of the game, until the player hits the Sand Zone. Then, players encounter enemies that seem sly and clever, occasional traps, lots of spikes and objectives that can have them stumbling onto the illusive, awesome weapons and best ending. Add to that the fact that save points and health recharge stations become somewhat uncommon after the halfway point and the next thing you know, you’re cursing your own incompetence after having to retry the Egg Corridor? for the fifth time in a row because you didn’t realize there was a loose spike above Quote’s head, which resulted in yet another instant death. Despite all the pain it may cause, especially if someone would reach the end and miss one task that would lock out the best ending, it’s easy to love every moment.

What really makes Cave Story 3D better this time around is the presentation. As I mentioned earlier, I was extremely skeptical about the shift from 2D to 3D and the screenshots released weren’t reassuring me. I was very pleased to see that it looked significantly better in action on the 3DS, and the characters, enemies and levels actually seemed more detailed than they did in the original Windows release and WiiWare/DSiWare rerelease. The 3D effects themselves are subtle, but provide significant depth to a world that now has multiple layers of detail. I think the shift actually added to the ambiance of most areas. In addition, the soundtrack sounds incredible in the 3DS incarnation. I’m a big fan of the speakers on the 3DS, and the audio quality in Cave Story 3D is absolutely amazing.

That said, I do miss the idea of the classic Cave Story though. That is, the 2D incarnation that was released as DSiWare. I can’t help but wish it had been included on the Cave Story 3D cart in place of the existing Classic Mode. While the Classic Mode is an interesting option, as it replaces the 3D character and enemy models with their 2D sprites but retains the 3D environments, it doesn’t feel right. Sometimes the 2D enemy sprites blend in with their surroundings and, in general, it falters when compared to the stunning Story mode.

Speaking of faltering, there was one other little quirk that I occasionally noticed while playing Cave Story 3D. It’s a fantastic port, but it seems sometimes that the circle pad wasn’t as precise as the standard directional pad. I’m not sure if it was my system or the fact that I’m more used to playing the WiiWare port with the d-pad, but I found I couldn’t rely on the circle pad when it came to exploring areas that demanded quick and precise navigation like the Waterway or the Last Cave. Those locations have labyrinths filled with spikes and traps, where one wrong move can get Quote injured or impaled. It’s odd, because usually I ignore the d-pad when playing 3DS games. I’m willing to give Cave Story 3D the benefit of the doubt and chalk this up to personal preferences in this instance, since all other controls were flawless.

Cave Story 3D

An amazing adventure gets a chance at a larger audience.

Cave Story is perfect for any person who’s ever loved an game like Castlevania, Metroid, Mega Man or even Super Mario. Despite originally being an independent, freeware endeavor, it managed to be one of the most polished and detailed platformers ever made. Now, with Cave Story 3D, it has a gorgeous 2.5D presentation, phenomenal sound and chance to reach the audience it deserves. Cave Story 3D is more of an experience than a game, and one that players will remember long after it’s done. If you own a 3DS, put Cave Story 3D on your wish list.

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