Cave Story+ releases June 20th, 2017 on Nintendo Switch.
I was first introduced to Cave Story in 2010 as a downloadable demo on the Wii. Before I knew it I was sucked in and had played the demo multiple times over, but despite my love for the demo, it wasn’t until about a year later that I received my own copy of Cave Story on the Nintendo DSi. I don’t think I set my DSi down for more than a moment to grab something to eat before I was staring back at the small 3 inch screen, completely immersed in the colorful world of Cave Story. Years later I received a copy of Cave Story+ for the PC as a gift from my dad. A few years after that, I found myself again purchasing Cave Story from the Nintendo 3DS eShop, boasting original pixel art with some added 3D depth. Now, seven years after I had originally fallen in love with the game and 13 years after the original release, we find ourselves with another version of the game; Cave Story+ for the Nintendo Switch.
As the name would suggest, Cave Story is a story about rabbit-like creatures (Mimiga) who live in a cave. You take on the role of a robot named Quote. With no memories of how you ended up there, you attempt to discover not only your own purpose, but the story behind the Mimiga and the entire cave itself. In some ways Cave Story feels like a lost NES classic, and having been inspired by games like Metroid and Castlevania, it’s not hard to see why. The game rewards exploration, choice-making and mastery of its controls, allowing the player to change the outcome of the story by how they play. The world of Cave Story is filled with lovable characters and clever dialogue. The game oozes with charm and you can feel that the creator really put work into making something that was special to them. Right off the bat, Cave Story feels like a beloved childhood classic while also mixing up the formula with some of its own ideas.
The first thing you’ll probably notice that is different in Cave Story is the unique weapon system. Unlike other 2D shooters where you collect ammo and level up your characters stats to move forward, Cave Story features a dynamic weapon leveling system. Weapons feature three levels of strength, usually with level 1 being the weakest and level 3 being the strongest. The weapons you collect level up when you collect Weapon Experience from fallen enemies, but will level down as you take damage. This way Cave Story rewards skilled players who don’t take damage with greater weapon levels, while others may find themselves struggling to keep their weapon levels up if they are not careful. Every weapon collected has its own unique strengths and characteristics, while your initial weapon, the Polar Star, may not drastically change upon leveling up. The Bubbline offers a very different experience at each of the three levels. Every weapon offers advantages and disadvantages in different scenarios. Where some might succeed wonderfully in one area, it may not in another. So while you might have your favorite weapon, it’s always helpful to explore the strengths of others in the event you find yourself in a challenging situation.
Visually, the original Cave Story features some gorgeous pixel art. This is only improved upon in Cave Story+ with the addition of remastered graphics. Moreover, Cave Story+ on Nintendo Switch is more visually advanced than even the PC version. The Switch version features an overhauled water system that reacts to the players movement through the water rather than the static image of the PC version. Along with new water physics, a new lighting engine is also present. Characters, shots from weapons and other items placed throughout the world will emit light that will slightly illuminate the background and other elements around them – a subtle but welcome change. Along with the new lighting engine, some of the excess foreground has been removed replacing it with black space and some shadows around the elements.
Alongside these features, the Switch version of Cave Story+ features a true 16:9 aspect ratio, unlike the 4:3 aspect ratio of the PC version. As performance goes, the game runs at 1080p and 60fps while docked, and 720p, 60fps in handheld mode. All make for a very pleasant experience with flawless performance all around. Even in the most hectic scenarios, everything runs buttery smooth, with no hurt to performance whatsoever. All of these changes make the Switch version by far the most visually appealing version of Cave Story we’ve ever received. Halloween and Christmas visual changes are also present in this version if you are playing during their respective time-frames. That being said, as of now, the Switch version Cave Story+ does not offer the option to switch between the original and remastered visuals like the PC version, something we’d welcome back in a possible future update.
Cave Story has a wonderful and addictive soundtrack that feels right at home in the world that’s been created. In the Switch version of Cave Story+ instead of being greeted with three different options like the PC version we’re greeted with four! “Famitracks” is a new audio option only present in the Switch version, and like the name suggests, sounds like the original tunes using the Famicon soundfont. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on which Cave Story soundtrack is the best, but with all four different music options to choose from, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to decide for yourself. Unlike previous versions of the game, the “Jukebox” is also unlocked in the menu right from the start, so if you want to sample music you’ve heard from the game from all of the different soundtracks, just select the option from the menu and listen to your hearts desire.
With a tight control scheme, every button press counts in Cave Story, and luckily all control options are present in the Nintendo Switch version (apart from touch screen functionality). Single Joy-con support will be especially helpful when a free multiplayer co-op update* is released this summer. If you want to test your mastery of the controls even further, a challenge mode will be unlocked after you progress to a certain point in the game. Modes like Boss Rush, Sanctuary Time Attack and Wind Fortress, as well Sand Pit, (a new challenge mode exclusive to Switch version) will push your skills to the limit. Online ranking support is also present so you can see how your skills compare to players all across the world.
*This review will be updated when the multiplayer update to Cave Story+ for Nintendo Switch is released.
So even after thirteen years is Cave Story+ for Nintendo Switch still the Cave Story game that’s been lauded for years? It’s that and more. With even further enhancements, a multiplayer update just around the corner and possibly even more, Cave Story+ for Nintendo Switch is a wonderful addition to the Cave Story family and the best version we have to date.