I originally discovered the game here through the raving reviews it gets here: http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=87794 I believed many on the board had not heard about this gem, and since I have time on my hand, why not a review?
I don't want to say much here. 2D shooters generally have little storyline, but Cave Story is different; it has a great story. The “childish”graphic and the simplicity of language belies the depth of the plot about to unfold. Themes of death and sacrifices feature prominently in the game.
Technically, it's not all that spectacular here, obvious from the screen shots. It bears many similarities to old SNES games. The characters which will fit seamlessly into the cast of Chrono Trigger and the likes. But what the game lacks in technology and resolution, it makes up for it with its meticulous attention to the details. Characters looks good and move fluidly, not paling in comparison to the top tiers SNES titles. Potraits are well drawn up and the environments are very well decorated for the most parts. Many may disagree with me, especially those who never played older games.
Hmmm. I don't have much to comment here. The typical midi sounds used in many of the old consoles. All weapons and enemies' attack has their own distinct sound. But altogether, the sound and music of the game don't add or subtract much to the game. I thought some of the tracks were very good and fit the atmosphere of the game, like the few boss track. But most eventually they all become quite annoying after few repetitions.
Well, we've come to the most important part of the review. Whats the point of a review without mention of gameplay anyway?
Cave Story is a typical 16-bit 2D shooter. Think of it Contra or Castlevania. You control an unnamed(not really) robot walking around towns interacting with folk and exploring caves and dungeons while shooting monsters and solving puzzles.
You start the game with 3 HP and a measly Polar Gun. Throughout the game, you'll get stronger by collecting HP power-ups, collecting new weapons(some hidden) and leveling them. All weapons differ in power, speed, range and projectile trajectory, so no single weapon becomes completely obsolete in the end. Each of them are capable of leveling up when you collect “pieces” of dropped by monsters, becoming stronger and in some cases gaining special properties.
The monsters in the game is nothing spectacular or too creative. Bats, mosquitoes, jelly, ghost, beatles etc. Likewise, the bosses are typical of shooters, each with their own attacks and patterns.
The dungeons do not deviate much from the traditional models. Items and power-ups, hidden in chests, lay abound; some requiring deft and precise sequences of jumps to reach. Spikes, lava and monster are laid in strategic locations to frustrate you. Keys, important characters are hidden among them.
Unlike many shooters, Cave Story implements a item system. It is mostly used as an instrument to control game progress: for example, you need this item to enter this cave or that item before the old man tells you how to progress etc. Less prominently, some items you collect affect combat and movement drastically. I'd like to elaborate on this part but I'm afraid I'll spoil the game.
So overall how does the game add up? For me, the various features interacted and presented a smooth and enjoyable experience. New weapons, monsters and mechanics are revealed gradually but before boredom sets in. The difficulty is neither too hard or easy, manages to provide challenge without discouragement while the plot provide the incentive to progress.
Most of the images are linked from http://www.miraigamer.net. You can DL the game for free at the same website.