What is Cave Story?

Cave Story, or Doukutsu Monogatari, is a Japanese freeware PC side-scrolling platformer game developed by Studio Pixel   . It has been translated into English by Aeon Genesis Translations   and has an official translation for commercial releases such as Cave Story+.

Cave Story is really one of those games that can be considered a masterpiece of game design. There are so many wonderful and classic gaming elements, that I cannot even begin to describe just one quality well enough to say "It is for this one reason alone that Cave Story is a great game." There is just so much effort, originality and ingenuity behind this game and it really shows more and more as you play through it.

The developer, Pixel spent five years making this game as fun and as great as it is by adding solid controls, smooth gameplay, a great cast of characters and dialogue, an interesting plot, good music and beautiful old-school 2-D artwork. And on top of all this added multiple endings, several boss battles, tons of items to collect, all kinds of added secret bonuses and special challenges, various and considerably different methods of playing through the game depending on your actions, competition ranking features and an extremely high replay value. For a freeware game it is fairly lengthy too. Cave Story is by far the best freeware game I have ever had the honour of playing through and certainly one of the best games I've played.

The gameplay plays like a combination of various NES/Famicom games. Some that come to mind are Metroid, Castlevania, Megaman, Blaster Master and Monster Mash. Pixel's art style and character design and boss battles are very reminiscent of Treasure games, like Gunstar Heroes, which happens to be one of my personal favourite games of all time. So if you are a fan of any of these titles, then you are in for a real treat. It was a wonderful and addicting experience playing through it and I hope anyone reading this who has not already played this game will give it a shot. You won't be disappointed. It reminded me of why I enjoy playing videogames.

The following is a review from Ajutla, of Gamer's Quarter that I found on Live Journal. I thought he explained and summarised everything rather well, perhaps even better than I can, of why you should be playing this game right now.

So. Doukutsu Monogatari is this tremendously good, freeware computer game. I can't praise it enough. You've heard of it by now, I'm sure, but if you haven't, go here. Follow the link to download the game now, use WinRAR to extract the lzh file, follow the other link to download the translation patch, install that once you have it, and then proceed to lose yourself for several hours. Go do this right now. If you don't think you need it, you are not thinking correctly. You need it. Satisfy that need now, then come back here.

There's no one thing in particular to which I can point in Doukutsu and say, "Yes, that's what makes this game so great." In reality, there are several aspects at work here. I can say this: the thing plays like a dream, and I mean that in a completely literal way: the control is solid but also floaty; smooth and clean. The physics are unreal, but they have a kind of beautiful oddness to them. You are not running and jumping in Doukutsu. You are gliding. There is sheer style oozing from this; as well as from the design of the levels, which is always spot-on; and from the music, which flows like liquid genius; and from the story, which is bizarre yet understated. Comparisons can be drawn between Doukutsu and Castlevania , or Metroid , or Yoshi's Island, , or, well, a lot. Yet Doukutsu is off in a genre by itself. It is something the likes of which I have never seen before; have never experienced before. More than this, it is masterfully designed.

This game--it has a timeless, perfect quality to it. Yes, it is a random piece of freeware designed and written by a random Japanese guy whose real name I do not know, but you would not be able to tell that just by looking at it. Game development houses toss around phrases like "this works within the constraints of X hardware" or "we did what we could with that game based on what we had to work with." They say things like that to excuse their incomplete games--their unfinished, truncated ideas. "Well," they say, "we couldn't have implemented this even though we really wanted to. Sorry! It'll be in the sequel, next generation!" It's okay, when they say this. They're right. You can tell they're right, just from playing the game. You know that world map in Final Fantasy VI wouldn't have looked like it had been put in an electric chair if the SNES hardware could have given us something better; you know that Ocarina of Time would have had a Light Temple if EAD had been given more time; that Lament of Innocence would have been quite a bit better if Koji Igarashi had spent a little longer ironing things out. That's fine. People and dev teams are human. Their plans can be cut short.

Doukutsu Monogatari , though, was not cut short, I think--no, I know --that this is true. I hear the guy behind it spent five years putting it together, tweaking it, getting it right. It shows. This Doukutsu Monogatari thing is, simply put, a perfect piece of software. Everything's been thought out. The best games, I think, feel like this--they don't feel that they were made "within the constraints" of anything. They feel good. They feel right. They weren't rushed. They weren't forced to fit the arbitrary parameters of some console's system specs. They weren't compromised--or at least, don't feel compromised. I know that there was a guy who wrote and came up with Doukutsu Monogatari , but I can't wrap my head around the idea. To me, it makes more sense that the thing emerged, fully-formed, from the Internet itself--that the graphical style drew itself and that the music was inspired by a brilliant-flash-of-insight muse; that at a certain time there was no Doukutsu but then after that time had passed it suddenly appeared.

It just works. There's not even any questioning it. The game does not need a console port, because it works best with the resolution of a PC. It shouldn't be on the GBA, because the screen area is large for a reason. It shouldn't have upgraded music, because the music's eight-bit qualities are exactly what makes it so great. The special effects look pretty enough--anything more or anything less wouldn't fit. Nothing needs to be added, and nothing needs to be subtracted. We have A Perfect Videogame here, folks. Is it the best I've ever played? No. But I can appreciate it. I can feel it. Work went into it, even though sometimes it's hard for me to believe. It is remarkably coherent, and is also fun as hell. I've been through it twice already, and all that's preventing me from starting it up for a third time is that it's nearly twelve o'clock and I have to go to school tomorrow. Still, Doukutsu Monogatari is good. It is damn good. It is why I play videogames in the first place.