Yup, I finally finished Cave Story! Not to spoil it for you, but there are some REALLY nasty bosses towards the end.
For those who haven’t read the post on Webfroot about this game, , Doukutsu Monogatari (Japanese for “Story of the Cavern”) was developed in 2004 in Japan. It’s probably the most fun freeware game I’ve ever played and finished to some degree (more on that later). Now, I’ve played the english fan-translated version, and thoroughly enjoyed it — it’s got a great start, the gameplay is superb, and the plot is intriguing and fun.
You start the game with a cut scene of some dude in a room with what seems to be a broken teleporter trying to chat to someone through a computer who isn’t there. The game starts. You’re in a room, weaponless, and there’s a door, and you know nothing else. You soon find a weapon and then more of this dude chatting away. You eventually figure out what to do next and you’re dropped into a village of cute sentient rabbit-like ‘Mimigas’, or what’s left of them, and the conflict is revealed. The sheer mystery of everything in this game is a fascinating start, and draws you in like a good first chapter of a book, and doesn’t stop.
Cave Story is a platformer game that looks distinctly like a game you’d expect to see on a NES, except this game is for the PC, and was made in 2004. It’s got instant retro charm. Even though the graphics are all really beautiful, cute 2d sprites, all the characters, monsters and scenery graphics are highly polished, and definitely draw you in.
You start with a simple pistol, and as you kill things, orange triangles drop charging the weapon’s power bar up, with it eventually levelling up into a more powerful variation. Each of the weapons in the game levels up three times, with the different weapons forming a powerful arsenal, which feels out of place with the cutesy retro graphics. Some weapons (like the secret ‘Bubbler’) are crap until you get them to level 3, but I found myself sticking to the machine gun and the missile launcher when I really needed it.
The sheer number of monsters keeps the game fresh the whole way through. Some of the monsters reappear on each new level — initially you think you’re up against the same monsters you faced in the previous level, they’re just a different colour. But no, they either move differently or shoot or fly or something unexpected, which really keeps you on your toes. Some non-boss monsters only appear once or rarely, like the haunted door at the end of the first level and the eye-bricks that crush you, which is adds strangely to the mystery of this game.
There are some good fun puzzles sprinkled through the game that you have to solve to proceed; these help grow the plot and game universe, but are standard adventure-platform fare, ranging from “figure out how to open this door” to “find components for >npc< to build you >plot advancing item<. You have a small inventory which you can use to change weapons while pausing, but it mostly serves little purpose save for activating a few important items.
As you progress in the game, more details are revealed about the character you’re playing, where you are, what is actually happening with all these Mimigas being abducted by an evil doctor and his minions.
The relationship between the powerful #2 Misery and her incompetent sidekick Balrog is entertaining; the conflict between Sue and the other Mimigas is mysterious; the strange presence of a handful of humans who look nothing like you; and the strange qualitys of — the game is one huge mystery! The sheer number of truly interesting and charming characters who you will care about are all interwoven in a great tapestry of a story, which will keep you trying to defeat that next tough boss. The plot, along with the gameplay, are the best parts of this game.
The music is also really neat, with a distinctly chip-tune feel to it. Looking and listening to the game, people will ask if you’re playing an emulator 🙂
Oh and the BOSSES! This game has enough bosses to challenge even the mightest of small corporations! They do start out easy, but by the end of the game, you’re wondering if the boss after boss after multiple bosses will ever end, and you’re praying for a savepoint!
According to the translators, the game has three distinct endings, two of which I have found. After reading a walkthrough of what I just did, apparently the third way is the true hero’s ending to the game, which thankfully the walkthrough tells you how to activate the plotline switches, but doesn’t guide you through the true ending. The two endings I have found feel downright disappointing and like finishing a Sonic game without the Chaos Emeralds, respectively, so I’m probably gonna play through the entire game again.
The game has a single save slot, which sucks because I can’t just go back to that plot switchpoint. Also, this means you sholudn’t save the game when showing the start of the game to your friends (not that I got bitten by this one).
Cave Story takes the best parts of the old and now-dying 2d platformer genre, injects a heafty dose of original challenging gameplay into it, showers it in fascinating characters, weaves into it an immensely intriguing story, while still staying true to it’s console inspiration to create an incredibly fun game to play and conquer, one you’ll want to be playing again in a few years time to relive the story.
The game is freeware, but puts many of the modern shareware games I can think of to shame. 10 years earlier and released on the NES or Mega Drive and I believe this would have been a mainstream classic.
I recommend this to anyone who misses the Commander Keens, Metroids and Castlevanias of yesteryear, and enjoys a good story.
Doukutsu Monogatari weaved it’s way into my heart. An underground independant gaming classic. A Must Play.
- Windows 98, 2000, XP
- Requires DirectX 5.0 or better
- Also available for Mac
- 6MB when installed
- Download Windows English 126.96.36.199 from the Doukutsu Monogatari page on Home of the Underdogs