Summer Gaming Challenge #4 – Cave Story+

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Quick Info on Cave Story+:
Console  – This game’s been re-released so many times now…
Release Year – 2004
Metacritic Score – 87
Time it Took to Beat – ~3h

Oh boy, it’s been a bit.  Long enough that I beat Cave Story+ last month and can’t remember how long I spent playing it… Well, good thing the Nintendo Parental Setting app updated to give better game time info so I could guesstimate it.  Let’s talk about Cave Story.

Of all the games I could be playing for the Summer Gaming Challenge, Cave Story is the one that best fits the purpose of the challenge.  The original indie darling, Cave Story originally released for free thirteen years ago on the PC, and eventually got picked up by Nicalis and was ported to practically every home console or handheld they could get it on.  Many hail it as one of the best games of all time, and I never played it.

Well, that’s only somewhat true… I HAVE played a little Cave Story before I sat down with the Switch version.  I played the PC original many years ago, but I stopped because it was too difficult.  I mean, it probably didn’t help that I was trying to make hard jumps and shots with a keyboard, but it kept me away from the game for quite a few years.  I kept hearing about how the Switch version being the definitive version of Cave Story, and finally caved (heh) and picked it up.  Oh, and I played on easy mode, which was still hard near the end, but manageable.

I’m not going to bother to talk much about plot or anything this time around… Cave Story is overall a great game.  Quote is responsive and combat is satisfying, even on the easy setting which could have taken things too far in the wrong direction of making Cave story more accessible.  The story is kind of neat but it ultimately doesn’t matter.  It’s a relatively short game, not really outstaying its welcome.  It’s pretty good!

But I have two major problems with it.

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First off was that three final boss rush that if you died during, you’d have to completely restart.  Like, why make that a thing?  How is that fun?  The final form was still extremely challenging on easy, so dying to the final form when it was close to death and having to redo all three fights (complete with cutscenes) again was less than fantastic.

The second problem, and in my opinion the biggest flaw in Cave Story, are the random requirements needed to save characters, get better weapons, and eventually unlock the true ending.  I had already known that yes, some main characters can die and yes, if you do certain things you can’t get the best weapons, but how vague and up in the air it is on whether or not you made the right choice.  I killed two characters simply by accepting a jetpack.  Come on, that’s a pretty messed up design system right there.  While I knew from spoilers that these people could die, I didn’t look up how to save them to see if it was difficult to do so.

Saving Curly in particular is a ridiculous multi-step process, with none of the steps telegraphed to the player.  I personally failed at the very first step… accepting a jetpack, which just means a key item doesn’t appear that allows me to save her.  But if I DIDN’T take the jetpack, I’d still need to find that key item, use it at the right point, carry Curly to a bed and NOT LEAVE THE ROOM despite I think the game asking multiple times to leave, and… I forget from there.  It’s a crazy long process, and kind of a slap to the face of a player.

You might think I’m focusing on the bad more than the good, but really… these two problems really put a damper on what’s overall a really, really good game.  I’d still recommend it, though I would also recommend finding a simple flow chart or guide to make sure you don’t hamstring your damage output or inadvertently kill characters long the way.

As for general Summer Gaming Challenge progress… I’ve been really busy, so gaming in general fell by the wayside.  I’m hoping that I’ll knock out another one or two games, but honestly… I don’t see myself beating any of the longer games on my list before the end of the challenge.  Certainly not Xenoblade or Dragon Quest VII, at least.  Maybe Deadly Premonition, but I really don’t know how long that one is.  We’ll see next time, right?

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