Let me preface this post by saying: I love Cave Story. Forget all this talk about what a “great indie game” it is; it is a fantastic game period. It occupies a spot in the upper echelons of sidescrollers along with classics like Super Mario World, new favorites like Mega Man 9… heck, I’ll even put it up next to my beloved Super Metroid.
So: this game is amazing and it is twelve bucks on your Wii. If you have a Wii, and you have twelve bucks, you should buy it immediately. Slap some Wii Points on the table and never look back.
That said, outside of this version of Cave Story being Cave Story, and Cave Story being awesome, this version is pretty bad. I am utterly disappointed with it.
To hammer the point home: the game itself is fine. It’s the same game I’ve been playing on my PC since 2004, and I’m glad I can play it on my TV now. It looks great and controls perfectly. It’s not the game I’m bellyaching about… it’s everything else.
The remixed music is unlistenable. If you’ve never heard Cave Story‘s soundtrack before it will just sound like a random muddle of notes. If you have heard Cave Story‘s soundtrack before it will actively piss you off. I’ve read this is not the composer’s fault; the dudes in charge of the port managed to screw up the implementation of the new tunes. I wish I could hear what the remixes are supposed to sound like. This is one of the things I was looking forward to most about this port.
The upgraded graphics are fine, I guess. I didn’t really notice them much. In any case, you can play the game with the upgraded sound and visuals turned off, if that’s your pleasure. Thank God. (And no, it doesn’t say much about the quality of a port when your favorite feature is the ability to turn the upgrades off.)
Neither am I a fan of the new translation. Granted, Cave Story‘s only available English up to this point has been a fan translation, and it’s not like the fan translation was spectacular writing. But it had a unique charm to it that I grew to love, possibly as a by-product to growing to love the actual game at the same time. So when I load the game up and see things have been changed around for no clearly defined reason, I turn up my nose at it. “Grasstown” was so named because the whole area is grassy, and that there are a couple mimigas living out there. So it’s a town, see? Cute. “Bushlands” doesn’t sound like anything. There aren’t any bushes there. It’s not a “land” in any reasonable sense of the word. It doesn’t… fit.
I’m willing to entertain the notion that “Bushlands” is closer to the original Japanese. Even then, though, I’d be against the change for the same reason I’d be against changing Edward’s name to Gilbert in any of the FF4 remakes. I didn’t fall in love with the original Japanese game, and the argument that my personal experiences with the game are invalid because they weren’t a literal copy of the original doesn’t fly with me. Hmm… this topic seems to be stuck in my craw. Maybe I’d better save it for another post someday.
In any case. I’m sure Balrog’s lame Kool-Aid Man reference looked hilarious when it was put into an early build of the game as a dumb gag. They forgot to take it back out, though, turning my charming little game story into a Family Guy-style reference machine. This isn’t like changing Edward’s name to Gilbert; it’s like changing Edward’s name to Optimus Prime. Feh.
So that just leaves the new game modes. First up is Curly Brace mode, which lets you play the game as a girl instead of a boy. This mode lacked any novelty for me, as I’ve been playing with a Curly Brace patch for years. I was amused that the Wii version handles it differently, though. The patch I use just swaps the sprites and a bit of dialogue, so Curly becomes a mute amnesiac and Quote becomes your cheery, emotional buddy. The Wii version actually swaps the characters, which means Curly interjects her commentary throughout the entire game and Quote just becomes a really, really quiet guy.
I especially loved the new angle it put on the Machinegun trade scene. Hilarious. So they got this mode right!
I finished up Curly Mode and started a second game on Hard, thinking to increase my level of challenge. But there is no Hard Mode. What they gave you is Impossible Mode. People have been doing minimalist challenges of Cave Story for years… well, now it’s an option on your menu! As far as I can tell the only thing this mode does is removes all the missile and healthy pick-ups in the game, turning 80% of it into a “one hit and die” challenge. Maybe it’s because Mega Man 9 and 10 has set the new standard for how difficulty settings should work in retro-style games, but I was perturbed. Also, Hard Mode changes Quote’s color scheme so it looks like he’s been dipped in a vat of urine.
There’s a Boss Rush mode too, which was mildly fun… except for the muddled hub area you have to navigate through, which counts against your time. See, instead of just having the bosses all in a line, there is a network of caves linked together with metal doors. Kill a boss, the next door opens, you can go to the next boss. Each boss door is surrounded by treasures boxes containing whatever items you’d have found in the normal game by that point. The previous door doesn’t close, either, except in cases where you’d have to fight bosses back-to-back (such as the Throne Room gauntlet)… so you can backtrack and refill your health if you’re so inclined.
The endpoint of this, of course, is that if you want to speed run Boss Rush mode you, again, have to forego most of your useful weapons. Can’t dilly-dally in the hub area, no sir! And speaking of that hub area, it’s not always obvious where you should go next. So here’s your timer, ticking away, and all you’re doing is trying to restock some weapon XP. Or figuring out which goddamn path to take. Or picking up your missile expansions. Or refilling your health.
Why is this ideal? Why not just have a prep room at the beginning (with no timer) where you pick the weapons you want, followed by a nonstop barrage of bosses? Kill one and immediately teleport to the next. Start the player off with 50 HP and a Life Pot — it’s not like those early bosses are a challenge anyway. Then, my clear time would be an actual indication of how long it took me to kill every boss in the game, and not how long it took me to navigate the clumsy hub area.
Glurge. I know, I know, this whole post sounds like me receiving a fantastic gift (literally, in my case — thanks Dan!) and then doing nothing but complaining about the packaging. But you know, the packaging is important. Especially in this case, when it had been delayed for so long. I suppose the months and months of anticipation led me to believe the end result would be perfect… and it’s not. It feels like they got the most important part working and then stapled on the rest. It feels slipshod.
There’s a sentiment floating around that you should buy the game anyway in order to support Pixel. I’ve never endorsed that line of reasoning (buy games because you want to play them, not because you like the guy that made it), but in this case I think it’s especially poor. Purchasing this game means supporting the cretins who took so long slapping a botched, sloppy port together. I definitely wouldn’t endorse that line of reasoning.
You should buy it though, because it’s Cave Story, and it feels right at home on Wii. Just… don’t be happy about it.