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Cave Story 3D (3Ds) Review

There’s no school like old school….

NIS America brings cave hopping action to your 3Ds with their newest release, Cave Story 3D. In this old school platformer, you play as a robot with a mysterious past. You are dropped into the land of the Mimigas, little rabbit-like creatures who are being sorely repressed by an evil doctor who picks them up one by one and carries them off for nefarious purposes. You must jump, shoot, balance, deliver puppies, and more to deliver the Mimiga’s from their terrible fate.

It’s no secret that I love a good old school platformer, and Cave Story 3D fits the bill perfectly in so many ways. In fact, if you don’t know the history of the game it would be natural to assume it was a remake of an old school classic. Not so, as Cave Story is actually originally a PC game that was released just a few years ago to a whole lot of love. The sole creator, Daisuke Amaya created Cave Story as a tribute of sorts to the awesome 2D platformers of his childhood, and their influences are evident throughout Cave Story 3Ds, with a few tweaks for the modern gamer thrown in.
It seems a bit of an oxymoron to say that Cave Story 3Ds is a 2D game in 3D, but that is exactly what it is. This is your classic 2D platformer; you’ll be jumping, bouncing, and running through the caves from left to right – no open exploration. However, the 3D feature of the 3Ds means every platform and character will pop out in vivid 3D.  I wasn’t sure how well that would play out in a game with such old school style, but it actually works really well. Surfaces that you are able to interact with (i.e. jump on or over) pop out, and the others fade into the background. It also should be noted that Cave Story 3Ds also plays out great without the 3D effects. I know you bought the 3Ds for the 3D, but sometimes you just aren’t feeling it – you know what I’m saying? Everything looks really good in 2D, and you won’t miss out on anything by playing through in 2D. There is one advantage to the 3D mode, though. As I mentioned, the platforms you can jump on pop out in the 3D mode, and that can make it a little easier to see where you need to go if you’re a little stuck. Plus, it just looks cool.

There is another way to plot your course when you’re unsure where to go: the map, of course. Early on in your gameplay, you are given a map. The gaming action plays out on the top screen of your 3Ds, and the bottom holds the map. The map is very old school, showing basically a pixelated block version of the stage you are on. It is very helpful for finding areas, as they’ll show up on the map (but not necessarily how to get there).

The map isn’t the only item you will gain along the way in Cave Story 3D. Your robot begins the adventure as a very weak, weaponless character. You’ll gain all sorts of weapons along the way, some of which are unlimited and others that must be restocked. Some are a combination of the two, in that you don’t need to pick up ammo but they will run out and need a little time to refill themselves. Your character’s health has a very Zelda feel to it. You’ll pick up life packs which will increase your maximum health, enemy characters and shootable blocks will drop hearts to heal you, and there are many side rooms peppered through the game where you can refill your health and save your progress.

There are many save points scattered through Cave Story 3D, and you are able to go back to them and save whenever you like. The placement of the save points is absolutely perfect, where you squeal with relief to see one right after an insanely difficult part, but you still get nervous that you won’t quite make it. Cave Story 3D is a game where you’ll need to go back and forth between various stages many times, and saving in the right places will definitely make a difference in the amount of running back and forth you’ll do in the game.

I love all the old school aspects of Cave Story 3D: the “REALLY!?!” squeals when you realize the impossible feats you need to perform to get past a hard part; the realizing you need to talk to every character again to figure out which one will tell you what you need to know to advance; the finally making it to that elusive door just past spikes covered by smashing blocks surrounded by a swarm of enemies only to realize the door is locked. It brings back many great memories, but the one thing I never liked about my old school games was dying and having to go back to the beginning. That was just a little too much frustration in my book, and I am happy to report that you can die as many times as your little heart desires in Cave Story 3D, and you won’t go back any farther than your last save point.

Final Thoughts:
Cave Story 3D takes all your favorite elements from the classic old school platformers and drops them solidly into new school 3D without a hitch. It is really the perfect blending of old and new. There’s a fun story that keeps you guessing as to the origin of your mysterious character. There are bumbling bad guys and suspicious allies, and every other thing you could hope for in a 2D platformer. Many of the stages are quite challenging, but it was always in a “I was sooo close, I’ll get it next time” way. Cave Story 3D is perfectly appropriate for children, with absolutely no objectionable content beyond your standard old school enemies disappearing when shot, so this a game you can happily share with your kids. I give Cave Story 3D a 8.5 out of 10, and recommend it old school fans, young and old, and anyone looking for a challenging game without the frustration.

About Amy

U.S. Senior Editor/Deputy EIC at BrutalGamer, mother of 5, gamer, reader, wife to @MacAnthony, and all-around bad-ass (no, not really)

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