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Cave Story 3D Review

Despite a thriving indie culture, the majority of today’s games are the result of a careful collaboration between multiple design teams. While this type of design methodology allows developers to seize the complexity and power of contemporary hardware, it may also dilute the aspirations of a single, prodigious developer with a ‘design by committee’ mentality. Understandably, the adaptation of Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya’s 2D freeware classic, Cave Story, into a stereoscopic iteration for Nintendo’s 3DS portable had purists concerned.

Thankfully, a close relationship between Amaya-san, Nicalis, and publisher NIS America have staunchly preserved Cave Story 3D’s heritage. Although the transition from sprite-and-tile to polygonal visuals can often be problematic (as evidenced by Sonic 4), the title’s physics and ambiance remain intact. Clearly, Nicalis’ experience porting Cave Story across WiiWare and DSIware platforms have assisted, allowing this graphically augmented adaption to capture all the charm and deftly-crafted emotion of the original game.

Unlike the popular practice of giving players a taste of a fully powered-up protagonist, Cave Story 3D clings to its NES-era inspiration, tasking player’s with commandeering a robotic hero who can do little more than jump. Admittedly, the title’s first fifteen minutes does little to foreshadow the action ahead, thrusting the amnesiac lead character into a war between bunny-like creatures called Mimaga and a megalomaniac doctor. Just as players begin to develop an empathic relationship with some of the world’s denizens, the game begins dispensing its arsenal of upgradeable weaponry, transforming the title into a satisfying Metroidvania-styled action-platformer.

Unlike most titles which steadily disperse an armory of static offensive devices, Cave Story’s assembly of a polar star pistol, machine gun, missile launcher, fireballs, blades, and bubble weapon constantly fluctuate in effectiveness. Gathering small bouncing triangles left by dispatched foes will level-up most weapons, while any progress comes undone with a collision with an enemy. Later a firearm offers unexpected help when downward fire extends the span of the resolute robot’s jump.

Without proper fodder, Cave Story 3D’s weapons wouldn’t feel as gratifying. Pleasingly, the majority of foes exhibit a keen awareness- usually attacking in distinctive methods when the player nears. These morsels of artificial intelligence help make battling game’s respawning creatures consistently engaging, obliging players to adopt different techniques and armaments against each type of opponent. While most creatures are readily defeated with a speck of strategy, bosses require a bit more diligence- requiring gamers to perceive patterns and display a bit of patience. Fortitude and a bit of good fortune when choosing decisions at the game’s branching plot points will open the title’s Hell areas. Here, players will unearth Cave Story 3D’s supreme challenge as well as battle the cartridge’s resilient true final boss. For players not weaned on a steady diet of 8 bit classics, the game can present a number of hurdles. Fortunately, the addition of a multitude of life capsules hidden in each stage’s alcoves help soften the shock. Nevertheless, having a FAQ nearby is beneficial when directions from a NPC are a bit too obtuse.

Graphically, the game’s transition onto the 3DS was handled with fastidiousness. Whether players choose the game’s Story Mode with its polygon-based protagonist or Classic Mode which restores Cave Story’s sprite-based characters, the title’s charms are evident. Backdrops are particularly pleasing now, with a look which recalls the detailed textures and emotive environments of most contemporary platformers. Sonically, Danny Baranowsky’s (Super Meatboy, Gravity Hook) remixes retain the chiptune charm of Cave Story’s original PC iteration, while skillfully giving each tune a revisionist hook.

For gamers who appreciate the action platformer, Cave Story 3D comes recommended. Although some might balk at the notion of playing $40 to own a stereoscopic version of a reasonably-priced downloadable diversion, the title’s lengthy expedition and visual overhaul are hearty enough to placate players looking for a sturdy challenge. Ideally, a purchase would send the message that there is still room in this industry for a creation crafted from a lone, inspired auteur.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.


  1. So how hard does it get on a scale from 1-10?

  2. Thanks guys, knockout review.

  3. I heard this has the Prinny cap in it? Pretty cool, dood! I may get this if I see it for cheap because I’m buying a 3DS as soon as Amazon gets more of the black ones in.

  4. I can’t seem to find the PC version in English. Anyone have a link?

  5. Uh, those textures in the top pic looks pretty PS1 to me.

  6. Thanks for the review. I had heard this was coming out, but totally forget about with all the MW3 hype.

  7. Funny they brought this onto the 3DS instead of 360 or PS3. Seems like there’s way more players on those systems.

  8. When I see the title, I just think of a Cave shooter for some strange reason.

  9. Sounds kind of cool. I do like those Metroidvania games (even if I hate the term).

  10. If there’s a Prinny in it, Deagle has to love it. Isn’t that the rule?

  11. Are there different difficult levels like the Wii version?

  12. I liked the Wiiware one but never finished it. Want this!

  13. Nice to see at one person that thinks NIS didn’t bastardize the game with its new graphics.

  14. I’m the same way. I cringe every time I hear it on a podcast.

  15. Ordered because I loved the WiiWare version and I need something to play on my 3DS…

  16. Looks cool, but $40 is a bit too much for this time of year.

  17. So hows the 3D? I remember you said you moved your head in the podcast. Was it good throughout the game?

  18. For some reason, I’ve been playing my 3DS a lot lately. Probably because I’m riding the bus since my car broke down. I might have to get this one but I sure wish Nintendo has demos.

  19. Is it me or is NIS moving away from RPGs these days? Maybe action games make more money.

  20. Cool but I really don’t think the ability to play it in 3D is worth paying $20 more. This really should have been a XBLA/PSN game, or even PSP mini.

  21. Maybe they didn’t want to lose 30% of the profits to MS or Sony!

  22. Lara Crofts Left Boob

    Played a bit of the Wiiware version and liked the action but the dialog left me bored.