Cave Story has been brought to the attention of the masses in the last year, gaining a make-over for the Wiiware and Steam versions of the game, and a complete conversion to 3D for the upcoming 3DS release. But years before all of this, Cave Story was a simple 2D shooter which gained appreciation from a small cult audience. It was this audience who created an English translation patch for the game, gradually spreading the phenomenon worldwide.
And this all happened way before the whole retro pixel-art movement really took off (in the Western world at least!). The chosen graphical style was an echo of the game’s genre and functions- ultimately the player is required to traverse a 2D world acquiring weapon upgrades in order to shoot and gain experience from anything in the way, very reminiscent of early Metroid games. There is a story to follow, and if the player wishes, gameplay can be quite linear. However, if the player decides to backtrack at certain times, progress can twist and turn and secrets can be revealed. It has an exploration undertone which adds a layer of enjoyability to the game.
From these you can see how Cave Story adheres to traditional development, therefore appealing to the player’s sense of nostalgia….
1. Indoor shots contain the player in a small space, surrounded by a black screen.
2. Outdoor shots show a full-screen world. Text boxes showing dialogue appear at the bottom of the screen. If a non-playable character is speaking, then quite often a character portrait would appear next to the text. Noticeable in this example: the HUD disappears while a message is displayed.
3. Powerups appear as capsules and health pickups appear as hearts. It’s just tradition. The HUD here allows the player to scroll through each weapon, and also displays weapon progress and player health stats.
4. The inventory menu allows the player to scroll through carried items and weapons, displaying information on each.
Rumour has it that Cave Story took years for Amaya to finish as he took on every production role personally. The game was then released as PC freeware, which I think is because Amaya creates for love not money. As fortune would have it, his game went to gain huge commercial success… And it’s success is probably due to its nature. It is a very traditionally made game, with all the features of a traditional side-scrolling shooter, however it surprises the player with unpredictable additions, which occur if the player chooses to play non-linearly.