Cave Story is a popular free-to-play PC game that hit the scene in 2004. The simple 2D action platformer has a retro feel because of its chunky, pixelated visuals and has gained a loyal following since its release thanks to its addictive and simple gameplay. The game is now set to come to the Nintendo Wii courtesy of fledgling developer Nicalis, who is working with the game's creator, Daisuke Amaya, to convert the game and freshen up its content. We had a chance to try out Cave Story, which retains the charm of its PC counterpart, albeit with a subtle visual face-lift, and it seems to be shaping up to be a comfortable fit on the Wii.
For those who aren't aware of Cave Story, here's some background. The game revolves around a young hero named Quote who wakes up in an underground cave at the start of the game. Like many classic heroes, Quote has amnesia and has no weapons with which to defend himself. Fortunately, he comes across a village whose residents--rabbit-like critters known as mimigas--are being harassed by an evil doctor who's kidnapping locals. Your goal is to stop the doctor, rescue the kidnapped locals, and get off the floating island where the action takes place.
The playable demo at Nintendo's event let us roam around the main hub area and get a feel for the gameplay. The hub area houses some eccentric characters and, most importantly, a PC and teleporter, which let you zip to the 15 levels you'll be exploring. The action revolves around exploring, solving puzzles, chatting with folks, collecting 10 different weapons, and, of course, shooting the heck out of things. This classic formula is given a bit of depth courtesy of a role-playing-game-style leveling system for your health and weapons, which you can upgrade by collecting items as you go. The game will also offer up three different endings for you to discover.
The game's controls are simple and it uses the Wii Remote turned sideways. You'll move with the D pad and shoot and jump with the 1 and 2 buttons. The plus and minus buttons let you cycle through your available equipped weapons on the fly. The setup works well, although it might take a while to get used to using the plus and minus buttons without looking down at the remote. Fortunately, the game will also support the Classic Controller, which should make swapping weapons smoother.
The visuals have a pixelated retro look that has been freshened up from its humble PC origins. Quote has gained a snazzy scarf and a little more detail to his sprite. The same is true for the backgrounds and characters you interact with--well, except for the scarf. The demo mixed new character sprites in with the old to show off the differences between the original PC visuals and the visuals in the Wii version. The updated graphics remain faithful to the original game's graphics, in large part because Nicalis is working closely with Amaya to ensure that they don't stray too far from what made the game special. The game will also support a 16x9 aspect ratio to ensure that players can get their widescreen pixel fix.
While we couldn't hear much in the demo area where the game was playable, Nicalis reps noted that the game will feature new music. Outside of that, the game seems to sound just like its PC predecessor. You'll hear a modest mix of retro effects that fit the look and feel of the game perfectly.
Based on what we played, Cave Story should be a good fit for the Wii. The game has a charming look and plays well. The enhancements are nice garnishes to a solid base. Our big questions revolve around the final price, which we hope isn't too high, and the incorporation of the enhancements, which seems to be going just fine. Cave Story is slated to appear in early 2009 in the WiiWare store. Look for more on the game in the coming months.