Cave Story Review: When Samus Met Contra

Although simple in concept, games the likes of “Super Meat Boy” and “Braid” got a lot of attention when they were originally released.

Yeah, they were great games, but they both shared an ability to make gamers think of the past. More importantly, the fantastic games that inspired them.

The same can also be said of “Cave Story,” an amazing little shooter with less than stellar graphics, but the type of gameplay the will take you back to the days of “Metroid” and “Contra” on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Without any pains  along the way, like reruns of “Punky Brewster,” or a Benny Mardones song.

It’s fair to say that “Cave Story” may even be a superior game than some of the NES titles it clearly draws its inspiration from. The shooting action is fast and frenetic. The enemies aren’t stupid, especially the bosses, who will test your wits and button-mashing skills. The story isn’t too lame. The score sets the scene. This game just does so many things right. Great for a handheld, save points are scattered all over the land. Some of the puzzles are rough, but more often than not, the answer will be right in front of your face.

Like many old school-inspired titles, there are secrets aplenty. The runtime is roughly 6-8 hours, but there’s no reason to avoid exploring and conversing with all the people in the Mimiga village. On the brink of destruction, you become their savior in what ultimately becomes a potential script for a horrible, yet lovable ’80s action flick. There’s mad scientists, sentient rabbits and cyborgs. It’s like classic NES gameplay meets “Howard the Duck” and “Terminator.”

Yeah. That doesn’t make much sense; neither does the game. But who cares. When a title has this much polish and even its biggest weakness, the mediocre NES visuals, are done for artistic reasons, what you end up with her is a “tribute” to every classic shooter that ever cramped up your thumbs.

Even though it lacks the overt-sexiness that is its 3D counterpart, “Cave Story” is one of the best games in the DSi/3DS library. Although the games on the systems we play today are more advanced from a gameplay and visual perspective, our hearts hold sprites and 2D backgrounds in high regard. They’re right up there with prom dates and first fist fights.

But “Cave Story” goes further than making us recollect our old gaming experiences though.

It helps us make new “old” ones.

About Patrick Hickey Jr. 13061 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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