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Virtually Overlooked: Cave Story


Welcome to our weekly feature, Virtually Overlooked, wherein we talk about games that aren't on the Virtual Console yet, but should be. Call it a retro-speculative.

Doukutsu Monogatari (Cave Story) is a free-roaming side-scrolling action adventure game developed over five years by a Japanese designer who goes by Pixel. You can download Cave Story right now and play it on the computer on which you're reading this article, PC or Mac. It's completely free. We have a copy on our own computer that we've played through many times. So why do we want to pay money to play it on the Wii? Because it's that good.

Cave Story
tells the story of an amnesiac soldier trapped in an underground society, fighting to save some anthropomorphic rabbity things called Mimigas from an evil doctor called "The Doctor" and his sidekicks, a big rectangular thug named Balrog, who frequently announces his presence with "Huzzah!" and a sorceress named Misery. The Doctor wants to force the Mimigas to eat red flowers that turn them into Hulk-like monsters, and force them to fight for him. The anonymous hero feels compelled to save them, while trying to find his way out of the seemingly endless cave.

Why the game hasn't been announced for Virtual Console yet:
Cave Story would represent some pretty new ground for the Virtual Console if released: it was never put out on any console, and it's freeware. Telltale Games' interest in porting Sam & Max provides a precedent for the implementation of PC content on the VC, but that has yet to occur and isn't even official yet.

Why we think it should be on the Virtual Console:
Nintendo fans have had a longstanding love affair with exactly this type of game: the exploration-based action game has a rich pedigree, including Metroid, Castlevania, Blaster Master, and even Adventure Island IV. If anyone is going to understand the merits of this kind of game design, it's people who appreciate classic Nintendo gaming. The most important part of any such Metroidvania game is level design, and the world in Cave Story is more varied than any game taking place entirely in a cave has a right to be. There are many different varieties of enemies, and the tile-based graphics allow for a look that is both nostalgic and cleanly appealing.

Cave Story plays similarly to Metroid: there are many weapons to choose from; new abilities grant access to new areas of the map; areas are punctuated by giant bosses that range from native creatures to evil henchmen. But here's a controversial statement: the Cave Story's controls and weapon selection are just as good, but the characterization and storyline in Cave Story push it beyond the Nintendo sci-fi series. Please, play Cave Story before you start yelling. This week, we can tell you to try it out with no risk! Then you can join us in begging for a VC release and a wider audience. Pixel deserves compensation for his masterpiece!

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