The Backlog #7: Cave Story+

It’s been a busy week, and with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds still eating up most of the game time I have, I wasn’t able to plow through multiple games.  That’s ok though, The Backlog isn’t meant to be a short project.  As long as I’m making some progress toward getting through all of these games, I feel good about that.

This week I played Cave Story+, a game I knew very little about.  I’ve developed a system that I really like when playing some of these more obscure games in my library; here’s what I do.  I boot up the game without any inkling of what it could be and I play it for however much time I feel compelled to.  After my initial reaction, I then read up on the game, if I feel compelled to do so.  Obviously with a game like Call of Duty there’s already a predisposition about what I’m getting into, and not much I could gather from reading other material about the game, but games like Cave Story+ or Spelunky, it was really interesting to see how my uninitiated opinion of the game was different (or the same) as the rest of the world’s.

This time around, my opinion was relatively different than that of the world at large.  According to Wikipedia, Cave Story was met with huge praise back when it was released in 2004.  One of the pioneers in the indie “Metroidvania” craze, it’s probably responsible for a lot of those types of games that we still see pouring out today.  I liked what I played of Cave Story+ (I’m not sure what the + means).  I didn’t love it.  I didn’t hate it.  It was fine.  I love Metroidvania style games, but Cave Story just didn’t really click with me.

There were certain points during my time with the game where I thought, ‘Oooh, that’s a really cool idea’.  The way the weapons level up is a good example of this.  For every moment like that though, there seemed to be a sigh of, ‘Ugh, what is this about’.  A good example of that would be the music, which I found to be terribly grating.

Two of the major reasons that Cave Story got such good reviews were story, and game length.  Because I wasn’t able to spend 8+ hours with it, neither of those things factored into my opinion.  Had I stuck with Cave Story for a significantly longer period of time, perhaps I’d have eventually come around more.  It also doesn’t help that I missed the zeitgeist on this game.  I feel like some of the more popular indie games kind of have a coolness bubble that inevitably pops, and then all of us who weren’t in on it when it was cool get left in the dust.  For me, I know that I’m more likely to stick with a game if I see people tweeting or talking about it on a podcast.

I’m pretty sure that Cave Story is a decent game.  Yes, the music is kind of grating, but it might change later on, once I got to a new area.  The gameplay is pretty solid and the story, while strange, wasn’t so out there that I couldn’t understand it.  I mentioned this in a previous Backlog but I sometimes wonder if this is the right way to go about playing these games.  Both Cave Story and Toki Tori are games that a lot of people seem to genuinely like, but when I played them neither connected with me.  I’m still reluctant to change my overall strategy though, because I know that if I don’t pick random games, that I’ll inevitably pick all the ones that I’m most interested in first, leaving me with a long string of games I really don’t have an interest in.

As a small aside, doing this backlog project has had the additional effect of making me seriously question my prior purchasing habits.  Most of the games in my library fall into one of two categories.  Either I was really excited about the game and bought it at launch, or I bought it during a Steam sale when it was 75+% off.  In this regard, I don’t feel terrible about buying things like Cave Story.  At the very least I supported a dev who did something that most people think was cool.  By buying his game, in some small way I help encourage him to make more games.  Perhaps his next one we’ll be my favorite game of all time.  On the other hand though, you wouldn’t flush $5 bills down the toilet, right?  While it’s not a lot of money, it’s not an amount you’d just give away just because you didn’t care.  So when I spend even $5 on a game that I end up either not playing, or not enjoying, I’m essentially just flushing that money away.  Playing through my backlog makes me realize that I’ve handed out a lot of small amounts for a lot of games I’m not likely to play or like.  Silver lining though, every time there is a Steam sale, there is less for me to spend money on because I own so much of it already.

About Steve Zachmann (Chi-Scroller)

Hobbyist (hopefully professional someday) game programmer. Find me at @stevezachmann


  1. This is a game I’ve been hearing people praise for years, and it’s taken me so long to play it I had began to wonder if it’s probably “too late” now and I have unreasonable expectations for it that it has no chance of matching so I probably shouldn’t bother. And after reading this, I probably won’t.


    • Yeah. It’s one of those games where I definitely feel like I missed the boat. It’s a decent enough game, and I think it was probably revolutionary at the time, before the Metroidvania craze. Playing it now though, there are a lot of other games that have come out since that have polished that idea even more.


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