Cave Story+ Switch review: The definitive version of an indie classic

Credit: Nicalis
Credit: Nicalis /

Cave Story+ comes to Switch and it is every bit as good as you remember.

Developer: Nicalis
Publisher: Nicalis
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (version reviewed), 3DS, PC
Release Date: June 20, 2017 (Nintendo Switch)

Cave Story has been around for many years and has appeared on every Nintendo platform dating back to the Wii and Nintendo DS. It was only fitting that the game would find itself on the Nintendo Switch, and Cave Story+ for Switch is the definitive version of this longtime indie classic. Even if you have played Cave Story before on another device or Nintendo platform, you will still find plenty of entertainment and value with Cave Story+ for Nintendo Switch. The Switch is quickly becoming a haven for quality indie releases, and Cave Story+ is the newest addition to the must-own indie roster of Switch software.

For those unacquainted with Cave Story, the basic rundown is that is a 2D action-adventure platformer that shares similarities with NES-era Metroid and Castlevania games. Exploration and discovery are of significant importance in Cave Story+, as you search for essential items that aid you in your journey. Offering a number of distinct and challenging locales to explore, you will solve puzzles, unearth new weapons and stats boosters – like Life Capsules that increase your health total.

Though the main game follows a linear form of progression, it still manages to convey a sense of freedom. You could forgo picking up a new weapon, choose not to acquire a health boost, or completely miss the game’s final area and not see the true conclusion. By offering several endings, the game encourages the player to return and replay the adventure. Maybe you missed something on your first playthrough or didn’t explore an area in full. It is this type of design that has allowed Cave Story to be a title that people love to replay time and time again.

Cave Story+ screenshot
Nicalis (Steam screenshot) /

Another attractive quality of Cave Story+ stems from its retro-gaming charm. Offering three difficulty levels – Easy, Normal, and Hard, the game can be made to fit your level of skill. However, with that said, it will still present a challenge; be it from the platforming segments or during a boss battle. As you play through the game, you will become well-adjusted to performing certain skills and may even surprise yourself. An example of this is using the machine gun as an improvised jetpack. Once you collect enough experience and reach the third level with the machine gun, you can propel yourself above obstacles by firing the weapon down towards the ground. This is a cool maneuver and allows for quick traversal when you want to avoid enemies populating the ground level.

It is this type of design that has allowed Cave Story to be a title that people love to replay time and time again.

Cave Story+ continues to remain loyal to its retro roots by offering a limited amount of save points and no checkpoints. You will typically stumble upon a save point midway through an area, or just prior to a boss battle. Even so, you will fail and die during your exploits and will need to save whenever the opportunity presents itself. Unlike many modern games where NPC (non-playable characters) serve no purpose other than to populate a town, you will need to talk with the characters in Cave Story+. They will provide you will useful hints, or even an opportunity to trade-in a weapon for a different one.

The weapons made available to you are all quite useful, and each has a distinct skill to aid you in combat. As we touched on earlier, the machine gun can be used as a jetpack, while the Bubbler gun can be upgraded to the point it forms a shield around your character and fires powerful missile type attacks. You may not discover some of the weapons in the game, as some can only be acquired by chatting with an NPC or have to be immediately picked up after a hard fought battle.

Cave Story+ screenshot
Nicalis (Steam screenshot) /

Since the Switch Joy-Con lacks a traditional d-pad, you may have a concern about how the game controls. Fret not; for the game controls beautifully with the analog stick and the d-pad. If you prefer to game with the Switch Pro Controller, that option is available to you. Furthermore, Cave Story+ does support single Joy-Con play. You can play the game however you want.

More from Reviews

With exploration being one of the game’s primary elements, we were disappointed to see that the in-game map was so small – or rather that it lacked a zoom feature. The map is of functional size – meaning that you can make out the pathways, but it would have been nice had it been slightly larger or at least allowed for zooming. The game is linear enough that you won’t need to use the map all that much, but the small size is a minor annoyance.

If you are like me, you’ll replay Cave Story+ immediately upon completing it for the first time. However, if you scavenged through the game and found a certain pair of undergarments, you will have unlocked a new game mode – Curly Story. This mode lets you play through the game as the Curly. Furthermore, there are challenges to unlock and a Boss Attack mode. These two modes have online leaderboards and are very challenging to complete.

More app trigger: Best Nintendo Switch games out right now

Visually speaking, Cave Story+ is a lovely game on Switch. It’s elegant, crisp, and runs smoothly on Switch, whether docked or undocked. The game’s soundtrack is equally as impressive as the visuals. Offering four musical options – Remastered, Cave Story+, Famitracks, and Organya. The Remastered music has a more modern sound, and the Famitracks will time travel you back to the NES days.

9.0. Cave Story+ is an absolute blast of a game. It’s addicting, it’s entertaining, and the multiple endings will keep you playing time and time again. It’s one of the Switch’s best releases and one you shouldn’t miss out on.. . . Cave Story+

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.