[This review is largely focused on this new remake and the changes it brings. Details on the gameplay and plot are at a minimum. In my opinion, the less you know about Cave Story before you play it, the better.]
Cave Story is, hands down, my most loved game. The story, the gameplay, the music, the art--it all comes together to create a beautiful whole that is unlike anything else. Just that alone would have been amazing but then you realize it was made by ONE man and it becomes some sort of miracle and/or a work of a genius. Cave Story is perfect, and that's why this remake scared me so badly.
The very first screenshot was released and I wanted to barf. What had they done to my beloved Cave Story!? It looked like a terrible PS or N64 game and continued to look just as bad right up to release day. It was Cave Story though, so I HAD to buy it...and I'm glad I did.
I popped the cart into my 3DS and started to play. My very first impressions were the same as my views on the screenshots...but then I flipped the 3D on and the game came to life. This is, by far, the best 3D on the system. Every other game I have I only use the 3D for a few minutes at a time before turning it off again but, with Cave Story, I leave it on for the entire time. The sense of depth is second to none and, really, no matter how hard I try to describe it you just have to experience it for yourself to truly understand.
I can, however, describe the scenery for you. The original Cave Story--while beautiful--looks almost empty in some levels compared to the massive amounts of detail found in this remake. Where once there was a background of mostly one solid color, there is broken machinery and dripping pipes. What was once a randomly floating platform is now a fully constructed statue. Things like that are in every single area in the game, some are so wildly different that if they didn't have the same level design I wouldn't have known that they were the same places I had visited in the original.
Along with the new graphics is lighting effects. Cave Story 3D takes the cave part of its name very seriously as nearly every area in the game is lightly lit and sometimes downright dark. On one hand, this can take away from the whimsy and charm of the original but on the other it adds a touch of realism and atmosphere fitting of the environment.
The only other negative I could find was that a lot of the 3D character models are...off somehow. Some are great, like the main character (you won't get his name from me!) and Curly, but others are just weird. And they aren't minor enemy models either, but important members of the main cast! This problem would have easily knocked off one, maybe even two stars if it wasn't for the brilliant Classic Mode feature. With this mode turned on, all of Pixel's original character animations replace their 3D counterparts and are just as perfect as they always were. This mode easily saves the whole package.
The final remade aspect that needs mentioning is the music. It is so fantastic, so one with the spirit of the old tracks that I almost forgot to talk about it at all because of how perfectly it blended in with everything else. I found myself humming all the same songs and enjoying every one just as much as I did my first time playing Cave Story. And for good reason too, all of the tracks have been carefully recreated by none other than Danny B, the composer of Super Meat Boy. The tracks are--dare I say it--better than Pixel's compositions. Still, some songs can be a bit too different for some but none of them reach the level of disaster heard in the WiiWare port.
If you've never played Cave Story before, add this to your cart right now--you missed out on a classic and should be ashamed of yourself. And for old fans, this is a must as well. No matter how much you may hate what you've seen of this remake all of that will disappear the moment the 3D comes on.
Whether you're new to Cave Story or a long time fan, this remake will take you on a brand new adventure of discovery and wonder with new surprises inside (and outside!) of every cave.