Cave Story: Nostalgia, celebration, and exploitation

I have to admit that I am way behind Daniel and Gavin in my playthrough of Cave Story because I have been clocking a lot of hours into Diablo III, which actually makes for an interesting comparison.

Like Cave Story, Diablo III is a game that panders to one’s nostalgia, in this case nostalgia for Diablo II, released way back in 2000. I remember coming home from summer camp and pouring all of my time into accumulating new weapons and armor for my Amazon. The point of the Diablo games isn’t to defeat monsters; it’s to collect more stuff, which is good for helping you collect more stuff. Diablo III is certainly a vast improvement upon its predecessor, but overall, it’s really the same game built for 2013. I won’t say too much more about Diablo, since I’m supposed to be talking about Cave Story, but basically Diablo III has all the talent and polish of a triple-A title. And for those reasons, it basically has no heart.

Few games have more heart than Cave Story. It was painstakingly hand-crafted (so to speak) by Daisuke Amaya, who designed and developed the game by himself over the course of five years. There’s a decent interview with Amaya, where he explains that his work on the game paralleled his life: “At the time I started work on Cave Story, I was a student, but now I’m an office worker. My entire life had changed by the time this game was finished.”

That’s right: Amaya is not a game developer by trade, so he created the art, music, and story, as well as all the code, in his free time. It may be a nostalgic platformer, but Cave Story feels like the personal expression of one man. We all love the game’s weirdness (or in Daniel’s words, the “WTF factor”), which is something that can only come from the vision and imagination of singular vision.

So why am I not compelled to play more Cave Story?

For me, the appeal of Cave Story is its charm. Sure, it’s fun to jump around and fire rockets, but I love uncovering the uniqueness buried beneath the Metroid and Castlevania-inspired platforming. Diablo, on the other hand, is designed to be addictive. And it is very good at that, almost to the point of blandness. The game says and means nothing.

While both are designed to make you think about the good old days, I think there’s a single key difference between the two games: Cave Story celebrates nostalgia, while Diablo III exploits it.

Read Daniel J. Hogan’s week 2 post
Read Gavin Craig’s week 2 post

Kevin Nguyen is an editor at The Bygone Bureau. His only marketable skill is an above-average knowledge of European geography. He has been useless since the introduction of the atlas in 1477. Find him at Twitter at @knguyen.

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