I feel like I've played Cave Story dozens of times. Looking at all its ports, honestly, I probably have.
Cave Story was first released on PC back in 2004 as a freeware game with nothing but pixelated Metroid and Castlevania-inspired flair and a dream to go beyond its calculated inspirations, and not rest comfortably in nostalgia. The game was developed by Japanese independent designer Daisuke Amaya, who worked on the game in his spare time over the course of five years. Then Cave Story was released, and it became a cult sensation.
Fast forward to now, counting this week's release of Cave Story+ on the Switch, there have been nine versions of the game released. Almost always, they offer something fresh and new that a prior version doesn't. Cave Story 3D was completely reworked to 3D on the 3DS; the PC version of Cave Story+ offered the ability to toggle across some of the game's versions—from the remastered to the classic iteration. Cave Story has taken many shapes and forms, but its new Switch version may be one of its best yet. Even if it's not the best version of the reimagined game.
Cave Story+ on the Switch features a few new additions: new stages, some remixes on its classic look (save points twirl in 3D now, as does the water move more realistically), some new items, and incoming "free content updates." Eventually this summer, local multiplayer will even be patched into the game, allowing a second player to take on the role of Curly. Co-op will be a first for the long-reiterated game.
I played Cave Story+ in two ways on my Switch: portably and docked onto my television. I ended up preferring its portable view. Which makes sense, as my first time even experiencing the game was portably, back when it came out on PSP in the late 2000s. In a lot of ways, Cave Story's potential wasn't unlocked until it went portable: it was a sprawling Metroid-esque platformer of incessant backtracking in a semi-open, cavern-like world, all on an itty-bitty screen at your thumbs. The Switch's screen is remarkably larger than its prior portable iterations, and it's all the better for it. And then it definitively re-released on PC, offering everything its prior versions did, and much more.
Cave Story+ on the Switch isn't the best version of the game though. I do miss the ability to toggle back to the old art of Cave Story, as the PC version of Cave Story+ once allowed. But its Switch iteration at the very least offers the ability to switch between the game's many different soundtracks: Organya (the original), Famitracks (a sorta-enhanced version of the original), Cave Story+ (of the PC update), Remastered (of Cave Story 3D). Personally, I found myself gravitating most to its Remastered tunes and the 8-bit remixes of Famitracks.
As shiny and new Cave Story feels on the Switch, there's really nothing too exciting here to make me want to play through it in its entirety again. We've gotten portable versions of Cave Story in the past, both on the 3DS, DSi, and PSP, so that aspect hardly seems novel. Maybe when co-op arrives, that feeling will change. Though without the ability to toggle between art, Cave Story+ for the Switch almost feels like Cave Story-, and not the definitive version it was touted as. It's missing the thing that made the original Cave Story+ feel like the most worthwhile entry—one that at once celebrated and remixed its own past.
However, if you've never played Cave Story before, the Switch version may be your best bet for experiencing it. It's portable, which remains the best way to experience it in my opinion. The graphical upgrades are subtle, and don't take away from its retro style in a distracting way. Though if you're just nostalgic for the game, the 2011 iteration of Cave Story+ is still likely the best way to go. Here's to hoping co-op reignites the fire in the potential for the Switch edition.
Edit: This story previously stated that the PC version of Cave Story+ had an option for the 3D visuals, when we meant the remastered visuals. This has been edited to reflect this and we regret the error.