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What are the critical differences between the various releases of Cave Story (PC, WiiWare, DSiWare, 3DS)? In particular, I already have a copy (of Cave Story+) on Steam from the Humble Indie Bundle 4, but the 3DS release sounds like the most intriguing—is the 3DS remake worth the $30 if I already own a version?

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up vote 18 down vote accepted

TL:DR

Cave Story 3D (for the 3DS) is a 3D remake of the 2004 original where all the characters and levels are in 3D perspective. There are also a few "easter eggs" for fans of the older games.


The Full Story

There have been numerous new versions and unofficial ports of Cave Story since the original was released in 2004, so assuming you don't want to know the specifics of the TI-83 plus calculator port, I'll just mention the differences of the five official versions.

Cave Story ("The Original", Platform: PC, circa 2004)

The original freeware version, with 100% original awesome.

Cave Story (Platform: WiiWare, circa 2010)

A new and updated version of Cave Story, with revamped graphics, music, and new playmodes.

Changes include:

  • Updated "progressive" graphics (480p) and new music, with the option to use the "old school" versions of both
  • Five new playmodes, including Boss Rush, and the ability to play as Curly Brace
  • Larger range of difficulty settings

Cave Story (Platform: DSiWare, circa 2011)

A DS port of the 2004 original, with some of the new features from the WiiWare version thrown in.

Changes include:

  • Uses second screen as a map and inventory viewer
  • A modified version of the "Boss Rush" game mode included in the WiiWare version
  • An unlockable music player

Cave Story+ (Platform: Steam, circa 2011)

The awesomeness returns to PCs, with many of the WiiWare features included, plus some other things.

Changes include:

  • An HD graphical overhaul, with music introduced in the WiiWare version, and the option to use the "old school" versions as well
  • All game modes introduced with WiiWare version
  • All new game mode "Wind Fortress"
  • Native USB controller support

Cave Story 3D (Platform: 3DS, circa 2011)

Cave Story goes 3D, but remains a 2D side scroller... Maybe a picture will help:

a 3D kind of 2D source: gamesradar

Changes include:

  • All levels and characters remade in 3D, with a "Classic mode" that puts the old 2D character sprites in the 3D world
  • A "Dynamic camera system" that automatically zooms in at certain points in a level
  • A few extra areas that were never included in the main game
  • An unlockable "Time Attack Mode"
  • A soundtrack remade by Danny Baranowsky of Super Meat Boy and Canabalt fame
  • Numerous easter eggs for old fans of the game and "cross-over content" with nods to Prinny in the western version, and content from Crazy Climber, Ikki, and Dragon Slayer added to the Japanese version


Sources:

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"so assuming you don't want to know the specifics of the TI-83 plus calculator port" - Okay, now I really think I've seen everything. (Amazing answer, by the way. :D) –  Rilgon Arcsinh Jul 31 '12 at 14:06
    
Does the Wii version actually have HD graphics? Considering the console isn't HD I'd say that's overkill... –  Jeff Dec 23 '12 at 15:00
1  
Whoops, good call. While the graphics were updated for the WiiWare version, they weren't fully "HD" until Cave Story+. Thanks for pointing that out, I've updated my answer. –  RedRiderX Dec 23 '12 at 20:15
    
I have the Wiiware version, and you have the option to enable the old graphics. –  Zibbobz Oct 15 '13 at 19:37
    
Good to know, I don't have the WiiWare version myself, so it can be hard to fact-check some things. –  RedRiderX Oct 15 '13 at 20:06
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