Impressions of Ikachan Before Cave Story

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When most people review or otherwise talk about Ikachan, they phrase it as “a game from the creator if Cave Story,” Daiske Amaya’s most well-known work. They may note Ikachan has having been made before Cave Story, but most fans probably already played the latter first. I didn’t.

So, I’m kind of coming at Amaya’s games in a more chronological order. I still haven’t touched the Steam copy of Cave Story+ I bought a while ago (I intend to if I can ever build myself an HTPC on which to play it in glistening HD), but recently finished Ikachan on the 3DS.

Before playing either game I understood that they both had similarities to Metroid, and that’s about it. Ikachan itself is basically a micro Metroid game that takes place completely underwater. This is both in terms of length but most importantly in terms of mechanics, which it threads together just as skillfully as any game of the “Metroidvania” format.

What I really like about Ikachan is how fulfilling and challenging it can be based off of a pretty simple gameplay mechanic. All you really is swim into stuff. Eventually you get the ability to attack enemies by swimming into them head-on. Through enemy AI and level design, that simple mechanic by itself already gives way to sufficiently challenging and complex combat.

You get at least one other ability in the game that also fits nicely into Ikachan’s essentially two-button control scheme, expanding both combat and exploration. That’s on top of a rudimentary experience point system. Basically, Ikachan manages to be a surprisingly succinct metroidvania-type game, like a compressed package of simply good game design.

Even after having heard how short Ikachan was, I was still surprised when it ended. According to my 3DS system the game took me less than two hours to finish which is why some question paying $5 for the game instead of just downloading the original freeware PC version. I personally just think the game was a good fit for a piece of Nintendo hardware, and that it deserved my money.

One thing I’d also like to say surprised me was Ikachan’s story. In the beginning it’s one of those things you put together in your head based on character dialogue. Pretty soon the NPCs build up the reputation of the main big bad as well and the complex economic situation he controls. I don’t want to spoil anything, but upon finally meeting the main antagonist the game actually succeeds in getting you to feel sorry for him.

I actually have very little idea of whether this is just a preview of what I can expect from Cave Story — if Cave Story is basically the spiritual sequel to Ikachan. Maybe it’s right that I played Ikachan first, since its short length left me wanting more, and I just may get that in the form of Cave Story.

BULLETS:

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