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  • Alas, Poor Scrappy: Sue might qualify for some of her detractors after being pummeled into submission by a gigantic frenzied Mimiga. But since she declares she didn't want your help if you tell her you saved her, and then tells you "You're no help" if you tell her you didn't, some might not feel much sympathy for her.
  • Anvilicious: Humans Are Bastards and the game wastes no time telling that to the player. It goes without saying that this attitude is extremely nihilistic, especially since the Doctor is so far removed from humanity that it becomes impossible to see themselves in him in any way. Nevermind that there are good humans in the game (Jenka, Professor Booster, Momorin and arguably Sue Sakamoto) or humans that are merely cowards and didn't plan to harm anyone (Kazuma, Itoh) that it also becomes a Broken Aesop.
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  • Ass Pull: Curly's near-death-scenario (that could actually kill her if the player messes up) from having water enter her body. Even though she had an air bubble around her at all times, so how did it enter her in the first place?
  • Author's Saving Throw:
    • In the Switch version, the dog quest that takes up most of Sand Zone is changed so that you can carry all five dogs at once, and the last dog, formerly at the end of the area, is now near the Omega boss room. This makes the quest go by much more quickly.
    • After 13 years, an update to + finally lets you refuse the Booster v0.8 (so that you can get v2.0 later) and adds an extra platform to let you get out of the pit it's in without getting it, in case you fail the rather tricky jump over it.
  • Awesome Bosses: The last five bosses are the pinnacle of the game. And the boss preceding them is a symbolic one.
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  • Base-Breaking Character: Sue Sakamoto is without a doubt the game's most polarizing character. There are those who find her feisty Tsundere personality extremely infuriating and criticize her lack of impact on the overall story, while others love her for her feistiness and enjoy her role in the story just fine.
  • Better Than Canon: The fan-made fourth ending for many, particularly because you can actually save King and Toroko and the credits suggest Misery finally makes amends with her mother, Jenka.
  • Bizarro Episode: The Outer Wall is by far the weirdest place in the game. The gravity is odd, treating the left side of the screen as 'down' for everything except you (though this could be justified if the wind is strong enough — this is the outside of a Floating Continent, after all). The enemies don't seem bizarre at first, but then you encounter the giant cat ghosts that shoot yarn balls with eyes at you. And living at the bottom is a group of people that are five inches high.
  • Breather Level:
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    • The Waterway, right after the Labyrinth, which has much weaker enemies and the water currents that literally complete most of the level for you.
    • The Plantation is rather easy compared to Outer Wall and what's to come. Most of the enemies in this area are rather weak or easily avoidable, save points are plentiful and there are no bosses.
    • If one endures the living hell that is Hard Mode and is on track to get the best ending, the Hidden Last Cave becomes this. Compared to the hectic Labyrinth M and the Destroyed Egg Corridor, this level is one where you can calmly make your way through, and the boss is relatively easy compared to what came before. This is also the first level where you can enjoy the only Life Capsule in Hard Mode and have 8 HP, so not that many non-spike or Press attacks will kill you in one hit. This is especially true, even outside of Hard Mode, with one of the two ultimate weapons, as one is charged rather than leveled up while the other is meant to be kept at Level One.
    • The Balcony, especially if the player is on the path to the Golden Ending, which rewards the player with the Hidden version of the Last Cave. There are only 4 enemies, lots of weapon energy capsules and missile refills higher up the boss area's face, and is the last place the player goes through before entering the Sacred Grounds which only has the falling blocks to worry about as opposed to the Goddamned Butes in the Sacred Grounds.
  • Complete Monster: Dr. Fuyuhiko Date, known almost exclusively as the Doctor, is a sociopathic researcher who came onto the floating island to take control of the powers of the Demon Crown. The Doctor is responsible for kidnapping several of the harmless native Mimigas and force-feeding them the corrupting red flowers, mutating them into savage beasts. The Doctor has reduced the Mimiga's village to a select few survivors in doing this, and plots to use the rabid Mimiga to attack the surface world. The Doctor has his servants force-feed the young Toroko these red flowers, ultimately leading to her death, and murders King when he tries to intervene, commenting on how "fragile" their bodies are. The Doctor is also responsible for mutating several of the island's infant dragons into undead zombies. At the end of the game, the Doctor mutates his own servant Misery for her dissent, intending to make her his puppet until the day she dies. The Doctor was an unfettered egomaniac who puts his pride above everything else, all the while behaving in a calm, perpetually condescending manner.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Since there's no way to save certain characters (and those who you can save are a heavy case of Guide Dang It!), it can be hard to care what happens to them, since the player is more likely to curse the game instead of themselves when it comes to saving them. At the end, the one thing the player might care about is killing the Doctor, but even then, there are endings where he gets what he wants without reprecussions.
  • Demonic Spiders:
    • The armored Gaudis in Labyrinth M. They throw knives at you which do loads of damage, and unlike the purple projectiles from the flying Gaudis, they can't be shot down.
    • The Crows and Butes listed as Goddamned Bats below become this in Hard Mode.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: It's very easy to excuse Misery and Balrog's actions on the grounds that they were Forced into Evil, and very easy to forget they were doing evil with genuine, happy smiles on their faces.
  • Ear Worm: Good luck getting Balrog's Leitmotif out of your head. The aforementioned Main Theme and Running Hell also qualify.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Balrog, for multiple reasons.
    • King, especially after he gives the player the Sword, one of the best weapons on a normal run, before dying from his injuries. It even has his soul! It also helps that he curbstomped Balrog just a bit beforehand and that he's a signified badass even before that happens.
  • Fandom Rivalry: Shares a minor one with Undertale. Cave Story fans get annoyed when Undertale fanart appears in Cave Story Tumblr tags. It also doesn't help that trolls are accusing Cave Story for ripping off Undertale even though Cave Story was released a decade before.
  • Friendly Fandoms: Despite the above, Cave Story and Undertale fans can often get along, complete with many crosovers in their ranks. They share similarly friendly relationships with Yume Nikki, Off, and MOTHER fans, also leading to crossovers.
  • Goddamned Bats:
    • The Crows in the Sand Zone, and Butes in Sacred Grounds.
    • And the actual bats in the game, which can swarm around you if you don't kill them while sleeping, and are particularly obnoxious when summon spammed by bosses.
  • Goddamned Boss: The Core, with periods of invulnerability and ability to flood the area, which slows you down and may drown you. Also, the boss area is quite far from the previous restoration point even if you aren't going for the Golden Ending.
    • In his first form, the Doctor's attacks are fairly easy to dodge. However, all of his projectiles block your projectiles, and that's not accounting for the Red Crystal he's got buzzing around him which does the same. And his final form is a reprise of the Core.
  • Good Bad Bugs:
    • Playing in Holiday Mode in the Wii version somehow turns Curly's sprite into the male player character's. Not only is the now-male "Curly" referred to as "she" and "her", you still meet the default character in the Sand Zone. For the rest of the game two copies of the main character are running around the island. And Curly's panties are still referred to as "Your Panties". Yeah.
    • Cave Story 3D has a huge glitch where the game saves flags between save files when you quit the game with the inventory open. This can be used to return from the Point of No Return, get huge amounts of HP, and numerous other wacky things, including getting a Dummied Out item that Nicalis, surprisingly enough, ported into the remake.
  • He's Just Hiding!:
    • Both Toroko and King qualify, since the game never makes their fate quite clear outside of King giving you his blade at his last breath, which clearly shows his spirit when one upgrades it to Level 3. In fact, if one checks for them, no body is left behind, so the player might assume they eventually regained conciousness and left.
    • Curly when one fails to save them, but still manages to bring them to bed, but overlooks that there's still stuff to do to avoid another death. The message confirming their death only shows up when one carries them around too long.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Chako's lipstick "has no use". Five years later, Bayonetta finishes off Father Balder by shooting him with lipstick.
  • Ho Yay: The Bad Ending has Quote and Kazuma (both male) escaping the Doctor's clutches and living Happily Ever After.
  • It Was His Sled: A lot of online walkthroughs and such, even ones that otherwise avoid spoiling things without warning, give away the player character's name (Quote) without a second thought. Presumably, this is because no name is given for him until partway through the Golden Ending path, making it hard to talk about him otherwise. Later releases attempted to address this referring to him by the In-Series Nickname "Mr. Traveler", but crossover appearances, such as Blade Strangers and Crystal Crisis, spoil his name right off the bat.
  • Memetic Badass:
  • Memetic Mutation: "HUZZAH!", Balrog's Catchphrase in the Fan Translation of the original game, became a sort of rallying cry for fans of the game.
  • Most Annoying Sound:
    • The sound of experience points bouncing on the ground is barely noticeable in the original PC version, but drowns out everything else on the WiiWare port. This has been fixed with an update.
    • The level-up sound of all things if you're using the Nemesis, as leveling up weakens it.
  • Paranoia Fuel: One of earliest doors you'll have to enter is literally a monster. However, this monster never appears again after this initial trap.
  • Player Punch:
    • This seems to be The Doctor's job throughout the game, since he sure as hell doesn't spend any time healing anyone. If he appears on screen, he's either trying to punch your character or trying to punch you.
    • "Curly's life functions have ceased." Five little words to let you know that you dun goofed.
    • Being forced to kill Toroko.
  • Play the Game, Skip the Story: The story is widely regarded to be one the weakest points of the game, with many criticizing the unnecessary darkness, the inability to save King and Toroko, and the Anvilicious message. However, many players agree that the game is worth it for the gameplay alone, which is surpisingly solid for being made by one person.
  • Polished Port: The number of ports of the game is comparable to the number of ports of Lunar: The Silver Star, and each capitalizes on the last. The WiiWare port has redone sprites, the ability to play as Curly, and the European version gets an additional soundtrack.note  Cave Story + has all this and the Wind Fortress, somehow harder than the Sacred Grounds. 3D has polygonal models, and Cave Story +'s eShop release boasts everything + does but the graphics, and to compensate it's in stunning 3D. The Switch version then adds onto all of this with the Wii's remastered graphics, animated talking sprites, widescreen, some gorgeous subtle lighting effects, and co-op in a later update.
  • Scrappy Weapon: Subverted by the Bubbline/Bubbler. So many FAQs condemn this weapon as being "meh" at best, or even outright terrible, but leveling the Bubbline up makes it apparent pretty quickly that this isn't entirely accurate. At level 1, it is the epitome of useless. At level 2, it's a decent enough rapid-fire weapon, but still nothing special. At level 3, however, the Bubbline becomes a powerful and versatile weapon with both offensive and defensive applications. Holding down the fire button continually conjures bubbles that hover around you, shielding you from destructible projectiles. These bubbles will fire off on their own a few seconds after being conjured, but you can also fire all bubbles at once like some sort of water-elemental Macross Missile Massacre simply by releasing the fire button. However, the Bubbline does run out of bubbles eventually, and requires a cooldown period before it's back up to full charge. As well, it has one of the smallest EXP cushions in the game for securing its level at 3, meaning it's easy to be sent back down to level 2 by taking damage. Despite this, it's still very much a powerful weapon in its own right if you know how and when to use it.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: It cannot be stressed enough how important this game is. Just about everything about it has permanently influenced Indie game development since its release. Numerous successful Retraux titles such as Minecraft, Shovel Knight, and even Mega Man 9 owe their very existence to Cave Story. The game has been copied to death ever since it was released back in 2004, meaning that all the factors that once made it legendary (the spritework, the music, the story, even the fact that it was made by one guy) are now old hat.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: The "life capsule" jingle is quite similar to the Metroid "got item" jingle.
  • That One Boss:
    • Monster X is a mine car that drives from one side of the room to the other, forcing you to climb on it to avoid being crushed, and can only be damaged when it stops to unleash a torrent of bullets or homing missiles. While not the toughest boss in the game by any standards, it's far tougher than anything that came before it, and the sheer amount of on-screen objects can be overwhelming even to a player who has played the game before.
    • The Core has five mini-cores that together create an impressive volume of fire, and severely hampers the player's mobility by frequently flooding the room. It Turns Red by adding a current to the water and starting to use an attack which takes off 20 HP (of a maximum attainable 41 at that point). If you're playing on Hard Mode, the difficulty of the fight is amped up considerably since, unless you're playing the physical 3DS release, you only have your starting 3 HP and no Missiles, and thus don't have good damage output and every single attack it throws at you is a One-Hit Kill. While with Monster X you could attack a little and then flee when it gets dangerous, the Core's movement patterns and room layout ensures that this isn't possible, making the Core possibly the biggest roadblock on Hard Mode.
    • Frenzied Toroko makes for one hell of a Wake-Up Call Boss. While her AI pattern is pretty simple and easy to deal with once you get the hang of it, her attacks deal 10 points of damage, which is at roughly 28% of the maximum possible health you can have at that point.
    • Misery is difficult compared to The Doctor right after her. She has a lot of quick attacks, she Teleport Spams, and as the battle goes, gain orbiting shields that block your shots.
  • That One Level:
    • The Sand Zone. The Egg Corridor prepared you, Grasstown/Bushlands is where the game really starts, the Sand Zone is where the Nintendo Hard and Guide Dang It! nature of the game starts shining, featuring the first opportunity to miss out on one of the two Infinity Plus One Guns, enemies that gang up on you and can cause notable damage together, and a Fetch Quest that forces you to go through the area where the most enemies gang up on you at least five times and forces you to go through that area and the area after it twice. Not to mention Omega and Frenzied/Rabid Toroko, the first two Wake Up Call Bosses. The Switch version lessens the Fetch Quest, however, making the level much more bearable.
    • Labyrinth for enemies that gang up on you a lot, a lot of rooms, and Monster X and The Core, the first two That One Bosses. In the physical 3DS version, the last segment before The Core, Labyrinth M, gets expanded, making it even tougher than in any other version.
    • In the physical 3DS version, the Destroyed Egg Corridor is elevated to this. Shortly after the Sisters, much like Labyrinth M, the level gets expanded, effectively doubling its size. On Hard Mode, since the Sisters aren't able to be fought due to no Missiles being available, you have to do the entire level in one go since the Save Point can't spawn.
    • Last Cave (Hidden) introduces a mechanic not seen anywhere else in the game up to this point: The game resets all of your weapon levels! While this means nothing if you're using the Nemesis, which is most powerful at level 1, or the Spur, which is a Charged Attack weapon, your other weapons will need some time to build back up to level 3. Additionally, there's a sequence at the end where you have to run past a bunch of Presses that One-Hit Kill you if they smash you into the floor, and perfect timing of Booster 2.0 is needed to get past the small water pits in the floor.
  • That One Sidequest: Trying to skip Booster v0.8 so you can get 2.0 later is a pest in most versions because you need to make a very tricky jump over the pit you can obtain it in; if you fall into the pit, you must get 0.8 from Professor Booster to get out. However, an update to Cave Story + not only lets you say no, but adds extra platforms to allow you to get out without getting 0.8.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: Balrog's quirky Catchphrase ("Huzzah!") became "Oh Yeaahhh!" for the WiiWare release. Fans were not pleased. Also, some of the music sounded worse, although in this case the consensus was nearly unanimous, with the real debate being how big a problem it was. Nicalis heard the complaints, and eventually released an update that fixed the sound, music, and a few grammar/spelling quirks.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Both King and Toroko have interesting and likeable personalities and prove to be quite capable fighters, it would've been interesting to see them accompany the player much like Curly does. They are both killed quite early into the game and are impossible to save in the main game.
  • Ugly Cute: King is not ugly, but he's certainly less conventionally cute than the other Mimigas. Nevertheless, several fans think he's adorable.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: To some, Misery. Despite being forced to work for the Doctor due to being enslaved by the Demon Crown, and the fact that Balrog even says the Doctor's smacked her at least once off-screen, she clearly does enjoy the occasional act of being a Jerkass, including sending Balrog to the Labyrinth simply out of annoyed spite. The fact that she personally created the Demon Crown in spite of her uncle's circumstances and drawing its power directly from his own only makes her Laser-Guided Karma of being controlled by the very crown she made a rather deserving fate, on top of being the catalyst for the entire plot to begin with.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion: Mr. Traveler/Quote can be easily mistaken for a girl at first glance, due to having Boyish Short Hair and rather androgynous clothing. The fact that his name was actually going to be "Curly Brace" would've only made thing worse.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: The game is known for its accessible and engaging gameplay and cutesy visuals. It also features themes of slavery, war, and biological experimentation on unwilling test subjects, four nightmarish final bosses (The Doctor, who loses control and mutates, then him possessing the Core, Sue, and Misery, then the Heavy Press which attacks out of nowhere and is a Kaizo Trap if you don't realize what it is quickly enough, then finally Ballos, who has a horrific backstory and red, dripping, tortured faces in his head), and most of the cast dying before your eyes at regular intervals. And still goes with a rating of E10+.
  • The Woobie:
    • Toroko. She lost her older brother not too long before the events of the game and saved and cared for Sue when she showed up in Mimiga Village. She gets mistaken for Sue by Balrog and is kidnapped in her place, with the Doctor using her as a guinea pig for the red flowers. Turned rabid, Quote has to fight her and ends up killing her.
    • King. He clearly cares about his people and tries his best to stand in for Arthur, but when it comes to a confrontation between him and the Doctor, the latter unceremoniously throws him against a wall. He accepts his death, but gives Quote his blade, at least he can assist him in spirit.
    • At the end, we have to feel sorry for Sue as well. While she may be rude and stand-offish, she also suffers a lot through the game. Getting turned into a Mimiga doesn't even begin to cover it.
    • The Mimiga as a whole qualify. They are friendly creatures living happily in their village, which just happens to contain toxic red plants which turns them strong and aggressive. And they're planned to be used as weapons by a sociopathic doctor. Even worse, since the player can choose to just let him.
  • Woolseyism: Many consider the original fan translation far superior to the more Wonder Bread official localization that came years later. While the official translation clearly borrowed from the fan version used for years, it removed scores of little nuances and phrasings that were more dynamic and made each character seem more identifiable in how they came across. Of course, in many cases, the preference is as simple as changing Balrog's iconic "Huzzah!" to the "Oh yeeeaaah!" Kool-Aid Man reference.

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