Let’s Analyze: A Thorough Look at Cave Story – Part 6

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This post continues a deep dive into the design of Cave Story. If you missed the earlier parts, follow the links above to check them out before continuing. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the Waterway!

Before the fight even begins, the player is introduced to a rising and falling water level.

Well, we’ll get there in a minute. First, there’s something to mention about the Core fight and the area leading to it. Both the area and the fight incorporate a fluctuating water level, sometimes raising to the point of filling the whole room.

After the fight ends, the arena floods for good. There’s nothing to do and nowhere to go–the limited mobility from the water enhances the hopeless feeling after the fight goes awry.

It’s the first time water is involved to such a great degree, and the greatest threat water presents at any point thanks to the Air Tank received right after. Even so, prior experience with the function of water keeps it from becoming an insurmountable obstacle.

Enter the Air Tank, just in time to prevent the player from drowning.

Now for the Waterway. From the start, it’s a textbook example of the “you got this thing, now use it” principle of game design.

Past this point, most of the Waterway is entirely submerged. Time to get acquainted with the inability to drown!

The best way of teaching a player how something works is to make them use it, and the Waterway wouldn’t have been possible at any point before obtaining the Air Tank. The entire area carries on what the Core fight started: testing the player’s understanding of the way water affects their mobility.

Later on in the Waterway, some seemingly meaningless dead-ends hide hearts, missiles and the like.

All the player has to do is shoot into these dead ends to reveal some much-needed hearts.

This is the case in a few other places throughout the game, but they’re more common here. They reward slight exploration and curiosity—and provide recovery after the boss fight—without being so significant that a less observant or thorough player would miss something major for it.

As a final note, the Bubbline is even more useful against the jellyfish swarm than it was initially. The jellyfish are more spread out and the swarm is much larger than the one we encountered in the Bushlands, so the coverage of the Bubbline works wonders.

This platform provides an excellent vantage point for thinning the swarm, as the currents will drag the player through it if they proceed any further.

That’s all for the Waterway. A rather short one this time, but the area certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome. Check back here again in a couple of weeks for the next leg of the journey!

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