The controls have translated nicely to the 3DS's circle pad and face buttons, reproducing the slightly slippy, steerable jump that worked so well in the PC original. When the precision platforming occasionally feels trickier, the fault is not that of the controls but of the screen size: narrow, single-block ledges that were a thumb's width on a PC display are tiny on the 3DS's petite upper screen. The touch screen, meanwhile, is dedicated to your inventory and a helpful map view.
The new visuals elaborate beautifully on the pixel-art environments of Cave Story, transforming its 8-bit levels with depth and detail. The characters have been similarly converted into solid little 3D avatars, though if you prefer the old look, there's the compromise of Classic mode, which drops familiarly retro sprites into the new 3D environments. The makeover is not completely without cost. The rich, moody new look doesn't have the same clarity as the flat cave levels in the PC game. And in a few specific spots, the darker colours and new depth can make it hard to tell what is platform and what is foreground or background set dressing.
There's a mysterious story, in sharp contrast to the cutesy cast, and it reveals itself one expositional scrap at a time. Nothing is laid out at the beginning, making you as initially clueless as the memory-free protagonist, with the plot's gravity and complexity building as you go. Here, especially, you sense Cave Story is the work of just one man, its idiosyncratic and surprisingly ruthless tale spun over five years from the vision of a single creator.
Classic Mode pops 2D sprites into the 3D levels.
Besides the 3D makeover and new music (lightly remixed versions of the perky original tunes), not a great deal has been added to this version of Cave Story. There are a few extra areas to explore, though these aren't substantial additions, and an unlockable Time Attack mode for a certain portion of the game. Cave Story fans might crave extra material, but newcomers won't find there's too little to do; there are several hours of play in your first pass.
It's not possible to recommend this version of Cave Story over all others, but it is a worthy, good-looking adaptation of a wonderful game all the same. If the WiiWare and DSiWare versions passed you by, and you'd rather do your platforming with an analogue pad than a keyboard, Cave Story 3D is a great way to discover a game that well deserves your attention.