The concept of verisimilitude is the idea of a creation being believable and genuine, created by someone who understands the subject and its realities. In just about any medium of fiction, verisimilitude achieved by the creators results in a sort of detachment from reality, a feeling that you are fully invested in its world and characters, that the conflicts onscreen or on the page directly concern you. This is called immersion: an unconscious personal sense of involvement in the action of fiction. Now, immersion can be easily broken; the sudden realization of a ravenous, all-consuming plot hole can shatter that feeling, as can the emergence of a major flaw in programming or execution, or a dopey misspelling. When it’s done right, however…

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Oh man, is it an experience.

This is Doukutsu Monogatari. Or, I should say, it’s an official Japanese poster created for the Nintendo 3DS version of Cave Story, which is its English name. Many years ago (all the way back in the Stone Age, which is to say, 2004), this little indie computer game simply materialized out of nowhere. There was no hype or promotion, it just existed all of a sudden. That, of course, does not mean it was made quickly, or that it was rushed or written without thought. This game was a labor of love.

A man named Daisuke Amaya (he calls himself Pixel) created the entire thing by himself over a period of five years. Programming, design, writing, visuals, narrative, music– all his doing. And he took five years to make sure it was exactly as he wanted.

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Cave Story has been recognized quite a bit… some attest that it fits the mythical concept of a “perfect video game”, or that it’s something that you simply can’t miss. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I can understand the enthusiasm; when I first played it, I felt the same rabid fanaticism that fueled those gushing reviews. Its atmosphere is a major contributor.

The story of the game starts off… not horribly different from many games out there. The protagonist, a silent amnesiac (which, of course, is quite the cliche), wakes up in a small cave after catching a distress signal… in the form of an Instant Message chat.

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It… definitely spreads out from there. The cave you wake up in is one of the smallest in a series of caves within one huge cave. Due to the nature of the environment, the only other people to interact with are the existing inhabitants of the cave, and you have no way of leaving. Right off the bat, you are expected to adapt to the isolation of being alone, and you’ll keep doing so throughout the game.

One can tell how easy it would be to become immersed in a world of that sort. You have only your own mind to fit most things together, after all, and you’re given precious little knowledge of the situation at the start. The real question: how is it verisimilar?

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Well, Cave Story was made with love.

That sounds dumb, I know. It’s still true. You can tell that Pixel wanted to create this lovely piece of art, and he truly felt it. It had an awfully long development time because he needed time to ensure that his feelings came through. Seems to me that if someone really puts their soul into creating a fictional world, it’s already achieved some sort of truth. That’s how a lot of independent games work: you may know they’re fictitious, but you still believe them.

There isn’t much more to say. Cave Story is not a game to be described. Playing through the whole thing is the only way to fully understand it. This site here can tell you all you need to know (more than I can, actually) and provide you with a download, including an English patch. I think you’ll understand what all this blathering is about if you take a look.

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