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Tiny Q&A: Nicalis on Cave Story’s jump to DSiWare, upcoming WiiWare update

Though the indie studio has a lot on its plate — NightSky, La-Mulana, and Cave Story WiiWare’s European release — Nicalis took some time to talk with Tiny Cartridge about its newest project: Cave Story for DSiWare.

Here, producer Tyrone Rodriguez discusses the challenges of adapting the game for the Nintendo DSi, why it chose to port Cave Story to the unappreciated DSiWare platform, when you might see it on the DSi Shop, and what the studio learned from how fans reacted to the WiiWare release. He also mentions an upcoming bug fix update for the WiiWare edition, which I know many have begged for.

So, read all that and more past the break:

Will the DSiWare version have any of the new features/content introduced in the WiiWare port?

Tyrone Rodriguez: The DSiWare version of Cave Story does have some of the new features introduced with the WiiWare version. We’ll announce the feature set pretty soon, but I can tell you it’s pretty comparable — which is cool since you can play it on planes, trains, and automobiles now. … For the DSiWare version, we kept it relatively lean in comparison mainly because this is more a perfect port of the original game. We did include a few things from the WiiWare version but not all of them.

How will it use the second screen/touch screen?

TR: The touch screen is used for player inventory, the Map System, and dialogue boxes. For the most part the dialogue doesn’t usually obstruct the on-screen characters, but we found that moving it down to the bottom screen was a bit more pleasing. You could concentrate on what’s going [on] — especially given the differences in resolution. We didn’t implement actual touch for the Inventory or Map System — it didn’t feel “right” on a 2D game.

This seems like a silly question, but I know some developers have implemented similar features in their DSiWare titles. Will this version support any camera-related features?

TR: We didn’t feel that what was available would necessarily add to the Cave Story experience. That’s not to say we won’t do it for other games, but it’d have to be integrated early in development and not slapped on.

What sort of challenges did you face with adapting Cave Story for the handheld?

TR: Easily the first thing that we had to overcome was the different in resolution. It may seem pretty trivial, but the resolutions of the original Cave Story (320x240) and DSi (256x192) are identical in proportions only. You end up losing about 25 percent resolution in each direction.

The idea of scaling down the artwork was thrown out almost instantly, as all of Pixel’s artwork is pretty iconic. We had no intention of ruining it by scaling down. That left one obvious option: crop the screen.

That’s exactly what we’ve done, but in doing so [we] moved some of the display and UI around so that it won’t get in the way of the player. The health meter and weapons now occupy a predominantly horizontal spot on the upper portion of the top screen. The Boss Meter was shortened to not get in the way of the player in certain battles.

We had to adjust a bunch of mundane things that you probably don’t think about when playing a game. As I mentioned before, we use the bottom screen for dialogue boxes and item pop-ups as well as the Map System. The additional screen definitely helped mitigate the disparity in resolution. Honestly, after a few minutes of playing the DSi version, I don’t think most players will miss the extra space. In some ways it feels better to see less.

As far as other things, our programmer had to find clever ways to make sure the game runs at a constant 60fps. Cave Story is surprisingly heavy for being an old-school like 2D game. But I think Pixel’s intention was to play it on a PC and not a DS(i).

Were you able to take any lessons from Cave Story WiiWare’s release or fan feedback and apply them to the DSiWare version’s development?

TR: Yeah, work faster, better, and more efficiently. I’ve said it before, but I’m as big a Cave Story fan as anyone out there. During the development of the WiiWare version, I would read most fan feedback, wondering when the game would come out, some eventually writing off it as vaporware. That’s why we didn’t haven’t hinted at a DSiWare version until after completing its development.

It’s been done for a few weeks now; we’re testing it now. We really do read most of the feedback from fans, good and bad — we’re big boys and if there’s something that either needs fixing or players want, we’d be stupid not to address it.

Oh yeaaah!! The other thing we learned is that audio is almost more important to Cave Story fans than artwork. For those ready to bitch about the audio, it’s perfect this time around, the first time around.:)

Why DSiWare? It seems to be a platform that hasn’t received much appreciation from both gamers and the media.

It was requested by a friend and I also wanted to play it on DSi. As far as gamers and media not being onboard with DSiWare, we all should be in accord that a console is only as good as the games that are available on it. If gamers and the media aren’t happy with DSiWare, it isn’t because the DSi isn’t capable of good games — it’s because some publishers that constantly republish shitty mobile games and charge four times as much for them on DSi. Maybe games like Shantae and Cave Story will make players have something good to download on their DSi.

You’ve said that, for the most part, development is complete. When did you start working on this?

TR: We started working on a [technical design document] and spec’ing out the SDK after GDC [last March]. We officially kicked off around E3. That’s four months, [give or take] a month.

Can you talk about a release date or pricing?

TR: Date? Still to be determined, but I would love to have this out before Halloween. I’d be surprised if it isn’t released before the end of the year. Pricing? Again, that’s not necessarily up to us, but I’d say expect to pay a price indicative of the experience and amount of gameplay in Cave Story.

Anything else you’d like to tell Cave Story fans?

TR: I did want to thank fans for all the post-release feedback to the WiiWare version of Cave Story and the pre-release e-mails for NightSky and NIGORO’s La-Mulana. We have someone review 100-percent of the stuff that comes in and I get to read most of it as well.

We got a ton of positive feedback, but even the negative feedback is welcome. Players have a lot of passion for their games and even when they’re mad at us, I can see that they’re trying to communicate something. We try to take it all in a very positive way and a lot of it has helped the upcoming update for Cave Story — it’ll address a game-breaking bug and a ton of other fan-requested fixes.

Buy: Nintendo DSi XL (Blue, Burgundy, & Bronze), Standard Nintendo DSi (White, Pink, Black, & Blue)

See also: More Cave Story posts

[Fanart via Shinonoko, screens via Nintendolife]

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