Created by Japanese developer Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya over a period of five years, Cave Story was released on PC in 2004 and quickly became famous with fans of indie titles. Nicalis came on board in 2010 to port the game to WiiWare and DSiWare, and also produced the enhanced Cave Story 3D on 3DS in 2011. Cave Story+ – based on an updated version released on Steam – was converted to the Switch in 2017.
Despite all of the various retail versions available, the original computer version of Cave Story has remained a freeware product and can be freely distributed online, and a mod community has grown up around the game.
Twitter user Buttons Montgomery posted the following message (warning: bad language) on November 24th, along with a screenshot showing evidence of a DMCA takedown notice:
So @nicalis has decided to start DMCA’ing the freeware versions of Cave Story and fan made rebuilds of the freeware version that supported mods while also largely not even using the original source code.
Remember: F**k Nicalis. Do not support Nicalis. Do not buy Nicalis games.
The tweet was spotted and reshared by famed indie developer Rami Ismail (he of Vlambeer fame, the studio behind Ridiculous Fishing, Luftrausers, and Nuclear Throne), who then posted the following message:
Cave Story is one of the most important games every made and I will 100% recommend you do not buy it. Download the freeware original, then buy Kero Blaster to support the actual developer of the game, instead of these ugly shenanigans.
One of the developers behind the CSE2 – which is a “decompilation” of Cave Story which has “an emphasis on accuracy to the original code” – has also responded to the original tweet, shedding a little more light on why the takedown request was filed:
I’m the main dev behind a major CSE2 fork, so I’d like to clear some stuff here!
Effectively, CSE2 was a decompilation project of the original Freeware release of CS. It appears Nicalis acquired the code of it when they got the IP. The DMCA was filled because of that.
The DMCA claims Nicalis owns the code to CS+ and believes said code exists in the repos, but that’s not the case to our knowledge.
Several major participants in the CSE2 project (myself included) are currently planning to approach nicalis to settle on the matter.
According to the Cave Story Community Encyclopedia, Cave Story is licensed to Nicalis but is owned by Amaya; therefore, it would appear that Nicalis is overstepping the terms of its licensing agreement by trying to snub out freeware versions of the game – although there are have been rumours that Nicalis has “duped” Amaya out of the rights to the game (this video does a good job of covering and even disproving these reports). Whatever agreement Nicalis has with Amaya, it has allowed the company to put characters from Cave Story into other games its has published or developed, including the puzzle title Crystal Crisis and the fighting game Blade Strangers.
This isn’t the first time that Nicalis has been accused of questionable behaviour. Last year, a report by Kotaku alleged that the company was ghosting potential business partners and Nicalis boss Tyrone Rodriguez was said to have used slurs and mistreated his staff.
We’ve approached Nicalis for comment and will update this story if and when we hear back.