Also On: Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: Nordic Games
As many of my reviews have shown, I like to revisit titles that get the HD remaster treatment, whether they're good or bad. In the case of Legend of Kay, it’s sort of a mixed bag. The original game was released on the PS2 on September 20th, 2005, ten years ago, getting fairly average to good reviews. Five years later, it was released on the Nintendo DS and didn’t get as good of a reception as its predecessor.
Legend of Kay Anniversary focuses on Kay, a young cat that wants to become a great warrior and protect his island Yengching from the evil Gorilla Minister Shun and Tak, the Rat Alchemist, that are trying to take over. The game has a variety of elements inspired by titles like The Legend of Zelda, Jak and Daxter, and other successful action/adventure/platformers. Kay has three types of weapons that he acquires such as a sword, claws, and a hammer. Each weapon can be easily switched between with the press of a button. This helps the combat run fairly smooth. Just like a typical adventure game, you are tasked with helping your village and the other characters you meet in the story in order to find a way to stop Shun and Tak.
Legend of Kay sadly shows its age, comparing its PS2 release to the updated Anniversary edition. One reason is simply technology has evolved and game design has changed. A lot of HD remasters have fixed technical flaws from the original releases and some have helped make the games even better. For LoK, there was a lot to like, however there were flaws that affected the overall experience of the game that are present even in this HD version.
For starters, the voice acting was beyond cringe worthy and the writing was no better. I am very thankful they chose to add a cutscene skip feature in the options. Now every time I saved an animal, or encountered a group of rats, I would skip instead of hearing the dreaded stereotypical voices of broken English coming from Asian cultured rats, or the laid back Jamaican accent of every frog you encounter. I would tend to think of Parappa the rapper to make it more tolerable.
The biggest gripe I have with Legend of Kay is its completely unreliable fixed camera. Having a responsive camera in this type of game is a must, yet the game suffers the most here. The camera system is beyond dated and despite inverting the controls, the camera zooms in the middle of a fight when you’re near corners of the level, which makes navigation excruciating. When trying to look around a room, especially with puzzles, the angles are limited and for platforming sections, you will fall consistently. It’s a shame that so much went into redoing the graphics, yet a feature that was criticized in many original reviews was left untouched.
Despite the frustrating camera and dreadful writing, the core game is fun to play and does a decent job of mixing up the exploration, action, and puzzle solving. The controls are tight and hold up well over the years. I'm a sucker for Zelda inspired adventures and LoK does the dungeon/puzzle portion well. I spent a good amount of hours between each section of the game including trying to find hidden heart and magic containers. I liked that you only need one container to get an upgrade and not four fragments to make one.
The combat is something that makes the game more enjoyable. You learn the basics from your master early in the game. As you make your way through the levels, you are given magic abilities and sub weapons like bombs and a jar of hornets used to sting your enemies. I wish they included a targeting system because the drawback of fighting a horde of enemies is the dreaded camera. I can’t tell you how many times I would get backed into a corner, only to see the walls or a tree blocking everything that was happening.
The best portion of Legend of Kay to me has to be the dungeons. Who doesn't love a well thought out temple with some good puzzle solving? From my experience, a large chunk of my time with LoK was inside various temples where I was looking for a Dragon, or a Nautical Chart to progress in the story. Backtracking is expected in a game like this; however it didn’t feel as much of a chore as in other games. There was always something to find or accomplish along the way and that helped pace my experience.
Out of everything Legend of Kay Anniversary has to offer, there is something I truly could have done without. The damned races! At least this is what the game categorizes them as. For me, they are unnecessary filler that you have to do in order to get to certain places. You have to ride one of three animals throughout the story such as a boar, wolf, and dragon. These sections happen too often and take away from the exploration aspects.
At the end of the day, Legend of Kay was released in a different console cycle where bad writing, unresponsive cameras, and tedious mini games were expected, and sometimes, even welcomed. If you were a fan of the original, this is essentially the same game with redesigned graphics and textures. For newcomers willing to look past its shortcomings, Legend of Kay Anniversary is a fun and solid platformer at a great value.