With remastered titles being all the rage right now, and every publisher seemingly tossing out what they think is their best games with improved visuals and other tweaks onto current-gen consoles in hope of squeezing out more cash out of their investment, most titles have fans scratching their heads wondering why they were even re-released in the first place. Nordic Games’ Legend of Kay Anniversary is one such game, as it was obscure to begin with when it first came out for the PS2 (though it gathered a cult following), and now it’s back with updated visuals, new character models and a bunch of additional features. But is revisiting this old adventure even worth your time?
Legend of Kay Anniversary Edition
Developed by Kaiko and Neon Studios / Published by Nordic Games
Available on the PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U and Xbox 360. Reviewed on the PS4.
*Review code provided by Nordic Games
To the uninformed, Legend of Kay is about a young cat who lives in a world ruled by the Way, a set of rules that maintains the peace between all the animal races. When the gorilla and rat armies invade and break the cycle, and threaten to close the martial arts school in order to replace it with their own, Kay fights back with sword in hand and seeks to take down those responsible.
Plot-wise, Legend of Kay is rather unremarkable, but then again, it’s a story that is aimed more towards children, in which case it’s pretty fun. Kay’s journey through various villages, dungeons, and enemy territories is colorful, light and full of dialogue that draws heavily from its Kung Fu film inspirations, while including elements like jokes that would make kids chuckle in delight. For adults however, the plot is simple, and while it works, the dialogue is bland and it’s nothing memorable.
Visually, Legend of Kay looks sharp, but while it isn’t that impressive in comparison to most of the remasters available in the market today, it does look better in comparison to its PS2 days, which was a solid looking game when it came out. The game still shows its age with outdated textures, awkward robotic speaking and the occasional weird animations, but it looks good in 1080p, the character model updates are nice, and the combat animations are as fluid as ever, so it isn’t all bad.
In regards to gameplay, Legend of Kay plays like a light version of The Legend of Zelda, presenting a large world full of enemies and NPCs that players can explore by moving from area to area. As Kay, players will be able to explore a number of them in each chapter or stage, take on quests by talking to NPCs or finding hidden objects, collect coins to purchase in-game items and point multiplying crystals to gain a high score, and take on a number of martial art foes and large creatures that stand in your way using melee weapons and magic spells. The game is fun and pretty action-packed, combining some great exploration, combat and platforming, but it’s unfortunately held back by issues that make the experience more cumbersome than it should be.
Moving about stages and exploring every nook and cranny is easy and entertaining, thanks to Kay’s excellent and responsive movement skills – which are reminiscent of the excellent platformers of the time with double jumps, rope and pole swinging, and more. The stages are also varied enough to keep things interesting throughout the whole adventure, bringing enough obstacles, challenges, puzzles, and even racing minigames to keep players engaged as they progress through chapters. Additionally, chapters also bring a number of secrets and side quests that will have players deviating from time to time from the main path to acquire large sums of coins, unique items like powerful weapons, and other goodies that will give Kay the edge against the gorilla and rat forces.
Combat is also pretty great and is one of the highlights of the game, thanks to the variety of attacks and strategies players can use while fending off foes or fighting off various bosses. At its simplest, players have access to a standard attack, a block, and a dodge roll to take care of attacking enemies. When enemies start to block however, Kay can also roll around enemies to strike their exposed backs, and when they fall, Kay can also unleash power ground attacks to take out fallen foes. Players also have access to magic attacks that can decimate large groups of foes at the same time, though it’s limited depending on how much magic energy Kay has, and potions that can boost Kay’s attack, recover health or magic, and more. The combat controls take a few minutes to get used to, but soon feel pretty great and do a fantastic job at giving players options.
While exploring the land, taking quests and fighting enemies is fun, the problem with the game lies more with the UI systems and camera. The map system, for example, is absolutely terrible, since it only shows you only your immediate surroundings on the mini-map and nothing else as its pretty zoomed in, and the mission objectives which should be showing on the edge on the mini-map at all times, hardly show up, so players frequently have to wander aimlessly looking for the next place to head to. I blame this on the remaster, since most of the UI from the PS2 has been redesigned to a cleaner, readable version, and somewhere in the process it caused the objective marks to not appear on the regularly on the mini-map. Additionally, there’s not even a full overview map players can check out to scope out the whole area, so that means players have to rely on the terrible mini-map for everything.
Furthermore, the game is also plagued by a horrible camera that only seems to let players see what’s on in front of them, but there’s no real good way to look up or down. As an adventure game with platforming elements, it’s terrible that players can’t look at the environment without having to struggle with a camera that doesn’t help you out. It also constantly gets stuck in weird angles too, especially during battles held in small areas where it’s crucial to see where the enemy is, making simple encounters rather frustrating. I know it’s an old game and all, and bad cameras were common at the time, but the remaster should have definitively taken the time to fix it.
When all is said and done, Legend of Kay Anniversary is an average remaster of an obscure cult classic. While the gameplay is solid and the revamped visuals do a decent job at making the game playable on today’s systems, the shoddy camera and terrible mini-maps keep the game from being a memorable experience. A couple of tweaks here and there could have made the game a much more pleasant ride, but as it stands, Legend of Kay Anniversary isn’t as improved as it aimed to be.