The concept of HD remasters has been something of a hot topic over the course of the past console generation. Some folks look at them as a shameless money grab, while others wish there were more so that we can more easily preserve the titles of the past. It was insane how quickly social media lit up when it was let slip during a concert that a Final Fantasy XII remaster may be in the works. And there are a ton of games out there that would illicit a similar response were they given the opportunity to exist. But what about games that don’t have that sort of following?
Legend of Kay is one of those games that I remember seeing on shelves all of the time, but never aroused enough interest in me to give it a try. I’m going to take a shot in the dark and guess that the remaster of this game came as a result of a license acquisition and the need to do something with it. At any rate, the Wii U isn’t exactly exploding with third party support at the moment, so it probably wouldn’t hurt to check out what Legend of Kay Anniversary brings to the table. It’s time I do just that.
The game takes place in the world of Yenching, a place inhabited by anthropomorphic animals who once followed a religion called The Way. Over time, the various races drifted away from these teachings and were eventually invaded by an army of gorillas and rats. Enter the titular main character, whose angsty wisecracking antics land him in the middle of a quest to challenge the evil dictator, Minister Shun, and right all of the wrongs of the world.
If that all sounds very cliché on paper, it’s actually much worse than that. Events play out in an aggravatingly predictable fashion, and character archetypes hit you in the face at every opportunity. And don’t get me started on the cringe worthy dialogue. It got to be so bad, I had to stop myself from just turning the game off at points. Some of it can be blamed on age, but this would’ve been unacceptable even ten years ago.
Since the folks doing the remaster are a different developer than the original team, I will at least give credit where credit is due and say that the presentation is very well done. I’ve seen HD updates that have made a title look worse, and Neon Studios actually managed to take a game that was fairly unremarkable and make it modern looking. The animations still look a little stiff when characters are talking, but if we’re talking strictly about improving models and motions that were already in place, they’ve done as good of a job as they possibly could have.
It’s a bit of a shame that they couldn’t re-record the dialogue though, because the characters sound rather miserable. If these were professional voice actors being utilized, then they had quite the off day. Everyone sounds phoned in, with Kay being the worst of the bunch, which is unfortunate given his number of lines. The soundtrack isn’t of particular quality either.
It’s a good thing that the actual gameplay manages to carry the weight, because for a budget action/adventure title, it’s fairly competent. Kay’s standard moves include being able to attack with Y, jump with B, block with X, and A to roll out of the way. He can also swap weapons and items on the fly and pickup and throw enemies. The tutorials get overly wordy at times, but they do teach you a number of additional moves such as teleporting between enemies in the air, striking foes while they’re down, and launching magic attacks upon surrounding foes. Combat gets even more interesting once Kay acquires additional weapons and can alternate between his sword, claws, and hammer.
Where Legend of Kay Anniversary falters is in its camera work. Despite being originally released in 2005, it does not have any kind of lock-on functionality. You can control the camera with the right analog stick, but if you want to have the action centered on the enemy while you circle around, too bad for you. The game is smart enough to fixate on the closest enemy automatically for you, but it doesn’t work as well as it should. At least it’s passable in other aspects of the game. Even though there is a fair amount of platforming, the camera in those instances doesn’t work against you quite so much, which is good.
Beyond your main quest, there are a good number of side quests for Kay to partake in which reward him with heart containers, money, and other items to aid in his quest. The entirety of the adventure is broken up into chapters and upon completion a score is tallied, which can then be submitted online and compared with friends. Various shops dot the landscape that expand the arsenal at your disposal at the cost of your precious funds, including potions and bombs. It’s a bit like the furry version of The Legend of Zelda in that regard.
There are some minigames sprinkled throughout the quest too, though they tend to detract from the experience more than they add. Certain points of the game force you into races atop wily beasts and you’re not allowed to continue until you complete them. They don’t control well, they’re not fun, and at the absolute most, they should’ve been an optional side attraction. Again, another near rage quit moment for me.
Like other Wii U titles, Legend of Kay Anniversary is compatible with the off-TV play functionality. I used it on a couple of occasions where I wanted something else running on the television simultaneously, and it looked and played very well. Although the touchscreen itself doesn’t actually do anything, having the option to delegate the map to the game pad would’ve been a cool feature, but being a budget game I can’t say I’m too terribly surprised.
And as long as we’re talking about budgets, the game is debuting at a $24.99 price tag on both physical and digital formats, which is impressive in an age where AAA titles cost sixty dollars or more and have a number of features stripped away. Despite my criticisms, I can’t even be mad about that price. I mean, yes, the plot and its execution of said plot is pretty miserable, but the combat holds up well, and makes for a great time killer if you’re looking for something new to play in the genre. It’s not particularly memorable either though, so don’t be surprised when another ten years goes by and you forget that this exists.
Short Attention Span Summary
Legend of Kay Anniversary inexplicably resurrects a decade old action adventure title for the PS2 seemingly as a social experiment to determine if the game was forgotten due to market saturation or because it wasn’t all that memorable to begin with. The combat has held up surprisingly well, even though the inability to lock onto enemies at will drags it down a notch. The visuals are also a huge step up from the original, as is the ability to play without the TV. On the other hand, the story and dialogue are cringe-worthy and certainly not a good selling point for undertaking this adventure. The unskippable mini-games introduce here are particularly sinful. For the price, you’re getting a competent action/adventure game that will help scratch the genre itch if you’ve got nothing else to play. Just don’t go in expecting anything particularly exceptional.