This console generation has become known, in part, for the number of game remasters being released. These are mostly games from the previous generation, with boosted resolutions, new textures, and maybe slightly altered gameplay. These can be a great way for a game to get a second chance, like with DmC: Devil May Cry. It can also be a cheap cash-in with a terribly made port, like Prototype. Either way, they tend to be games that had at least some popularity, and usually games from the last generation. Legend of Kay, though, is neither of those things. It originally made its entrance on the PS2, in an era when everyone was trying to make their animal mascot the next Banjo or Crash Bandicoot.
If you were into gaming at that time, you can probably guess how this game plays. It’s a 3D platformer, with some Zelda-style sword fighting and world exploration. Mechanically, it’s all pretty simple. One button uses your sword, and another lets you roll. This allows Kay to surprise his opponents. But while you can roll around them, you can also just roll in front of them to get an opening. I’m not sure why this works. You can also pick up items, such as bombs and potions. In some areas, there are special objects you can hit to let Kay quickly jump over and over without landing.
Other than that, you pretty much just run and stab. The controls mostly work fine, and the swordplay can be enjoyable, but it doesn’t even begin to approach something like Wind Waker in its combat mechanics. It mostly feels generic. There’s also one serious problem in a game that involves exploring: there’s no full map. You have a mini map, which usually (but surprisingly not always) shows your destination, but you can only look at one tiny area at a time. This gets really frustrating when it isn’t clear from the dialogue where you’re supposed to be going. Still, even if it’s not all that interesting and doesn’t give you a map, the gameplay can be genuinely fun. Just make sure to pay attention to where things are.
The story doesn’t exactly break new ground either. It takes place in a once-peaceful land that followed “The Way,” a system of beliefs and actions sort of like Buddhism. But the friendly races were invaded by gorillas and rats, who took over and got rid of The Way. They did at least make the plot somewhat interesting, but only on paper; as is often the case with platformers, the story doesn’t really make a difference. It’s not a plot that will really entice most players, and the characters don’t help much either; they’re too one note to be relatable. Even Kay himself is pretty much your typical character with “attitude.”
That said, some of the character designs are at least pretty interesting. There’s nothing particularly special about them, but the designs are nonetheless appealing. Kay himself is a good mix of cute and cool for the kind of character he is, and the gorilla antagonists do a good job of looking intimidating. It would be better if all of the characters had interesting appearances, or if the game had a unique overall style, but I’ll take what I can get with the visuals. The graphics are sharp and clean, as you’d expect with an HD re-release, but it’s still a very old game. That means everything is pretty simple, and lacking a lot of detail. the graphics aren’t bad, per se, but they don’t hold their weight in the modern era.
Sound-wise, the pattern of being generic continues, but I have to call out the voice acting. It’s actually hard to listen to Kay talk sometimes; the kid performing his voice was definitely not ready for prime time. He says the lines well enough, but none of it sounds natural. Some of the other voices are ok, but many sound like rough takes. There’s also the issue of what kinds of voices they chose. A number of characters, mostly the enemy rats, talk with exaggerated Chinese accents that are stereotypical at best, and racist at worst. I don’t know why the developer thought this was a good idea.
Getting through this game was tough, because very little of it seemed to grab me. Still, I have played worse. The swordfighting can be a lot of fun, and there is something to the exploration. But video games have changed a lot in the last 10 years. While I will always support having more 3D platformer-like games, with so many choices available, this just isn’t the best one to go with. I can think of several better alternatives. If this game is something that appealed to you before, the remastered version does its job well enough. But if you’re new to this title, I’d consider your choice carefully.
A legend best forgotten
Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 5/10
Story - 4/10
+ Some interesting character designs
+ Swordplay can be fun
– No full map
– Dated graphics
– Bad voice acting
– Lack of original gameplay