Rescued from JoWooD Entertainment when the North American publisher filed for bankruptcy, Legend of Kay has lain dormant for several years without any real expectation that it would ever return. But, to commemorate 10 years since the fearless feline struck PlayStation 2, Nordic Games has sprung a surprise in Legend of Kay Anniversary.
At a time where HD remasters have become an increasingly prominent part of the yearly release schedule, it’s a welcome chance to revisit Kay’s tale of warring animal tribes. On the other hand, I can’t for a second imagine that there was a large enough audience that has been holding out for a chance to relive the adventure – especially after Firehazard Studio’s lacklustre Nintendo DS port.
Whether the interest is there or not, Kaiko has admirably rewoven the adventure for a new generation. Transported to the mystical land of Yenching, we learn that it had once been peacefully inhabited by the industrious rabbits, cheerful frogs, disciplined cats and wise pandas. Each tended to their own villages, believing in The Way and nourished by the waters of life that were enriched by Songstones that dwelled in nearby fountains.
However, those days of wonder have long gone. As Yenching’s people became increasingly distracted from The Way, the magical springs that filled their fountains dwindled and allowed darkness to overshadow the lands. The oppressive Gorillas soon invaded, joined by Rat Alchemists, and it is said that only by rediscovering The Way can Yenching tread a path that will lead them back to greatness.
It is Kay the cat who is destined to do so, but it’s hard to ever warm to the brattish teen. His journey regularly flits between the mundane interspersed with more impressive ideas. But, as with other remasters of games revived from years gone by, is never able to shrug off the fact that it feels dated.
Inspiration is clearly taken from The Legend of Zelda series, presenting a mixture of mirthful adventure and puzzle solving – even if it leans more heavily on platforming sections. Legend of Kay Anniversary‘s combat system still proves a near highlight, allowing players to pummel their opponents by unleashing triple attacks, uppercuts, roundhouse kicks and somersaults in quick succession. It’s certainly a notable strength, with a spruced up combo system encouraging you to leap into combat rather than evade it. Even if it doesn’t prove as responsive as today’s games, welcome variety comes in a weapon selection that will see Kay armed with a sword, claw and hammer that each have their own strengths and weaknesses to consider.
Legend of Kay Anniversary‘s more significant woes come in an unwieldy camera that will aggravate and hinder on frequent occasion, whereas the frame rate struggles to retain consistency in busier combat scenarios. It can still find success in other areas, whether that be competing in the new online rankings or being laden with ‘Extras’ to unlock by collecting crystals scattered in each level.
Visual improvements can be seen across character models and the game’s interface, while Legend of Kay Anniversary serves up a partly sumptuous score. It’s a shame that the voiceover work can so readily ruin the mood, trying to match classic Saturday morning cartoons in delivery but grating with nearly every uttered line.
When the credits eventually roll, players are left with the declaration “We’ll be back!” It may be seen as one of the lesser desired HD remasters, but that clearly signals Nordic Games intent. As a younger generation laps up Legend of Kay Anniversary‘s tale, we can only hope that the next adventure on the horizon proves to be a more memorable one.