Following its remastered release on almost every other modern platform, the PlayStation 2 platforming-adventure Legend of Kay Anniversary has finally made its way to the Nintendo Switch. It boasts updated environments and character models, which when combined with the successful gameplay of the original actually make for a pretty enjoyable experience.
Legend of Kay Anniversary’s adventure takes place in the world of Yenching, an island populated by a wide variety of animal humanoids. The story focuses on a young warrior apprentice named Kay (who comes from the Cat tribe) and his rebellion against the combined oppressive force of the villainous Rats and Gorillas.
There are clichés abundant within the story of the game. You’ve got the snarky teenage protagonist, the rebellion against an oppressive regime, an apprentice stealing his master’s sword and heading into the great wide yonder – the list goes on. This is a by no means a criticism though; clichés by their nature exist only because of their success and popularity, and they do nothing to deter from the charm of the tale here.
Delivered in an eastern style wrapping, the narrative is a good one. Told through a combination of in-game cut scenes and beautifully designed comic book pages, the story is carried well by the characters – even if it is really precitable.
Graphically, this remastered edition is a bit of a mixed bag. Legend of Kay Anniversary follows the classic PlayStation 2 traditions of the genre with blocky landscapes and cartoonish characters, but whilst both Kay and the game’s NPCs have had their designs upgraded to roughly this generation of console, the landscapes reside at the lower end of the previous generation’s capabilities. This combination does result in a slightly odd ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ vibe, but provided you aren’t expecting miracles and remember the game’s 2005 origin they do the job.
There are many different environments to explore in the game that each have areas with their own specific design. I feel the development team really pushed themselves to produce locations that stand out with their own personalities, with the likes of cities, villages and swamps all having a place in the game. The aforementioned lacking visuals don’t always make them pretty to look at, but there’s no denying they’re always fun to explore.
The sound department deserve credit for their input into Legend of Kay Anniversary, too. The score is excellent with catchy music accompanying individual landscapes, whilst the sound effects are generally measured and appropriate to the action taking place – the only exception being during burning areas, where Kay moans continuously for no discernible reason…
The only let down comes in the quality of the voice acting; Kay in particular is wooden and uninspired, though the supporting cast around him are also pretty awful. There are some borderline offensive examples throughout the game too – particularly if you happen to have a Chinese or African accent. Synchronisation is also an issue, with character’s mouths moving miles off their dialogue, with the actors still speaking an age after both the mouth has stopped moving and subtitles have concluded.
At least the game itself is a whole lot of fun to play, with Legend of Kay Anniversary’s gameplay proving to be challenging but enjoyable throughout.
The combat system is solid, incorporating varying techniques against a number of different enemy types. Button-mashing is generally a viable option, but to those interested there are many ways to fight each battle with varying combos and moves to pull off too. There’s also an innovative auto-dash system in play that helps players build upon combos by allowing the automatic dashing of Kay to the attacking range of nearby enemies, thereby allowing continuation of the combo across the often sizeable levels.
An odd but entertaining addition to the game are the driving mini-games. If a cat riding a boar or a wolf wasn’t odd enough, the addition of a ‘drift’ function (driving sim enthusiasts will be aware – this is usually started by use of a handbrake. Boars and wolves normally lack brakes of any kind…) definitely adds to it. Weirdness aside, these interludes are great fun – admittedly, the mechanics are a little clunky, but that in no way detracts from the enjoyment.
Legend of Kay Anniversary is a slightly linear game. The story is broken down into areas and those areas are separated into chapters through which you progress and achieve a score. High scores reward you with bonus material, though in honesty I rarely performed well enough to achieve the better rewards – that’s down to me and not the game, though. The quests that make up each chapter are clearly marked and unambiguous, which is necessary in some ways as there doesn’t appear to be any opportunity to revisit areas once you’ve moved past them. There are also optional objectives scattered throughout most levels which usually result in an improved weapon or higher score opportunities, though a lot of these are easily completed without having to go out of your way too much.
Whilst Legend of Kay Anniversary is generally a lot of fun, it does have some flaws. Nine times out of ten 3D platformers are inhibited by the auto swing of the camera. Unfortunately, Legend of Kay Anniversary is one of the nine. The camera is generally rather manic and manual controls imposed by the right analogue stick aren’t always sufficient, particularly in enclosed spaces. It ranges from challenging at best to nauseating at worst.
Then there’s the fact that you can’t skip through the game’s dialogue, with the player forced to listen to the terrible voice work as opposed to being able to skim through the subtitles themselves. It just felt a little jarring that I couldn’t just play the game at time because I had to listen to some poorly delivered dialogue, especially when it occurred outside of conversations with other characters.
Developer: Neon Studios
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Release Date: Out Now
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), Playstation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U, PC, Mac