The Legend of Kage 2 Review

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The Legend of Kage 2 Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Taito

Platform: DS
Reviewed on DS

The Tokugawa government has finally united Japan and ended the Warring States period, but that hasn't stemmed the tide of thugs waiting in line to be executed by Kage. He and a young woman named Chihiro are tasked with protecting a powerful princess – by hacking through a human wall of henchmen and battling the occasional boss.

Kyle Ackerman

The Legend of Kage 2In the 1980s, The Legend of Kage was big in coin-operated arcades, and recently the NES version made it to the Wii Virtual Console as a downloadable game. That makes it an obvious candidate for Square Enix's recent (and sensible) strategy of exploiting the newfound power of handheld consoles and re-releasing many of its classic games for the DS and PSP. Square Enix's Taito unit is no exception, and so The Legend of Kage sees new life on the DS as The Legend of Kage 2. Admittedly, the value of this game lies more in nostalgia than in action-heavy platforming, but even those weaned on more recent gaming fare will find something to enjoy.

The biggest break that The Legend of Kage 2 makes from the NES version of The Legend of Kage is the extension of the game to both DS screens, creating a play field that is much taller than it is wide. Despite the screen dimensions, The Legend of Kage 2 feels a lot more like a classic NES game than a modern handheld action game. That's why I lump it in with Square Enix's many re-releases, despite the fact that The Legend of Kage 2 is, technically, a sequel. Like a snarkily ironic webcomic, it's hard to tell if The Legend of Kage 2 looks as it does because it is skillfully trying to capture the look and feel of the original, or because no one wanted to create radically different art assets. Either way, the game looks fine on the DS, and mimics the style of the original, but could have been more vivid and engaging.

The Legend of Kage 2Likewise, the play comes down to a lot of moving around and attacking one way or the other with one of two weapons. At first, the game is painfully shallow, but over time introduces lots of new skills (that come down to moving and attacking with one of two weapons in a slightly more complicated way). What does add a bit of depth is the ability to combine Element Orbs (magical ninja-esque colored spheres of super-special power) into Ninjutsu techniques. It's more of an excuse to demand players to search for collectibles (Orbs hidden in locations that require lots of jumping into space) and shift them around on the DS screen like a puzzle on the table at Cracker Barrel. The skills are nice, but the collection aspect does have the side effect of alienating more casual players and homing in on the nostalgic fans of simplistic ninja platformers.

There is an extensive story that differs depending on your choice of protagonist. Kage (the dude) has a katana (sword) and hurls shuriken. Chihiro (the chick) uses a Kama (scythe) and throws a fundo (a nasty chain weapon). Each has different attacks, but the differences are subtle. Gamers who enjoy building up massive chain attacks by carefully timing button presses and arranging foes will find that having two characters doubles the play value of this game. Button-mashers who just like jumping from platform to platform and hammering the attack button won't care.

The Legend of Kage 2Fans will be glad to know that there are still plenty of opportunities to throw shuriken from the tops of trees, but personally I felt let down by the whole thing. The Legend of Kage 2 should have been a remake – then I could enjoy the game for what it is (or, more accurately, what it was). If this was truly meant to be a modern sequel, there was potential to do so much more than provide me with endless, simplistic platforming. Kage is a familiar friend, but he's still telling the same old stories.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on October 26, 2008 8:07 PM.

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