Review: Legend of Kay Anniversary (PS4)

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Title: Legend of Kay Anniversary
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (3.02 GB)
Release Date: July 28, 2015
Publisher: Nordic Games
Developer: KAIKO
Original MSRP: $29.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
Legend of Kay Anniversary is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC, and Mac.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 435 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
The original Legend of Kay was released on PlayStation 2 in late September 2005 the same week as Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, and We Love Katamari among others. A week later Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, Indigo Prophecy, Midway Arcade Treasures 3, and Capcom Classics Collection hit the system.

I say this only to put things into context. This was a game I missed out on completely. Mainly because of the games listed above (along with the two NHL games which were released two weeks prior). When we first brought up Legend of Kay Anniversary on the podcast, we had to look it up because neither of us had ever heard of it.

Having played extensively over the past few weeks I can honestly say that I’m sorry I missed out on the original release and I’m thrilled that Nordic Games got hold of the property and decided to bring it to this latest generation of consoles. Legend of Kay is an action-platformer of the type that were a dime a dozen on the PS2 which, unfortunately, are sorely lacking today.

You play as Kay, an anthropomorphic cat living in a land called Yenching which is populated by a number of talking animals. In the past, everyone followed a quasi-mystical/religious code called “The Way”. As time went on and younger generations stopped following The Way, its protective power was lost. An army of Gorillas and Rats invaded Yenching and now live as an occupying force complete with a collaborator mayor in a puppet regime and plenty of propaganda posters around the villages.

Kay hates his new masters and like any good kid is looking to rebel against the system. His master, at one time proficient in the art of The Way, is a drunken mess but is at least able to hold it together to teach Kay one or two moves before needing to go sleep it off. The gorillas and rats shut down Kay’s school which pushes him into a quest that will eventually create his titular legend.

… race on the backs of wild boars …
The game itself was the final accomplishment for the original developers, German studio NEON Software whose only other game of note is Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX on the GameBoy Color in 2000. Legend of Kay was their first and only game on the PS2, which is a shame considering what’s here. They actually closed down a few months after the release due to financial troubles.

You start in the general area surrounding the cat village. You’ll receive quests from the mayor, the townspeople, and others which will progress the story. A number of optional side quests can be found by talking to the right people. You’re fully free to explore any area you’ve unlocked through the story at any point in the game as quests don’t have a time limit on them.

Over the course of the game, you’ll learn new moves, explore Yenching, and visit the villages of the rest of the natives: hares, frogs, and pandas, with the ultimate goal of defeating the Gorilla Minister Shun and the Rat Alchemist Tak. To do this you’ll need to learn new combat moves and find new weapons along the way which can also be upgraded. You’ll even race on the backs of wild boars à la Crash Bandicoot.

… plenty of hidden items …
For a ten year old game the mechanics hold up surprisingly well. The combat feels good with a fun variety of moves and the (limited) exploration adds to what would otherwise be a pretty linear affair. The biggest problem in the game however is the camera. Most of the time it’s unnoticed as it should be, but there are times when it becomes a big issue. During combat, especially in smaller areas, the camera can get caught up on the scenery. When this happens you’ll be stuck with bad angles leaving you with no idea where the enemies are.

You can move the camera around manually but it still gets stuck based on the geography of the area. There are plenty of hidden items to find throughout the game with quite a few of them being above or below you and when you can’t tilt the camera to look up it can be quite frustrating.

Visuals:
I was somewhat shocked by how good the game looks. For the most part this looks like a game that was made recently, not one from 2005, two console generations back. The brightly colored environments and characters really shine. Graphic novel styled motion panels intro the game setting the scene and reappear from time to time to move the story forward.

Parts of the landscape do look clunky at times reminding the player of the game’s heritage and some of the textures can be questionable but these are minor quibbles in an otherwise great presentation.

… an entertaining action-platformer …
Audio:
The music, mainly Asian inspired tunes and heavy on the strings, is fantastic and fits the setting perfectly. The voice over work is one of the weak spots however. Lines are poorly delivered at times and often feel uninspired. The lip-synching, or more accurately the complete lack thereof, is another reminder that this is an older game.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Legend of Kay Anniversary brings a surprisingly well thought out mythology and story wrapped in an entertaining action-platformer. It’s really too bad that this ended up being the only PS2 release from NEON Software because the game really showed some promise.

The game itself holds up well enough despite its age, though it’s not without flaws. For the most part it’s a enjoyable game in a genre that, outside of the Toys to Life games, has seen few entries of late.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

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  • Just got this today…looked pretty cool! Great review Josh

    • Nice! Hope you enjoy it.

  • Thanks for the review, this is now definitely in my list to buy.

    • We had the digital version for review but I’m going to grab a physical copy if they go down in price some time.

  • Roger Cannon

    Great review. I stumbled onto a copy in 2005 and enjoyed it thoroughly. Definitely worth updating. Another one along the same lines that seems to have been largely unseen was “Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy”.

    • I have that. Haven’t played it yet.

      • Roger Cannon

        “Sphinx….” is good. Nothing to write home about, but very good for its age.