Review: Legend of Kay Anniversary
Published by Taylor Ivings June 20, 2018
3D platformers were huge hits at the turn of the century, but maybe this one should have stayed there.
About this game: Action-adventure game, developed by Kaiko, published by THQ Nordic
Version reviewed: Nintendo Switch (version 1.0.0)
THQ Nordic has provided a copy of the game for review purposes.
I used to be a big fan of three-dimensional platformers, and in the mid-2000s these games were made in abundance. I have fond memories of spending my weekends traversing through Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, and the Sonic Adventure games to name a few. Among the influx of adventure-based platformers, there were quite a few that I had missed, one of them being Legend of Kay. Now that THQ Nordic has brought the Anniversary edition to Nintendo Switch, many fans will finally get to relive the genre that has seemed to lose a little momentum in recent years.
Legend of Kay first graced consoles back in 2005 when it launched for the PlayStation 2, and after receiving a port for the Nintendo DS in 2010, Legend of Kay Anniversary was released for a plethora of platforms - including Wii U - in 2015. This is the remastered edition of Legend of Kay, boasting better graphics, improved sound quality, and an online leaderboard to show off your high scores to friends. For some gamers, just seeing the title screen will invoke memories of the years this genre was popular; this isn't necessarily a good thing, as Legend of Kay has not aged well, even with much improved visuals.
You play as Kay, a budding young feline warrior who resides in the land of Yenching. Yenching is home to many other anthropomorphic beings, including rabbits, frogs, and pandas. Due to the younger generation no longer following the Way - a religious code which protects the land - Yenching is invaded and taken over by gorillas and rats; these are known collectively as the Din, led by the rat alchemist Tak and the gorilla Minister Shun. After the gorillas have decreed that Kay's martial arts school must be shut down in order to create a school for themselves, Kay steals his master's sword and leaves the village to put a stop to the army that invaded his home. He visits the different races of Yenching and aids them in their plight against the Din, before assisting in an attack against the Din's home.
The platforming in Legend of Kay Anniversary never quite hits the mark, either being too easy or downright frustrating. There were two instances where I felt annoyed to the point of needing a break: one featured multiple balance beams that were way too small for Kay to balance on; the other involved platforms that break quickly upon landing on them, which normally wouldn't be an issue, but you're required to rotate the camera as some of the platforms were behind corners. The platforms broke down too quickly for the camera to rotate to a good position while simultaneously hitting the jump button, making this area extremely frustrating. The game also makes you compete in multiple time trials while riding on an animal, in which you're required to hit checkpoints, avoid running into walls, and collect various items to keep your ride running. If you fail any of the objectives, you have to restart; the problem here is that the controls aren't at all tight or responsive, and this can make each try more infuriating than the last.
You might also find yourself in a love-hate relationship with the combat system. On one hand, you're given a decent amount of options when it comes to fighting; Kay receives three weapons over the course of the game and has different skills to utilize in fights, such as a magical area-of-effect ability, a grapple, a block, and an attack to hit enemies on the ground. There are enemies that can only be damaged by a certain weapon, but they don't show up until the final few levels. The combat system gives the illusion of being deeper than it actually is; you might never block or grapple, and it's easy to forget about the rest of your skills and use just the sword for the majority of the game. There's a good variety of enemies to be found as well, starting with rats and gorillas before turtles, crabs, and even ladybugs eventually show up. Even though most of the enemies don't really have different fighting styles, it helps the game feel fresh enough to keep you playing to the end. The boss fights are fun, but they all feel too easy compared to fighting regular waves of multiple enemies.
Some critique also has to be given to the mini-map and the quest system. The mini-map is often confusing, and arguably is too small to be of any real help at times. Quests can also be a bit confusing at times; the game doesn't obviously differentiate between side-quests and main quests, so a little distinction here would have been nice. There are also times where quest marks are placed on your mini-map, and times where they aren't, which can seem a little odd. At times, when the game doesn't show you where to go, you might find the lack of direction more enjoyable; a little mystery never hurt anyone.
One of the main fixes from the original game is the camera, but for some bizarre reason, the default camera setting is not the updated version; fortunately, the moment you load up the game, you can go into the settings menu and change the camera to something that actually works and wasn't made 13 years ago. The game plays a lot better with a good camera, and this makes a huge difference, so I'm glad it was included. On the flipside, the game appears to have a surprising number of bugs, and in a single playthrough, I experienced glitches in three separate instances; one of the bugs was just a HUD disappearance, but one of them forced an instant game reset, and the last bug - during the final boss fight, no less - completely locked me out from fighting him until I ran out of lives and restarted from the beginning of the level. Considering this is a game that was first released in 2015, three bugs in one playthrough is three too many.
The voice acting is an undeniably significant issue in Legend of Kay Anniversary. Poor dialogue can sometimes be ignored, but that becomes difficult when the story is entirely voice-acted. It's cheesy, poorly performed, and many characters have terrible accents that completely take you out of the experience. The narrative is extremely mediocre when the cast conveys no emotion, and Kay is often the biggest offender, often sounding bored when speaking to characters or insulting enemies. The shining light of the story is the comic book-style cutscenes, which paint a better picture than a stationary talking animal ever could. They are a highlight, and I only wish they happened after every level, not just a select few.
Legend of Kay is a blast from the past... without the blast. It doesn't stand the test of time, and many of the mechanics common back in the day now feel more like flaws than features. It has its moments for sure; the comic book art looks stellar, the new camera works perfectly, and there are lots of enemies for you to fight. These are the few positives in a game full of negatives. The game is about 15 hours long, and doesn't have that much replayability. I had high hopes for Kay, but the cat just doesn't keep up with today's expectations.
Updated camera and visuals freshen up an aging game
Cutscenes in the style of comic books rock
Platforming elements were more frustrating than fun
Boss fights are good, but much too easy at times
Unskippable time trials with shaky controls are annoying
Poor voice acting takes away from the experience