Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Legend of Kay Anniversary (PS4) Review

In this era of remasters and remakes, I will admit I was surprised to see Legend of Kay get a remake for the current console generation.  Celebrating its 10 year anniversary, the appropriately named Legend of Kay Anniversary boosts newer graphics and also trophies!  I will say it does not look like a PS2 game, so the graphics have certainly been improved.  The game also loads really quickly, which is always a great thing to have.  Unfortunately, not everything could be updated for the game, and the spoken dialogue is noticeably not as good as everything else.  Since the recordings are 10 years old, the non high-definition quality is excusable.

Not excusable is how I have to sit through every line of dialogue.  Pretty much all of the dialogue is spoken, but you have to wait until it is done to move on.  No mashing to advance faster or skipping it.  If it was this way for just the main story, I would be annoyed, but would likely let it go.  However, everybody you talk to, even the village NPCs, will force you to sit through the dialogue if you talk to them.  This coupled with the lower quality audio and the accents being stereotypical at best and offensive at worst makes a bad combination.  At least you can skip cut scenes that you have already seen if you died and had to restart.

The controls for the game take some getting used to.  The attacks are standard enough, you get one button that gets a combo if you press it repeatedly.  You also get a double jump, which I am always happy to see.  There's a block that is very useful in combat, and allows you to change direction while holding it.  If you are close enough to the enemy when pressing block, you will dodge.  I'd prefer a separate button for that, since you have to be pretty close, and sometimes you want to block them when close and not flip over them.  Still, you do need to get the hang of it to make it through most of the fights.

Kay will also learn a magic attack that requires you to hold the Square (attack) button to use.  Again, I wish this were a separate button so it was easier to get it out in a hurry, but it's workable.  Circle will roll you, which can give you a high jump that also leads to a ground slam that hits downed opponents.  Remembering to hit three buttons instead of two to hit enemies on the ground took a conscious effort.  Personally, I would want the item choosing and use on the d-pad, like say left/right and up respectively, and relegate the map to down on the d-pad.  One press zooms in, the next minimizes the map, and the next sets it back to zoomed out.  Pow, now there are two free shoulder buttons for magic and dodge.  Anyway, Kay also gets armor that effectively increases his health, but it only takes a few hits before it breaks.  While you can buy more, I still wish that was handled differently as well.

Combat is also a mixed bag.  At times it goes really well, and at times, it is very unforgiving.  You are supposed to block or dodge enemies as they attack you, which works well when there isn't too many of them.  You have a set number of lives that let you try the section again if you do fail.  If you run out, it is back to the last savepoint.  The camera is usually your worst enemy, as it makes fights and the platforming much more frustrating than they really should be.  Some platforming sections have Zhongs, that are bell-like objects that you can attack and then dash towards, which you use to get to farther or higher areas.  These work really well, provided you know where the next one is.  This also seems to work in combat, allowing you to attack an enemy and then dash to another and attack them before they can respond.

The game is a lot more linear than I at first thought.  You will run around Kay's village for a bit in the beginning, but then you will embark on your journey through the land.  There are a decent amount of side quests in each chapter, with a few in the first area alone.  After each chapter, you get a score, based off the gems you pick up in the level, and move on to the next.  There is no real backtracking, and you won't revisit any of the areas again, making many things missable during your run.  I'm not a fan of that, but I do like that there are extra things to do and hidden areas to find.

As well as all that can go, they decided to "shake things up" or... something... by putting in boar races.  These sections have Kay ride a boar through an obstacle course/race.  They are... not fun, to put it mildly.  Some are downright annoying.  The boar turns slowly so you have to rely on the drift mechanic for the bigger turns.  That isn't much better.  These sections also have checkpoints to go through or you fail.  Trouble is, you have to go pretty much through the exact center of the checkpoint, as it doesn't like to give you credit for anything else.  Being a little more lenient would go a long way to making these sections more tolerable.  At least if you fail it is a quick load to the beginning.

There are parts of the main story that are gated behind these boar races.  Yuck.  A personal peeve of mine is when a game makes you do some other task that isn't core gameplay to get through the game.  As an extra thing to do, ok.  Making it necessary?  Nope.  There are extra ones in the game, which is fine, and they reward you for doing them.  I just wish they were all like that, except maybe an easy one in the beginning to introduce it to the player.  Admittedly, a lot of games during this time did stuff like this, so I'm not fully knocking Legend of Kay for doing it, but also the genre as a whole for doing it.  Just another part of the game that is a product of its time.

There are 23 chapters in Legend of Kay Anniversary, and it should take around 15-20 hours to get through it all.  Scattered throughout the levels are a fair amount of collectibles, but at least they are useful things like health and magic increases and not just stuff that unlocks concept art.  Although there is concept art to unlock, it is determined by score and not poking around to find stuff.  There is no new game+, so you will have to get all collectibles in one go through the game.  There's not much replay value to the game, but going through once gives you a decent run time.

Legend of Kay Anniversary is a decent game.  The core gameplay takes a bit getting used to and is a bit unforgiving, but is fairly solid.  The graphics look nicer and the load times are quick.  The downsides are the audio and boar races, which are then topped with the camera.  A lot of the negatives are really products of the time the game was originally released, 10 years ago, so there's certainly room to forgive them.  Either way, it is worth picking up if you wanted to play the original and just forgot about it, or if you want a sampling of what most 3D action platformers played like on the PS2.

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