Legend of Kay Anniversary (Switch) Review
Sometimes it’s good to go back and play older games, just to see how far gameplay has come in such a fairly young medium. The PS2 era of adventure/action games definitely has a unique feel to them, with the genre and mechanics expanded upon in later years and generations. While I haven’t played the original, Legend of Kay Anniversary has all the hallmarks of that PS2 era that appear to be mostly untouched for this remaster.
The first few chapters of the game are very heavy on the world and lore building, explaining how the land of Yenching thrived through “The Way”, a religious code that the four races followed. The cats, hares, frogs and pandas all lived in peace until the gorillas and rats came in and invaded. The whole world has a strong Chinese cultural influence, with names, art style and even the fable-like nature of the story fitting in with the theme.
The game follows Kay, a cat warrior-in-training that is not happy that his land has been taken over by invaders, and is surprisingly outspoken about it. After doing a few errands in town and learning how to use a sword, your master’s school is shut down, and Kay deems it fit to steal his master’s sword and go on an adventure.
The game itself is a fairly straightforward adventure/action type game, with simple combat based on single button combos, dodges and blocks. I found the controls for combat to be slightly imprecise, and when it works, not incredibly interesting. There’s not a huge amount of feedback, making it hard to know if your enemy has blocked or taken damage. Also, the game relies on a lives system, making defeats confusing and annoying, with the threat of being punished for it always looming.
The other side of Legend of Kay is a blend of mild exploration based puzzles with simplistic platforming. The controls can be slippery at times, making it really frustrating and tedious if you slip up just once. And while the minimap has an objective marker, it’s only visible within the small circle of the minimap, with no larger map to help you orient yourself if you get stuck.
It may sound like I’m being harsh on the game, but it’s worth mentioning that the original Legend of Kay came out in a very different time. A lot of these annoying quirks were very typical of a lot of games at the time, and this Anniversary release is faithful enough to not alter the gameplay to a considerable degree. The one change they did make, even if it’s off by default, is making the camera easier to control.
And while these drawbacks do add up to a fairly frustrating experience, the game itself is still quite playable. Exploring the levels gives me a sense of nostalgia, even though I never played the original. The art direction is very clean, with the level designs being clearer to understand because of that.
The last issue I have, however, is more in the storytelling and voice acting. While the lore and concept are interesting, the actual narrative is a bit unfocused and hamfisted. There’s a vague idea of Kay’s motivation, but not a well developed one beyond driving off the gorillas and rats. Some of the voices, particularly of the rats, have an Asian caricature delivery which seems incredibly tone deaf in the current state of things. One rat, in particular, says “Me so hungry” in that tone that I couldn’t help but cringe at.
Legend of Kay Anniversary seems very much to be a product for fans of the original PS2 release. Being a remaster means there’s not a huge amount of changes, if any other than the camera, meaning a lot of the shortcomings of the original are still here. And for the price tag of $45 AUD, it’s hard to recommend unless you really are a fan.
+ Clean artstyle
+ New camera controls are nice
+ Interesting setting
- Overall sort of uninteresting gameplay
- Slightly imprecise controls
- Frustrating combat