Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Review: Legend of Kage 2 (Nintendo DS)

The original Legend of Kage was an early 80s arcade game by Taito. It really wasn't much to write home about. A princess is captured by ninjas and you have to go through a number of stages flicking shurikens and swinging swords to rescue her. The only thing notable about this game is emphasis on vertical scrolling. Despite looking like a standard side-scrolling action game Kage mixes things up by allowing the hero to jump extremely high. We're talking somewhere in the league of two screens in height. The stages are suited to match this by consisting of very tall trees with many branches to land on. Essentially you jump around, kill ninjas flying in from every direction, and maybe a boss or two along the way. It's short, simple, and really un-remarkable.

Over twenty years later Taito decides to develop a sequel. Legend of Kage 2 essentially takes the basic gameplay of the first game and adds many new things. First off the game allows you to play as two different characters. The guy wields a sword and flings shurikens while the gal swings a kusarigama and uses a fundo(which is basically a long chain). Along with the trademark high jumps both characters can run, air-dash, perform a large number of special abilties, and even use magic. If that wasn't enough the game has been lengthened considerably. There's about 13 stages with most of them ending in a boss fight. The stages themselves share aspects with the original game but for the most part they share more in common with traditional action games(though in the end they're still simple compared to say...Strider or Ghouls & Ghosts). You can also find a number of useful items that increase your health, magic, and allow you to learn new spells(though some can only be reached when you gain certain abilities, giving you reason to go back to previous stages and explore).

Needless to say Taito went all out with this remake. It also happens to be quite fortunate that this game is actually very good. The simplistic level designs actually work in favor of the game since most of the time the player will be focused on getting through the stage quickly while gutting as many enemies as possible(especially since killing enemies at a constant pace adds to a combo counter, which can lead to some hefty bonus points at the end of the stage). This game also shows a strong handling of mechanics. The weapons and abilities are all have their uses and the game makes up for the lack of width on the DS screens by giving audio cues to practically every enemy attack, giving the player enough warning to whatever is coming their way. The boss fights are all quite well done and make full use of both screens.

Though some could argue the game runs a bit short there's also harder difficulties and a boss rush mode, not to mention trying to S-rank every stage and fill out the art gallery(which adds pictures for everything you accomplish in the game, like getting X amount of S rankings, beating the game, etc).

The game originally retailed for 19.99 but I wouldn't be shocked if you could pick this one up for $10 today. It is quite a steal at that price as I highly recommend it. 

Also check out Hardcoregaming 101's look at Legend of Kage.


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