IGN Review of Legend of Kage 2
I can appreciate companies sticking to old-school mechanics when reviving classic franchises for contemporary designs. Contra's a great example: though designers tried to bring that action game into today's standards, it felt more at home in a presentation that would feel like it was ripped right out of the 16-bit era. So while I can see what Taito was going for with The Legend of Kage 2, it's hard to be wowed by the final product because it feels just a little too simplistic.
The Legend of Kage 2 is Taito's latest remake to one of the company's past brands. The original game hit arcades and the Nintendo Entertainment System about two decades ago and saw moderate success in both areas. It was almost unnecessary to call this game a sequel considering that the original game didn't really focus on a storyline all that much – you were simply a kick-ass, high-flying ninja doing what you'd expect a kick-ass, high-flying ninja would do. It was a modest design but it's cool to see Taito go back into its archive for a revisit.
Taito clearly wants to make Legend of Kage its own version of Ninja Gaiden. Kage received one hell of a make-over to make him more badass, right down to the completely ineffective ninja outfit that shows off far more skin than would be helpful in the heat of battle. Instead of jumping right into the action, the designers wanted to make sure the player got their fill of backstory, so there's plenty of poorly paced and awkward dialogue between your character and all of the bad guys you face along the way.
The core mechanics from the original Legend of Kage have been loosely brought back into the sequel: you can still bound through the trees and over walls while shooting an endless array of throwing stars and hacking at a seemingly infinite army of enemy ninjas while you work your way from one side of the map to the other. Kage's been given other skills, like scaling cliffsides and grappling ceilings, but with these new abilities come their own set of issues: the game just doesn't feel as fluid or dynamic as it should since your character likes to stick to places you never intended. You're constantly trying to overcorrect Kage's movements, getting him to jump off surfaces that he automatically clung to.
For the most part the game's a quick romp through each area. You really don't need to stop to smell the roses – simply plow through to the end of the mission and fight the boss by reading each one's extremely predictable attack pattern. The designers do encourage some exploration, partially through the achievement system where you'll unlock concept art when pulling off specific tasks. There are also hidden magic orbs to uncover, and by combining them in a specific pattern you'll unlock special attack and defense powers to help. But the game doesn't get all that difficult to utilize them, so you'll more be looking for the orbs to see what powers you can create than actually putting those powers to use in battle.
The visuals have been kept as old-school as the franchise: backgrounds scroll with very little depth behind them, and enemies animate with very rigid flair due to the somewhat poor attention to pixel art. Legend of Kage 2 looks like a B-title relic lifted out of the height of the Super NES days. And the music doesn't fare much better: it's all over the place in quality. The musical score doesn't know if it wants to be a Ninja epic or a 16-bit parody.
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