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The Legend of Kage 2

by Jonathan Metts - October 23, 2008, 9:43 am PDT
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7

Taito has created a brand new Super NES action game for the Nintendo DS. Yes, that's a good thing.

I've never played the original Legend of Kage, but considering it was released over twenty years ago, Taito (and their owners at Square Enix) are probably hoping the sequel will reach a larger audience than just long-suffering fans. The good news is that you needn't have played the classic (and often maligned) arcade/NES original to enjoy this Nintendo DS successor. Legend of Kage 2 is a simple and accessible romp through a familiar, ninja-style action game.

Other than its use of the top screen for extra vertical display, there is little to differentiate The Legend of Kage 2 from a typical Super NES-era game. The goal of each level is to run from left to right, killing scores of evil ninjas and maneuvering through a few obstacles, until you reach a pattern-intensive boss battle. As one of two playable, "good" ninjas, you basically run around and slash at foes, most of whom die in a single hit. The two characters are almost identical except for their projectile attacks.

The most distinctive and recognizable feature of the original Legend of Kage is the unusual jumping height, and this sequel does a nice job of highlighting the absurd agility of its protagonists. The dual screens lend themselves nicely to vertical gameplay, and most of the levels do a good job of giving you reasons to keep jumping upwards. Being able to jump ten times your own height is a strange ability with a steep learning curve, and some of its innate problems persist throughout the game. For instance, it's hard to make a small jump (you have to press the button for just a millisecond), and there's no way to see where you're going once gravity takes over, because the camera doesn't pan down to show your landing trajectory. These aren't major issues in the context of the game's difficulty, or lack thereof, but they do keep the controls from feeling totally fluid and enjoyable.

Another somewhat interesting feature involves collecting orbs to design different ninjutsu (magic). Between levels, you get a grid on which the different colors of orbs can be placed in various patterns. Each pattern of three or four orbs results in a different magic spell, but you have limited space to work with. Efficient use of the orbs and grid spaces will let you use some orbs in multiple combinations to create a useful suite of spells for the next mission. Oddly enough, it reminds me of the "magick" system from Eternal Darkness. As you find more orbs in later levels, it's exciting to go back to the grid and see what new patterns can be devised.

Despite a couple of unusual tweaks, Legend of Kage 2 is an unabashedly conventional action game, the kind that we don't often see anymore. Fans of the original Ninja Gaiden titles will adore this less difficult throwback. It's not incredibly long, but considering the budget price, it's worth a look from anyone who enjoys an old fashioned, slice-and-dice kind of action game.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
7 8 6 8 6 7
Graphics
7

The visuals are fast and smooth, though not terribly sharp. Character sprites are a bit jaggy, like they've been compressed from a larger size. Some levels have impressive background art.

Sound
8

As you might expect in a ninja game, the soundtrack is faithful to the Japanese folk style. It sounds great and ensures that you'll want to turn up the volume for once.

Control
6

Most actions are responsive, but the jumping is incredibly sensitive and hard to throttle. Although you can always see above (thanks to the top screen), the lack of perspective below makes landing quite treacherous.

Gameplay
8

Kage 2 is as straightforward as they come, but the combat is consistently satisfying. Several excellent boss battles force you to use abilities that might seem unnecessary against lesser foes.

Lastability
6

The game's dozen or so levels will take a few hours to complete, which is on par with most games of this type. Most players won't get much value out of the alternate character's path (which is virtually identical) or the extra difficulty modes.

Final
7

The Legend of Kage 2 is a solid, entertaining action game, the kind we took for granted back in the early 90s. The unique jumping mechanics and a couple of other minor elements help it avoid being a purely nostalgic exercise.

Summary

Pros
  • Challenging bosses
  • Clever magic system
  • Great music
  • Simple, fun ninja action
Cons
  • Clich├ęd story is same for both characters
  • Crazy jumping is hard to control
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Genre Action
Developer Taito
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: The Legend of Kage 2
Release Oct 07, 2008
PublisherSquare Enix
RatingEveryone 10+
jpn: Kage Densetsu: The Legend of Kage 2
Release Mar 13, 2008
PublisherTaito
eu: The Legend of Kage 2
Release Nov 07, 2008
PublisherSquare Enix

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