Love them or hate them remasters are here to stay, as the video game industry has fallen in love with the idea of enhancing then re-releasing notable titles from years gone by. Even if you hate the tactic, there’s no denying that it’s been a successful one, having helped publishers make extra money to put towards other projects, such as anticipated sequels and new IPs.
Sometimes popular trends are taken too far, though, which happens to be the case with The Legend of Kay Anniversary. A stealthily released remaster of a middling end of generation PS2 game, it quietly made its way to PS4, Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC/Mac earlier this week. However, though the title may live on positively in the nostalgic memories of those who played it when it debuted back in 2005, the last decade hasn’t been too kind to Kay, and this unnecessary remaster highlights that fact.
Coming from a time where heroic animals and action platformers were all the rage, The Legend of Kay is the story of a crass-mouthed cat who is tasked with saving his village and those surrounding it. With the help of his drunken martial arts master and his sober-headed uncle, he quickly rises from an everyday citizen to a potential saviour in the face of oppression at the hands of magic-wielding rats and brute gorillas. There’s more to things than simple evil, though, as the oppressors saw their opportunity arise after the land’s magic fountains — which had severed as life sources for generations — mysteriously dried up.
Looking back on The Legend of Kay highlights it as one of the worst written and most offensive games of all time. Despite attempts at developing something fantastical and immersive, original developer Neon Studios actually created something cringeworthy. How they managed to greenlight such a terrible and childish script is simply baffling.
Throughout this fifteen hour-long experience, Kay’s adventures take him across the land, where he meets and interacts with a host of different characters from various tribes. There’s the Asian rabbits, the Jamaican frogs and more, and they all sound as stereotypically awful as you can imagine. The voice acting is, without a doubt, some of the worst out there, and the writing is no better.
As a hero, Kay is certainly lacking, especially given how his dialogue sounds like it was written by a second grader. Every other line contains some sort of childish insult, like “butt-brain,” “rat bastard,” and “garbage breath,” all of which make the character tough to identify with or care about. The racism may not have been wholly intentional, but this writing definitely was, and it hurts the game more than anything. In fact, it was so cringeworthy that I found myself wanting to avoid entering into conversation with anyone.
I honestly can’t remember playing a more poorly written game, and that’s saying a lot, because I’ve been gaming since the early 90s and have played a lot of crap.
Despite The Legend of Kay‘s rather middling reception back in 2005, Nordic Games avoided improving upon its gameplay in favour of focusing on only its presentation. The result is an experience that continues to be as flawed and frustrating as it was a decade ago, except those things were more acceptable in the past. We’ve been spoiled with so many great and groundbreaking games over the last ten years, so going back to such rudimentary gameplay is admittedly quite tough.
At its heart, The Legend of Kay is an action platformer that features light RPG elements and borrows inspiration from series like The Legend of Zelda and Jak and Daxter. As such, those who decide to give it a chance can look forward to lots of jumping and basic combat, via a chaotic and annoying system that doesn’t always make sense. Even the platforming is flawed and frustrating, not only because it expects players to make near impossible jumps surprisingly often, but because its camera is abhorrent. The latter issue made certain interior sections a nightmare, as I was unable to properly gauge distances or really see where I was to jump next.
The poor camera also combines with frustrating controls to make riding the game’s animal mounts a pain in the ass. There are times where you’ll find yourself tasked with racing time trials while on the back of a boar, and these occurrences are more annoying than they were meant to be because of poor design.
You’d think that, with a price tag that tops out at thirty dollars, The Legend of Kay Anniversary would have received more TLC, but it didn’t. It looks pretty good for a PS2 remaster, yet even though we received and reviewed the Xbox 360 version, frame rate issues reared their ugly head. To the game’s credit, the slowdown was rare, but the fact that it exists is rather shocking. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised given the cash grab that this release feels like.
Back in 2005, The Legend of Kay was a decent but flawed game that somehow managed to make it to market with more than subtle racism in tow. However, this is 2015 and a lot has changed, especially in the video game industry where technical evolution has brought forth amazing experiences that tower over Neon Studios’ adventure. As such, while it does have its moments and isn’t necessarily a bad game overall, it’s tough to recommend this unnecessary remaster.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game, which we were provided with.
The Legend of Kay Anniversary is an unnecessary and forgettable remaster of a middling game. Unless you're itching to replay it, or have a soft spot for games of its ilk, it's tough to recommend.