By: Matthew Striplen
Remakes: it seems like everyone and their mom is getting one these days. At best, they showcase the game as it was originally intended, uninhibited by yesterday’s inferior technology. At worst, they give us something we never wanted: a creation worse than the original, just with a coat of fresh paint. Unfortunately, Legend of Kay Anniversary falls into the latter category.
The player takes control of the young hero, Kay, but directing him isn’t so simple. Walking around an open area feels fine, but as soon as platforming elements appear, so do problems. Jumping never ceases to be clunky, especially when attempting to grab ledges. Even combat, which is the best part of the experience, struggles to feel natural or fluid. Many of Kay’s animations take too long as well, leaving him vulnerable to damage.
As noted in the introduction, Kay has only a very thin coat of paint to distinguish itself from the original release. Texture simplification runs rampant as many seemingly complex surfaces, like Kay’s fur, are rendered perfectly smooth. Other objects exist only on a 2D plane.
The biggest graphical problem, however, comes in the form of the camera. Tasks gamers usually take for granted, like looking forward, became a constant problem, as the camera sits too close to Kay. Any structure in the environment can and will snag the camera, preventing it from rotating. This becomes almost game breaking when platforming in tight quarters.
Sadly, the sound fares little better. The voice acting performance is one of the worst I’ve heard in recent memory. Kay whines his way through the entire game, taking every opportunity to deliver juvenile insults. Gamers are meant to identify with, or at least view the main protagonist in a positive light, but his incessant obnoxiousness makes doing so difficult. Plus, the lip flaps never match the spoken lines, and often continue moving even after a different character starts speaking.
Kay takes place in an anthropomorphic world and unfortunately, each type of animal possesses their own offensive accent. All frogs are simple Jamaican folk and all rats are some sort of negative Asian stereotype. Such tasteless racial caricatures have no place anywhere, much less in a video game marketed towards children.
Much of the musical score serves to reinforce the racial stereotypes perpetrated elsewhere. Sometimes the style breaks out of its rut to include more traditional, if synthesized, orchestral sounds. These orchestral sections fare much better in the compositional department as well.
Kay‘s story begins in the stereotypical Asian styled Cat Town, which has recently come under the control of the sinister gorillas and rats. Our tweenage hero decides he’s had enough of the tyranny and begins his quest to restore freedom to his and all other peoples who suffer under the iron fist of the rat/gorilla alliance.
Kay straddles an unusual line between over and under-informing the player. This is especially evident at the beginning of the game where NPCs will kindly inform you that conspicuously dangling ropes can be used to swing across dangerous areas, or that ledges can be grabbed.
Conversely, the NPCs serving as teachers purposefully omit key pieces of information so that they can be purchased as advice in shops. Although the advice comes at a small price, there’s no guarantee you won’t get the same advice more than once.
Gameplay is split between platforming/puzzle solving and combat. The platforming is not fun and nearly impossible due to the aforementioned broken camera and controls. Combat fairs a little better, but it still needs improvement.
Kay possesses a wide variety of moves, including magical attacks. Regardless of how hopeless the situation may be, Kay always has the perfect attack to counter it… in theory. Make sure you pay attention during the move tutorials, because you’re never going to see those input lists again. Plus, some inputs don’t lie well on the controller, such as pressing Y and A simultaneously.
Two factors ruin the combat’s potential: the camera and stilted controls. The omnipresent camera problems prevent players from seeing their enemies, and the sluggish controls make the player feel less powerful. That being said, combat can sometimes be rewarding, provided all goes well.
Racing sections appear scattered throughout the game. These seem out of place when juxtaposed to the rest of the game. Kay can ride a few different animals, which brings up the question of what makes some animals sentient while others remain just animals? Regardless of what animal is used, racing is cumbersome and feels like just an excuse to get an item.
Legend of Kay Anniversary gives a good example of what not to do when remastering a game. Very few aspects have been changed from the original, and the existing alterations add little to the overarching experience. Technical problems hinder your chances of success, particularly via camera and controls. With the unlikeable protagonist and racist stereotypes, Legend of Kay Anniversary fails to improve enough upon the original.