The Legend of Kage 2 DS
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Taito
Release Date: Out Now
We don't see many side-scrolling action games nowadays. There was a time when they were hugely popular, particularly in the arcades in the 1980s. The Legend of Kage 2 is actually a sequel to a very popular arcade game from 1985 (called Kage no Densetsu in Japan) which appeared on the NES under the name of The Legend of Kage. The Legend of Kage 2 feels very much like those arcade games of twenty years ago with its high tempo action that offers both vertical and horizontal action and it's sure to appeal to anyone who enjoyed those games.
In The Legend of Kage 2 you can either play as Kage or Chihiro. Kage has more health and comes equipped with a Katana and Shurikens, whereas Chihiro has less health but seems more effective in the early stages of the game. She has the Kusarigama and the Fundo. Both characters have access to ninjutsu attacks. Regardless of who you choose to play as the story plays out pretty much the same. At the beginning of the game your character is asked to escort a princess. It inevitably goes wrong when the princess is captured by Yoshiro Yukikusa's henchman. You'll have to get her back of course but doing so will be no easy matter.
The action in The Legend of Kage is fast and furious. Most of the basic enemies you'll come across, especially in the first few levels, can be dispatched quite easily, which does take the shine off the earlier levels, but they become much more difficult as the game progresses. The game plays out across the two screens and this really adds to the vertical experience as Kage (or Chihiro) spend quite a lot of time going upwards as well as to the side and the jumps they make in this are huge. The main challenge on the first play through comes from the boss fights and they are both challenging and enjoyable. You'll finish your first play through the game in about four to five hours which is rather short but there are incentives to play through the missions again to gain a better grade and to unlock bonus artwork. Completing the game will unlock additional difficulty levels, which really are punishing, and there are additional items to unlock by playing through on the different difficulty levels with both characters.
As with all classic arcade game boss fights you have to observe the attack patterns of the boss characters to find their weaknesses. Thankfully you're given a chance to redo the fight should you lose so you won't have to redo the whole level all over again. What I really like about the boss battles is that they feel fair. Far too often in games of this nature it feels as though you've been cheated by a boss using an attack that can't be avoided but that's not the case here. Even on the harder difficulty levels it doesn't feel as though the AI is cheating but simply putting up more of a challenge which is certainly great to see.
The game isn't just about lightening quick combat and boss battles. Both Kage and Chihiro can use ninjutsu powers. There are four types of Element Orbs which are water, lightning, fire and non-elemental. You'll collect these Element Orbs during the course of a mission. These orbs can be used to create ninjutsu powers which can then be used in a mission. What I really like about this is that it adds a level of customisation to the gaming experience which is not something you expect to find in a side-scrolling action game.
The presentation of The Legend of Kage 2 is absolutely fine. Graphically the game looks OK. Your view is quite zoomed out (it has to be in a game where your jumps are as huge as they are here) so you're not going to see a lot of detail on the characters. Still the action flows quickly and the frame rate is commendable. The game is subtitled so deaf gamers won't have any problems at all with the game. All tutorial messages are shown in text. All of the conversations are in text too and character names and portraits are displayed so you're fully aware of what each character is saying.
If side-scrolling action games are your thing then The Legend of Kage 2 is well worth a look. The length of the game is a little disappointing and some of the earlier levels are a little too easy but the quality of the boss fights and the difficulty of the later levels (and additional difficulty modes) help to make this an enjoyable and authentic arcade side-scrolling experience. Fans of The Legend of Kage have certainly had to wait a long time for a sequel but most will agree it's a worthy sequel.