The Legend of Kage is an ’80s ninja hack-and-slash platformer that few remember. The Legend of Kage 2, inspired by the modern retro movement, will likely meet the same fate.
This edition is similar, but not entirely identical: you are still a high-flying ninja, running and jumping non-stop while hacking through hordes of lesser ninjas with ease. But there are a couple modern little frills thrown in. For starters, you can play as either Kage or Chihiro, which gives you two sets of move to go by. There are cutscenes between levels (though these are hardly affected by which character you pick), and you have the option to experiment with colored orbs you collect, organizing them into different combinations so that you can discover and select different special moves.
Still, it’s a budget title, and for good reason. The gameplay is as simple as it ever was, and the style of challenge is so worn and pasty that the action wears out its welcome by the halfway mark–and the game is short. There are letter grades assigned upon level completion and you can go back and replay any of the levels to be able to earn the right to look at 40 pieces of concept art, but that’s hardly motivation.
Kage and Chihiro have numerous moves, but it means little when the enemies are so easy. Many levels can be cleared simply by holding down the right button and pressing the attack button non-stop. The only exceptions are mini-bosses and levels that require jumps and a sense of direction, as a few walls can’t be climbed but must be conquered through multiple jumps onto multiple platforms. This is the only mechanic which makes you think, and it’s a frustrating one because the immensity of the level combined with using both screens can leave the player simply lost. It does the game no favors when it’s not compatible with normal human perception. Fortunately, there are infinite continues, so you can retry bosses as often as you wish without having to replay the levels.
Speaking of bosses, The Legend of Kage 2’s bosses don’t all fully succumb to Mega Man-style pattern memorization the way the levels do; some of them have elements of randomization to them, requiring full engagement. Boss attacks are obviously influenced by 2D conventions, but many are unique enough to require different approaches that other platformers have never required.
Despite these charms, though, The Legend of Kage 2 is a bit of a yawn. Those desperate for some retro or platforming action on the DS may not mind frittering away a few hours, but for everyone else, it will be flavorless compared to other DS platform exercises.
ESRB: E for ninjas hitting each other with swords. No blood, very cartoony.
Plays like: The Legend of Kage; a watery Shinobi
Pros: solid mechanics, some interesting boss fights, save function
Cons: levels are either boring or stupidly difficult to navigate or both, only bosses are interesting