Taito Kage Densetsu: Legend of Kage 2
Kage, buddy! Been a while, like, since the 80s!
- Ninjas!, customisable Ninjutsu, two main characters, challenging boss fights, budget price
- The height of the jumps takes some getting used to
Two playable characters and ninjutsu a la carte make The Legend of Kage 2 worth checking out if your Tokugawan soul burns with everlasting passion.
Kage, buddy! Been a while, like, since the 80s! Oh, you're still a ninja? That Kirihime, always getting into trouble with demons — damn! Well, you're looking good-better than ever, really. We should get a beer sometime. Ninjas are cooler than pirates, just so you know where I stand...
Yep, he's back, and I don't mean on the Virtual Console. The Legend of Kage has received its true and proper sequel on the DS, featuring some dramatic, if a tiny bit goofy — "I'll make you crawl like a worm and have you coughing blood!" — cut-scenes, quality 2-D animation, and a new ninjutsu system that is a lot more engaging and flexible than the old power-ups.
The story part of Kage's pursuit of the magical kidnapped princess takes a backseat to the action, despite the frequent anime portrait-style diaglogue sequences. Actually, you can also choose to take on the search and rescue with a newly trained ninja, Chihiro. The two characters use different weapons, but the main difference lies in their ranged attacks; Chihiro's fundo (like a chain whip) doesn't have the reach of Kage's shuriken. Kage (and Chihiro) can really jump, so while the controls are pretty straightforward, it will probably take a moment to get your bearings. Actually, the light tapping of the B button necessary to hop (as opposed to taking flying leaps) feels dexterous enough to even immerse you a little in the ninja character you've taken on. Jumping is important, because even though they come down to proceeding to the right as you would expect, the stages have a serious vertical aspect that takes advantage of the dual screens. Leaping through the tree tops actually means something here — often that you are missing orbs on the ground, if you aren't checking around, although they could just as easily be found on a cliff top.
Elemental orbs are the key to ninjutsu. I got kind of into the system of creating your own spells by inserting color-coded spheres into the triangly grid. By arranging certain patterns (triangles at first, but as you gain more orbs you can make some other shapes) you can come up with buffs, as well as various strengths of lightening, ice shields, and fireballs. You don't have enough orbs (or a big enough grid, for that matter) to active all your powers at once, so it becomes a bit like equipping Materia in FFVII, only with a puzzle aspect-how to take as much advantage of the orbs you have available.
The boss fights were mostly unique, often taking advantage of stunts such as wall climbing to force a change in tactics. I found them to be pretty challenging, but I'm sure others will whip through the game quickly, as it's relatively short. Besides just hunting for all the orbs, though, an achievement-like list of completionist tasks to conquer awaits hardcore players in the unlockable art gallery.
While it's not terribly original or striking in any way, The Legend of Kage 2 is a fun game that comes at a price which makes recommendation pretty easy. Who needs pirates, anyways? Budget priced ninja platforming with some dual-screened heights to scale? Come for the boss battle, stay for the — oh wait, you beat it. Not a bad trip, though, and I prefer quality over quantity any day.
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