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The Legend of Kage (NES) artwork

The Legend of Kage (NES) review


"Turning on the NES that day cleared the room. The instant the grating music kicked in and that faceless woman in a red kimono strutted across the screen and was carried away by a ninja, my brother left the room. He said something about his ears and broken glass, but I didn't catch the whole thing. I was too entranced in Legend of Kage. It wasn't that the game was so enjoyable that it took me away and thrust me into that state of euphoria commonly associated with Contra or Super Mario Bros. 3..."



Turning on the NES that day cleared the room. The instant the grating music kicked in and that faceless woman in a red kimono strutted across the screen and was carried away by a ninja, my brother left the room. He said something about his ears and broken glass, but I didn't catch the whole thing. I was too entranced in Legend of Kage. It wasn't that the game was so enjoyable that it took me away and thrust me into that state of euphoria commonly associated with Contra or Super Mario Bros. 3. No, it was more like my mind was trying to wrap itself around whether I liked it or not.

I started out in a forest with a plain blue background. Now and then the screen flashed, simulating lightning and adding a tiny bit of atmosphere. However, the music all threw it off. Something about it rubbed me the wrong way. It sounded like a continuous string of someone hitting the wrong keys.

Red and blue ninjas leaped out from all angles. Hitting the B button unleashed a few shurikens and took the ninjas out with a single hit. A shuriken came for me, I hit A to hopefully jump over it. My character swung his blade instead, a move that was supposed to deflect the shuriken. I was too early. The shuriken hit me and took a life. This was “one of those games,” as we used to refer to them as kids. You had to push up to jump. It was slightly counterintuitive, but becomes intuitive with a little practice. Even once it does, it became difficult to gauge how high you wanted to jump. Sometimes you'd jump just right, sometimes too low, and often times way too high. This lead to many problems. If you were running along and jumped forward, your character would jump in fairly slow motion for a long time, leaving himself open for shurikens. You could use the blade to deflect them, but with shurikens coming at every angle, you couldn't possibly deflect them all. There's challenge, and then there's ridiculousness. This game drunkly traipses the line between the two, sometimes making a huge misstep and tromping into the realm of “too easy”.

There was a time that I turned around and walked right into a shuriken. I had no time to react to it, didn't have any power ups that increased my defense, and I fell. That was one life down. I respawned right next to a red ninja who immediately threw a shuriken. Not even two seconds into my next life and I was dead again.

However, the scenes that weren't ridiculous were tantalizing, as your character felt as though he controlled like a ninja straight out of an anime or a martial arts movie. I could leap through the air and throw shurikens in all directions, taking out any ninjas the shurikens happened to hit. It felt like a very different to control a game.

I eventually ran to the very end of the forest. The screen stopped and no more trees appeared. I had no idea what the hell to do, and the game didn't give me any indication. This also happened to be a rental game without an instruction booklet. After enough time playing, I found that the first level's goal was to kill enough fire-shooting monks. Thanks for spelling that out. I advanced to the next level where I waded in a moat where the objective was to kill more ninjas. The level took maybe thirty seconds to clear and a minimum amount of effort. It took me to another level where I had to ascend a wall. This also took maybe thirty seconds and about as much effort. It was quite jarring going from a rough amount of shuriken dodging, cursing, and random unfairness to two levels that were incredibly easy.

I then found myself in a fortress loaded with ninjas. It looked complicated and difficult, but it really amounted to running back and forth and deflecting the occasional shuriken. There were no more surprises at this point, nothing to break the tedium of the level. It was one floor of ninjas after another.

...And then I found the girl. I thought, “Man, already?” I grabbed her, leaped off the building, and even then took a long time to descend. We were back in the forest, absconding into the night deep in the woods. No one would find us where they we were headed. We were home free... Then another ninja leaped out and grabbed the woman. I fought a simple boss and advanced back to the forest again, repackaged with a different color pallet. The process started over again: forest, then moat, then wall, then fortress, then boss, then forest, then moat, then wall... I breathed a heavy sigh and continued playing the forest, the challenge factor increased a tiny bit.

The repetition was maddening. It wasn't just the repetition in the flow of levels, but also in the gameplay. I did the same things over and over again. I leaped in the air, threw stars, killed ninjas. That sounded awesome, but it didn't feel awesome. The lack of variety was a real killer. It made the game feel daunting, even if it wasn't that terribly brutal. It just didn't add up to something that's fun and exciting.

I only played Legend of Kage for a few hours before turning off my NES and putting the game off to the side. It became another one of those rentals that I had wasted money on. I would try to play the game again and again in the distant future, hearing from so many people that it was an underrated classic. I came to understand what people see in it, but still didn't find enjoyment in it. No thank you. There are far better action games on NES, even ones involving ninjas.

Legend of Kage isn't a horrible game, at least not as horrible as I had originally reviewed it. It's just not fun. Its unique controlling style makes it a tiny bit interesting, but the unbalanced difficulty, dull levels, and lack of variety drag the game down. It's a cycle and it doesn't feature interesting enough gameplay to keep it afloat. It's dull and repetitive, and it really is nothing special.

Rating: 5/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (November 27, 2010)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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zippdementia posted November 27, 2010:

I think Kage was only a classic because it was so bad. Me and my friends played it a lot simply because we found it to be hilarious.

The one truly awesome thing about this game was being able to jump forty feet in the air.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted November 28, 2010:

I originally gave this game a 1/10. After reading so many positive reviews, including one that said anyone who hated this was "on drugs and needed to check into rehab," I thought I'd give it another go. Still pretty meh.
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zippdementia posted November 29, 2010:

Well, people really enjoy jumping.
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CoarseDragon posted November 29, 2010:

" It felt like a very different to control a game." Just need to re-word this sentence.

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Suskie posted November 29, 2010:

No, no, no. Demon Sword was hilarious. Kage was Demon Sword without the camp value.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted November 29, 2010:

Oh, Demon Sword. Haven't played that in a long time. Might have to try it again.

EDIT:
I just now noticedthat I left my "thesis" at the top of the review. I usually delete that.

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