The Legend of Kay Anniversary (PS4) Review

The Legend of Kay Anniversary (PS4) Review

The Legend of Kay, originally developed by Neon Studios and released back in 2005 for PlayStation 2, was a somewhat underrated and overlooked game at the time. It was a third-person action platformer reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda, and even though it lacked the polish that Nintendo’s flagship franchise exudes, it was still an enjoyable experience complete with charming characters and an interesting premise. Fast-forward 10 years and we have ourselves an HD anniversary re-release that, surprisingly, manages to breathe new life into this hidden gem, despite still containing some glaring flaws.
LOK_A_Screens_06The first thing that shocked me once I started playing the PlayStation 4 version of the remaster was how well The Legend of Kay holds up technically. The character models are absolutely gorgeous, and most of the environments look great as well, featuring very detailed textures. It seems like a fresh coat of paint only makes the game look that much better. But the game’s cordial and eccentric art direction is what really stands out. The Legend of Kay is about a world completely comprised of walking, talking animals—pandas, cats, frogs, gorillas, rats, and many more. They’re all beautifully realized through the clothes they wear, their particular aesthetics, and the towns and villages they inhabit. The bright color palettes also make the game feel like a jovial cartoon when paired with the harmonious musical score.

You assume the role of a young, brash cat named Kay who is striving to become a warrior. The Legend of Kay’s story isn’t particularly fascinating. As the titular hero is tasked with restoring peace to his land by taking out the forceful gorillas that have taken over; it isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. But the world-building and characters, coupled with the fact that some of the most vital narrative moments are told through beautiful comic book panels, make the story a lot more interesting than it should be. However, the voice acting is borderline atrocious. Kay, and a handful of other side characters sound decent enough, but nearly everyone else I encountered made me want to mute the game out of pure embarrassment. The more I played it, the more I found this flaw to be intrusive, as it hurt the overall storytelling.

Mechanically, The Legend of Kay is simple but satisfying. It’s a traditional platformer in which you have to jump on and over obstacles, and by the end, the platforming gets quite challenging. The main focus of the game, though,  is the tactical swordplay and magic that’s actually quite similar to The Witcher 3, albeit a little easier. Kay can perform combos, magic (like summon lightning), and block attacks, and the enemy AI is clever enough that you can’t simply smash Square and expect to breeze past them. There’s also a plethora of boss battles that make use of all of the mechanics you’ve learned up to a certain point, and they’re pretty enjoyable to partake in.

There are plenty of collectibles to find, such as coins that can be used to purchase health and magic potions, life and magic hearts, and powerful swords, claws, and armor; it’s essentially everything you would expect from a traditional Zelda game. The game’s biggest flaw, however, is the unresponsive camera. It’s default position is an awkward overhead view that can’t be tampered with. Instead of being able to look up or down, the camera zooms in and out. This detracts from—and needlessly complicates—the combat, boss battles, and and even traversal of the environment at times. To be honest, that’s a shame, because the rest of The Legend of Kay is quite enjoyable.

 

Final Fantasy XI To Close Console Doors Next Year

Final Fantasy XI To Close Console Doors Next Year

There’s probably a lot of crickets chirping right now for this particular news, but Square Enix has announced that Final Fantasy XI at least on LAST-last gen consoles, will be shutting down in 2016.

Yes, it’s hard to believe, but up until now, PS2 owners (with the added hard drive) and Xbox 360 owners could happily play FFXI on their older machines. However, considering the PS2 hasn’t been relevant in years, and even the Xbox 360 is on the way out, it makes sense that Square Enix would decide that it’s time to close the doors on their first experiment in MMO genre.

PC gamers have nothing to fear, as Squenix is continuing to maintain the servers for the glorious master race, but in a world where FFXIV is doing well and is even getting its first massive expansion later in the year, there seems to be little reason to maintain the FFXI presence. Especially on those platforms that are dead or on the way out. Still, it’s impressive to think that somewhere out in the world, there may still be a few die hard fans on PS2s happily playing what is, by modern standards, an ancient MMO. You’ve got until next year, people, start cleaning house, propping up the chairs and getting ready to lock up.

20 Years of PlayStation

20 Years of PlayStation

I honestly cannot believe it’s been twenty years. I don’t FEEL that old, but after checking the math on the official PlayStation blog, it checks out. The OG PlayStation never really made big waves in my circle of friends when it first came out. My friend Bryan had one, and that’s where I was first introduced to Lara Croft, and the bizarre and addictive Jumping Flash, but a lot of us were still playing with our Super Nintendos and it would be a couple years before the N64 came out. When given the chance though, we discovered The PlayStation offered games that were deeper, and more adult, than anything we had played previously. The graphics were pretty mind blowing at the time, especially for someone who had never seen a “3-D” game outside of Starfox. I do have some very fond memories of that weird little grey box, and in honour of 20 years of PlayStation, I’ll share them here. A lot of these memories will involve references to friends of mine that you readers have never met, but my fondest gaming memories pre-internet all involve playing with my buddies.

Renting a console

Well, it doesn’t really need to be stated, when it first came out Metal Gear Solid was kind of a big deal. This was one of the first “grown-up” games I ever played, and it planted a seed within me that would grow into a tree that really, really liked stealth games. However, in order to actually play the game, we had to rent a PlayStation. For our younger readers who just paused and said “what do you mean, ‘rent’ a console?” let me explain. In the long long ago, the time before time, popular movie rental outlets like Blockbuster and Bandito used to offer consoles for rent. Not being the wealthiest kids on the block, we couldn’t afford our own console and this was often the only avenue we could take to play certain games. So for a small fee and mom’s credit card info, we were able to get that sweet console shaped suitcase to take home for a weekend of brain melting, teeth rotting, sleep deprived fun.

Resident Evil 2

On the topic of videogame centred sleepovers, let’s all remember the game that really started the survival horror genre. I know it was a sequel, but I never played the first one, and this is the game that really opened up my eyes to what a game to do to a young mind. I grew up with the Super Marios, the Ninja Turtles, and other safe, kid oriented franchises. When I first saw the monster crawl across the window in the hallways of the Racoon City PD I knew I was in for a late night. Never before had a game made me sweat like that, and there were no internet guides to tell us how to solve the puzzles, or where to find item X. Paul, Derek and myself had to combine our intellects and creativity to figure the game out all on our own merits. Rarely do I get that sense of accomplishment out of a game these days.

Cinematics

Ah, the glories of the compact disc. In an odd sort of way I can’t summon the fondness for in-game cutscenes that I thought I would, as I hate them now. Back in the day though, it was pretty incredible and added a hell of a lot of depth to a medium that up until then was mainly about scoring points and finding secrets. This really pushed the industry forward, and for a while was a solid argument to use anytime someone claimed videogames were childish endeavours with no legitimacy as a story telling device. Thanks to the PlayStation, this entire concept became so ingrained in the industry that they’re now inseparable. Telling a good story became so important to the success of the game that it’s now an absolute requirement.

SONY DSC

We wouldn’t have the PS2, PS3, PS4, or Xboxes without it

By the time 1994 rolled around, the battle between Sega and Nintendo was reaching a pinnacle. It was pretty clear that Nintendo was going to reach the finish line first, and gain a monopoly. Sure Sega had the Saturn, and the much-loved but ill-fated Dreamcast, but they were already bleeding tons of cash as arcades died and gaming moved more and more into the living room. If Sony hadn’t entered the game, Nintendo would have been the be-all end-all of the videogame world, and monopolies always lead to stagnation. Sony took a huge risk jumping into that market, as nobody at the time could have foretold how enormous and fiscally viable the gaming industry was going to become over the next two decades. And without Sony, it’s highly doubtful Microsoft would have entered the fray, and just imagining a world without all the beloved franchises spawned from these two companies is scary enough. So thanks PlayStation. Thanks for 20 years of awesome games, from you and your competition.

Sony Sells Nostalgia In New UK Advert

Sony Sells Nostalgia In New UK Advert

As the PS4 gears up for its debut (just three weeks to go, folks), Sony decided to take its British fans for a ride on the nostalgia train. This new commercial, shown below, will make many an adult feel warm, fuzzy and old as it becomes clear that the Playstation consoles have been with us for a very, VERY long time. Just check out the video below and remember the music, political caterwauling and hair that you’d rather forget. And remember, if the skyline looks all strange and frightening because there’s no Empire State Building in it, that’s because people in London ALSO play games.

youtube
please specify correct url

Sony should (but won’t) make the PS4 backwards compatible

Sony should (but won’t) make the PS4 backwards compatible

With the recent flurry of announcements from Sony about a special “future of Playstation” event due February 20

th

, most people in the industry—myself included—are betting that we’re about to get our first debut of the Playstation 4. This is an event that’s got me both excited and at the same time filled with a minor sense of dread.

Read moreSony should (but won’t) make the PS4 backwards compatible

Persona 4 Golden (PS Vita) Review

Persona 4 Golden (PS Vita) Review

A Surprising Vita Must Have

1988379-a29ce58c1f8aa14ae37c58177c208362.jpgThe JRPG hasn’t had a great run this console generation. Even former stalwarts like Square-Enix failed to live up to the greatness they were once known for. But even if the consoles are experiencing a dearth of quality JRPG titles, the same can’t be said for the portable gaming scene. Both the DS and PSP established themselves as new venues for fantastic JRPG experiences and now the Vita is set to carry on the tradition with an oldie but a goodie, Persona 4 Golden. In fact it’s so good that for JRPG fans it’s a must have title on Sony’s latest portable gaming system.

Back To School & Monster Slaying

The basic plot of Persona 4 remains intact in this “Golden” edition for the Vita. You control a classic, silent JRPG protagonist who has moved to the small town of Inaba to finish up the school year. Things take a turn for the strange when a serial killer starts leaving bodies hanging on antennas after any foggy days hit the town. It’s up to you and the friends you make at your new school to investigate and stop the killings thanks to an ability known as “Persona.” It allows those so gifted to travel to a dimension with televisions and summon up mighty demons that fight for and with them. If that story sounds absolutely insane, that’s because it is, but in between the dungeon crawling and Jungian psychological rambling, there’s a lot of heart, likable characters, one of the most memorable tales in a JRPG of the last five years.
The visuals are a stunning testament to the technology of our age and the Vita in particular. Granted, even back then, the original PS2 debut of Persona 4 wasn’t putting a strain on that console, but P4G looks better than the original and it’s on a portable. Atlus went the extra mile of rezzing up the graphics to high definition, new art work, environments and even animated scenes have all been created, and there’s no framerate issues at all. It’s obviously no technical marvel compared to something like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, but this is the best that a Persona game has looked in this entire generation, since none have come out on consoles.

Another pleasant surprise is the sound. Atlus didn’t have to, but they went back in with series composer Shōji Meguro and crafted some new songs, including a new opening theme and some catchy combat tunes. There are also new voice actors for party members Teddie and Chie Satonaka. While Sam Riegel manages to pull off a different but similar approach to former Teddie voice actor David Wittenberg, it’s a lot more divisive when it comes to Chie. I personally got used to Erin Fitzgerald’s younger take on Chie, but Tracey Rooney made an impression with her original, deeper delivery. Purists are likely to hate Chie’s new performance, but in the context of a hyper, boisterous teenage girl, it’s actually appropriate. With regards to overall quality of the audio, being on a portable we’re only getting stereo sound, obviously. But since Persona is more about dialog and music than explosions, these are given the breathing space on the Vita to have decent fidelity.

……

All of this is to say that one of the best JRPGs of the last generation has actually gotten better. Not only have the systems been tweaked to be friendlier for short burst, on-the-go play, they’ve also been made approachable for those playing an Atlus JRPG for the first time. However, for Vita owners that may already own the PS2 version, there is enough new content here to absolutely justify a second purchase. It’s not often that a fantastic game gets an HD port that makes it even more fantastic, but that’s exactly what’s happened here. Persona 4 Golden is the definitive experience of this award winning game.

Persona-4-Golden_screens_1_0009.jpg

Anyone that complains (with good reason unfortunately) that quality JRPGs have taken a nosedive in this generation owes it to themselves to revisit this game. I can confidently say that for fans of the JRPG genre, this makes the Vita a system worth considering. The only “criticism” I have of this game, if it can even be called that, is that this is unavailable to play on the PS3. For fans of the original, if you have the Vita already, go out and get this game already. If you’re a Vita owner that’s never played this and are receptive to the JRPG experience, this is one of the most unique games on the market. Its contemporary setting and bold hybrid of school simulation and turn-based battles make it one of the most original games on the market with a likable, charming cast, believable drama and conflicts and a story that never lets up. This classic is even more classic thanks to this “Golden” edition that lives up to its new adjective.

 

This is a shortened review! To read Wayne’s full thoughts on Persona 4 Golden, look for the review in its entirety in the next issue of Comics and Gaming Magazine!

 

Zone of the Enders HD (PS3) Review

Zone of the Enders HD (PS3) Review

Completely Non-Ironic High Speed Robot Action

While Zone of the Enders is not high on the list of all time PS2 classics, the fast paced, mecha combat game helmed by Hideo Kojima has a devoted following. It reviewed well, and provided a unique experience comparable to something like Bayonetta or its contemporary Devil May Cry, but with giant robots. Of course, being a Hideo Kojima project, it’s also rife with exposition, obvious Japanese to English translations (whenever someone repeats a sentence that was just spoken, you know the game is Japanese) and an unapologetically baroque plot. Now the original games are the latest addition to the HD Port family, and… they’re slower than the original.

Giant Robots For The ADD Generation

When Hideo Kojima wasn’t working on his signature Metal Gear series, he would try something a little different and bit more futuristic with the Zone of the Enders series. Combining elements of science fiction anime staples like Gundam and Evangelion, Zone of the Enders posits a world where colonies of the solar system are torn by strife, and a young boy finds himself in the pilot seat of a giant robot. This being a Kojima game there’s also a fair amount of pseudo-existential angst, but back in the early 00s when almost no one was doing this, it was a breath of fresh air. Today it feels a little stale, but the revamped presentation makes up for it.Somewhat.

full-1.jpg

Although not as high profile as the Metal Gear Solid or Silent Hill ports, the ZOE collection is one Konami collection that contains all the games in the series. Like the MGS port, there’s also the addition of extra VR missions that were included in later editions of the game, as well as a completely new anime opening set to the theme song from ZOE2. Like many games of the PS2 era that placed an emphasis on art direction over polygon count, the ZOE series actually holds up pretty well with sharpened textures and a 16:9 aspect ratio. This is all good, but what really disappoints is the frame rate. Both the PS3 and Xbox 360 are a generation more powerful than the PS2 and yet these HD ZOE games feel—and play—slower than the originals. It’s never enough to make the game unplayable and for people that have never played the PS2 version, it’s quite likely unnoticeable. But for actual fans of the series that still have a launch PS3 or an old PS2 lying around, a quick comparison of the HD and original versions shows that the older games do indeed play at a faster speed with a smoother frame rate. Zone of the Enders—or at least ZOE2—was lauded by many gamers for a great sense of pacing, variety, and blazing fast speed. The HD versions seem to have sacrificed speed for smooth, jaggy-free graphics, and the hardcore fans may not appreciate the trade-off. On the other hand, the new HD versions are much more consistent about holding their lower frame rates. The original PS2 version was blindingly fast at its best, but when too much activity occurred, the frame rate would take a dramatic hit. That doesn’t really happen here.

In the end, the ZOE HD collection seems to be a case of “choose your poison.” If you’re all about the hyperkinetic speed of the original, you might want to just stick with your PS2 discs if you have them. If that kind of performance isn’t an issue, and it’s more important that you play the game in widescreen with shiny, smooth visuals, then the HD port will be just fine. It’s just a shame that, unlike Sony, Konami can’t seem to really get a grip on putting out an HD port that is a no-brainer improvement over its previous generation incarnations.