|Title: Legend of Kage, The
Rom Player: Jnes
Reviewer: Rick Wickenhofer
Synopsis: After playing enough NES games, it becomes obvious that in order to become a legend in the Nintendo universe, you have to find a girl who is both pretty and retarded. The best example of this is Mario, whose sweetheart Princess Toadstool repeatedly managed to get kidnapped by a slow, lumbering tortoise. Other examples include Link, who had to march and sail across the whole of Hyrule to save Zelda, an inept sorceress who managed to fall under a sleep charm cast by Ganon AFTER Link sliced him into a pile of ground chuck. A lesser known repeat victim of kidnapping was Sylvia, the damsel from "Kung Fu," who Mr. X recaptured seconds after the hero, Thomas, battered his ass with his martial arts skills.
Now adding her name to the long list of worthless Nintendo girlfriends is Princess Kiri, who was home with the flu the day they taught her high school health class that it's never a good idea to wander around at night in a forest that's known to be inhabited by hostile ninjas. Surely enough, a red-clad ninja swoops down from a nearby tree and grabs her, and since she does not struggle, it's clear that she's too stupid to realize she's been kidnapped. Leaping down to save her is the protagonist of the game, Kage, who is already a legend because he's the first white Japanese guy in history. Armed with a short sword and a limitless supply of shuriken, Kage must hack and carve his way through a whole army of ninjas. Actually, he has two short swords, but he only uses one at a time. The other one's just there to ensure that he looks the same regardless of whether he's facing left or right. The guy from "Trojan," on the other hand, has to switch his sword and shield to the opposite hand every time he turns around. It's interesting to see a video game character who acknowledges that he's just a cluster of pixels, and brings along an extra sword just to perpetuate the illusion that he really exists.
In addition to Kage's arsenal, he has two special abilities: first, he is very adept at climbing trees and pipes. He is so good at it that he can free one arm from a tree to hack at a flying ninja or toss a shuriken at a butterfly (I'll explain that one later). Climbing is somewhat moot, though, because Kage can leap hundreds of feet into the air, and can reach the topmost boughs of a tall tree with a single leap from the ground. White men can't jump, my ass. Unfortunately the enemy ninjas can do this as well, and this results in aerial battles that involve men dropping tens of stories to their doom and shuriken flying in all different directions. It's no wonder you don't see any squirrels or birds in the forest. They were all innocent victims of stray projectiles and ninja weaponry.
There are several powerups in the game, such as a floating sphere that turns your outfit into a florescent green color. This serves as armor from throwing stars, blades and bombs, and also powers up your shuriken, making them unblockable. Grabbing another sphere will turn your costume puke-yellow, the color of master ninjas. It signifies the color of the fluid that drenches an enemy's pants as soon as they catch sight of you. The only thing this does is increase your running speed, or in other words, decrease the probability that you will react in time to an enemy who appears in front of you. I usually don't pick up the yellow costume, because most levels require you to kill a certain amount of enemies before you can advance, and it is therefore unimportant how quickly you reach the end of the stage.
Another powerup in "The Legend of Kage" is an object I can only identify as the Brick of Death. It is a small rectangular object that sometimes appears in midair. Grabbing the Brick of Death will render you invincible, but you will be unable to move. Kage stands completely still as the screen flashes and the game makes this weird, ungodly sound, and ninjas begin to attack in droves before falling to the ground, smitten by some unseen force. Even though you can't tell what the hell is going on, you know that this is some pretty scary shit. The Brick of Death is by far the most horrible weapon ever invented. If you encounter someone just standing utterly still in the middle of nowhere holding a chunk of masonry in his hands, get the fuck out of Dodge. You may not be an enemy ninja, but I'm willing to bet that the Brick of Death doesn't discriminate.
The only other powerup in the game, though not used to deal death and destruction, is debatably more disturbing than the Brick of Death. It is a huge floating head with feet where the neck should be. It appears and inexplicably walks across the screen, and I use the term "walk" loosely, because it actually floats about twenty feet above the ground while its neck-feet move. Grabbing the floating head will give you an extra life, which is great, but it's so damn creepy I really wouldn't want to go near the fucking thing. The only way I can describe it is, it's what Pac-Man might look like if he were a ninja, or a blue testicle with eyeballs. I prefer to earn my extra lives with point bonuses, thank you very much.
There are only a few types of enemies in "The Legend of Kage," and the ones you'll encounter the most are the ninjas. Ninjas leap down from the trees, charge from the ground, and some just pop out of midair. They come from all different directions, crowds, mobs, hordes of ninjas. It's like a cockroach infestation, except the cockroaches throw shuriken at you. It's enough to make you wish that somebody would just come into the forest with a big truckload of pesticide and fumigate the entire place. God damn, there are assloads of ninjas. I'll bet that if you chop off the head of one, the body will still walk around for an hour swinging its sword and throwing shuriken and smoke bombs at passersby. The reason the ninjas are so bothersome is, you can die at any time from an unblockable smoke bomb or a stray throwing star. One hit will finish you (unless of course you're wearing the beforementioned flamboyant pajamas of the ancients), and though you can block the throwing stars with your sword, there's only about a 50% chance that Kage will do it. Sometimes he'll block it, sometimes he'll wind up with a new orifice in his chest. My strategy is just to run nonstop through the forest, swinging my sword over and over in a desperate attempt to avoid being punctured or blown to hell.
If you kill enough ninjas, a guy who looks like the three Storms from "Big Trouble in Little China" will appear. Not only did the three Storms have supernatural powers, they also taunted their victims by breathing in an obscene fashion after they were done killing people, or after showing off their asskicking prowess for Kim Cattral. If you receive a prank phone call from a breather in the middle of a lightning storm, it's probably one of those fucks. In "The Legend of Kage," the Storms have honed their sexual breathing into a deadly wave of fire that issues from their mouths. Not only can't you block this, but it will kill you even if you're wearing the protective green or yellow leisure suit. Your only chance is to kill your frisky foe quickly, before he has a chance to burn you with his wistful utterances.
Once the game decides you've killed enough ninjas and horny demigods, you will face the ultimate challenge; the Brown Guy Who's Really No Different From The Other Fire Breathing Perverts. If you have your galvanized shuriken, he should be no problem. Once you pass him, you will be in a pond surrounded by blue ninjas. Kill about ten of them to move on to the next area, which is a huge wall with ledges. In fact, this is the lesser known Great Wall of Japan, which, although it cannot be seen from space like its Chinese counterpart, can be seen from Kyoto, where it's actually located. All you have to do to get past this is make it to the top. One peculiarity of this level is, it is the only stage with the black ninja, who is no different from the other ninjas except that he grants you a Brick of Death once you kill him.
Finally you're at the palace, which is really more of an apartment building in the slums because it's only four stories high and all its piping is exposed. Here you will find more ninjas and the occasional Brown Breather. Survive all this and you'll be at princess Kiri, who's tied to a pipe. Cut her bonds and Kage will automatically escort her to the roof, which he'll leap off with a screaming Kiri, because she's had no ninja training and therefore cannot withstand a fall of more than 1,500 feet. The landing will snap both of her legs, but Kage forces her to keep running for fear that a ninja might rush up behind them and kidnap her again. Apparently the ninja legend should have taken extra precautions, because this is exactly what happens. This is why Kage is not on Nintendo's A-List with Mario and Link, because he's just proven what a fucking moron he is. Now he has to fight two fire breathers, and oddly enough he cannot hurt them until he's killed a butterfly that's fluttering around the forest. Even more strangely, it takes about seven hits to bring down the butterfly and only one to kill each of the Storm wannabes. A good rule of thumb is, before you try to fight a fully armed ninja, you'd better make damn sure you're tougher than the local insect life.
Anyway, now you have to play through the entire game again, except this time it's Autumn. Kage must be pretty pissed at Kiri for letting herself get abducted again, because he lets her spend an entire season in the custody of murderous ninjas and horny guys in pajamas. Once you rescue her for the second time, Kage makes her jump off the building again just when her legs are beginning to heal, and as he's running away with her he fucking FORGETS to look behind him to see if there are any ninjas. Sure enough, a ninja swoops down again and nabs Kiri, and Kage again fails to notice that the human being that was attached to his arm is now nowhere in sight. Somebody needs to hang a goddamned sign one one of the trees that says "Look both ways before crossing the forest."
Now Kage must fight a ninja that looks just like him except that he's not wearing a skirt, but baggy MC Hammer pants. Of equal intelligence as the previous boss, Evil Kage has displaced his life force into the body of a butterfly. If I were able to do that, I'd put my life force in the body of a lion or a fucking wolverine or something. Butterflies only live for one season even when somebody isn't hacking at them with a ninja sword, so Evil Kage might as well inject himself with HIV and get it over with. Also, his choice of pants does not allow him to keep any shuriken on his person, because the weight of the metal would most likely drop his pants and expose his supple asscheeks to the chill autumn breeze. This gives you an advantage, and all you have to do is chuck throwing stars at the would-be ninja rapper until you score the fatal hit.
Plagued with regret, Kage again waits three months before resuming his quest so he can mourn the death of his idiot brother, who, it turns out, really wasn't trying to fight but was merely frolicking among the falling leaves. Anyway, it is now winter, and if you complete the game for the third time and rescue Kiri, she will once more let herself get fucking kidnapped. Now it's clear that Kiri isn't stupid or insane, she's just one of those manipulative bastard bitches who get off on men fighting over her. Important dating tip: if your girlfriend doesn't react with sincere horror to half a shuriken protruding from your forehead, let whichever son of a bitch threw it have her. They fucking deserve each other. If there indeed is a Christ and he is holy, she'll do something to piss her new boyfriend off and she'll find out how it feels to dodge ninja stars for the entire football season.
Fortunately, you do not have to survive another round of endless ninjas and obscure movie references; you just have to fight one final guy. Well, one guy and one butterfly. I don't know what his real name is, but I affectionately call him Captain Chopsticks, because he wields two swords and swings them together in a scissorlike pattern. His only advantage is that he can fly, but other than that he is no more difficult than Evil Kage. One well-timed shuriken will cut him down in his prime, if you can call flying around banging your arms together like a retarded fruit bat a "prime." Then you'll finally see the game's ending, which is mostly a text message that tells you that "all the evils disappeared and the peace pervaded everywhere." Then a single word pops up on the screen: "HOWEVER...." and then it cuts to the very beginning of the game, and we see Kiri get snatched for the ninety trillionth time while the game plays an annoying screeching noise that's intended to pass for Japanese music. So much for "the" peace pervading everywhere. They might as well have said, "all the evils disappeared and the peace pervaded everywhere. However...not all the evils disappeared and pretty much everything else we just told you was fucking bullshit." Or maybe a little side note: "Peace pervaded everywhere, but Kiri died." That would have been a more welcome ending than any other imaginable.
Best Cheats: Nothing Entered
Game Play: 5
Overall Rating: 4
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