Attack of the Past #1 – The Legend of Kage

I have a lot of video games. I don’t know if I am what is considered a collector or not because I am not one of those who has games in their factory packaging or shows off my mint condition Nintendo Power strategy guides from the late 80’s. I just think of myself as a consumer of video game products, someone who has faithfully supported both the new and used game market for decades. When I look at my ridiculous collection of video games I ask myself a very simple question, what the hell am I supposed to do with all these games that I don’t play anymore? After minutes and minutes of hard thought I have concluded that it would be best to review them on a random basis. So begins a practice that I hope will be nostalgic for some, entertaining for some, and at worst a use for all these games I have.

The majority of these games I have played, but there are going to be many titles that I have not. Remember, I’m a buyer. I had a bad habit for a long time of going onto Ebay and looking for sellers who sold “lots” of NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, etc games. A lot is a formal word for “a large amount.” I’d find someone selling a lot of 50 NES games for example and I’d notice that I didn’t have many of those games, so I’d buy it. This went on for a long time thanks to banks that loved to increase my credit limit thereby increasing my debt. So what I am going to do is create a spreadsheet of every game that I have and will review them randomly. My collection is focused on NES, SNES, N64, Sega Genesis, Dreamcast, and PS1 games so who knows what will pop up.

Some of these games I have not touched since the 80’s when I first bought them and beat them. A great example is the game The Legend of Kage, which for memory’s sake I’m going to actually choose instead of going randomly. This game was released in 1987 and it is the first game that I received for my NES. Oddly enough I think I got the game before I even got an NES.

My family in Taiwan gave us a Famicom and my father wasn’t sure if an NES cartridge would work with it, well it didn’t. About a year later I got my NES along with the classic Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt cart but I had to get some Kage action first since it’d been sitting around in my house for a year. I was like 6 years old at the time, can you imagine any 6 year old waiting a year for anything? I had read the instruction manual so many times in my year long preparation for the game that I knew the controls as soon as I fired it up (let’s be honest though, there were only 2 buttons back then).

Aren't ninjas supposed to blend in with their environment? The red ninja hides in fire, oddly enough their life expectancy is short
Aren’t ninjas supposed to blend in with their environment? The red ninja hides in fire, oddly enough their life expectancy is short

So the hardest part about reviewing games like this is to try and think objectively about the game as opposed to paying attention to details such as…well the details. This game is from 1987 and my wedding ring takes up more memory than it does. The graphics can hardly be called that and the music is a two part melodic flute piece that repeats every 25 seconds. So I will do my best to look past the characters with no facial features or moving body parts and remember that at one time in ancient Japan there were people who were not lucky enough to have facial features or moving body parts and this game is a historical homage to them.

Overall the gameplay is simple, one of your buttons throws ninja stars which can actually be aimed when you are jumping, so you can throw them at enemies behind you while in flight. I am not clear on how that physically works but according to the internet, ninjas are awesome. You  other weapon is sword colored much like your your skin which you wave around in a circular motion:  allowing you to kill ninjas from above, knock away incoming projectiles: and raise up, take your shirt off, twist it around your head like a helicopter (how many video game reviews have a Petey Pablo reference?).


You can jump from tree to tree in an odd cross legged position while throwing ninja stars in all different angles. The main bad guys are different colored ninjas that attack with their katana or their own ninja stars. There is also a stronger enemy that can breathe fire who looks a lot like an 8-bit version of Raiden from Mortal Kombat. Oddly enough, it only takes one hit from your sword of star to kill either of the main enemies but unfortunately it only takes one hit for yourself to die as well.

The infamous cross legged jump. A lady reveals nothing.
The infamous cross legged jump. A lady reveals nothing.

The plot is standard. The princess is captured and you are tasked with rescuing her. There are four levels. The opening forest, a waterway where you can be on ground or in the water, a climbing level where you jump up ledge to ledge, and finally the interior castle level where you rescue her. Each level has its own goal and you have the ability to move around quite a bit and really explore the space (more cowbell?). Once you complete the rescue you get to start over again and play the levels again but at a harder difficulty level and they even change the graphic colors to make it look like the season has changed. I like the addition of this and it shows that replay value was taken into account. As for the princess being kidnapped every 3 months though, you’d hope her security detail would learn their lesson sooner or later.

Overall this game is fun and challenging. I can make fun of the graphics and simplicity but in reality it is the simplicity combined with the smart level layout and objectives that make this game enjoyable. There are some little surprises in the game that you’ll find add even more to the playability of it and I’ll let you discover them on your own but in the end I am happy that I pulled this game out and gave it a run. Game designers today can learn a lot from games like this. We don’t need hundreds of different functions and combinations to be impressed. We just need something that challenges us and gives us the tools and entertainment value to keep us engaged in meeting the objectives and The Legend of Kage did this. Thanks dad for getting this game for me, sorry it took 27 years to let you know.