Okami HD VS. Legend of Kay Anniversary
Last year, Gamers were treated to a welcomed return of Capcom‘s PS2 classic, the quite fondly remembered Okami. An action-adventure game known for its unique painting-like art style and complimentary paired gameplay features, in which spells are performed by painting simple patterns that affect the world and characters around them. After playing and enjoying Okami for quite some time, a niggling thought grew in the back of my mind. The thought that hit me was “Hey, this game really reminds me of another Asian culturally inspired game, where you play as an animal that was also remastered for modern systems”. Then that thought made me think “wouldn’t it be fun to compare and contrast these two games and see how they stack up?” and THAT inspired me in writing this comparison review. So without further ado, let’s get on with Okami HD VS. Legend of Kay Anniversary or as I like to call them Japanese Dawg Simulator VS. Proto-Kung Fu Panda.
Visuals & Animation
Getting right to one of the mainly praised aspects of at least one of the games, let’s start with the eye candy. In terms of visuals, it’s difficult to really compare Okami HD and Legend of Kay due to the fact that they have a significantly different styles. Okami goes for the unique approach of emulating classical Japanese art into 3D animation. This style of art is very abstract, with exaggerated character bodies and simplistic faces, landscapes and objects straight out of a painting. The fantastical effects such as flowers sprouting from your every step that give a surreal appearance to the whole feel, as if a painted dream became real, or experiencing an acid trip while taking a Japanese art tour.
There was never a part of the game I didn’t find far from fantastic, and while certain effects are a far cry from realistic or exceptionally detailed, their design fits into the overall style of the game. Only problems I found with Okami visually were some clipping issues and occasional graphic bugs, but those are incredibly minor.
On the other hand, Legend of Kay takes a more common approach with slightly cartoony action-platformer visuals. Its style being comparable to games such as early Ratchet & Clank or even Banjo-Kazooie and there’s really little to say about the style besides that. If you can imagine Kung Fu Panda, but with lesser graphics…..really understated graphics, then that’s Legend of Kay. That’s not to say it’s bad, just average, commonplace or run of the mill. It looks are understandable considering its age, and fitting for the thematic genre it belongs to.
However, while the style is bearable, it’s execution can be pretty wonky at times. Certain animations are flat out mediocre as they look like something a novice CGI artist would churn out in a day. Certain visual effects (predominantly Kay’s magic attack and fire effects) are extremely lacking in visual flair, or completely missing at times.
The stylistic difference between the games is undoubtedly significant, however Okami and Legend of Kay do have some similarities. They both offer a look into traditional Asian architecture, natural geography and show environments through colorful cartoon art styles so commonly attributed to this style of game. Both games possess a substantial variety in environment types typically expected of the genre, ranging from classic bamboo forests to dark caverns, small villages to big cities, or dank swamps to rocky mountains. This keeps exploring interesting and it doesn’t get stale due to looking at the same kind of landscape all the time. The change in environmental settings and tones helps keep the games engaging, as you want to see what comes next. While both Okami and Legend of Kay offer the traditional cartoonish visual design typically associated with the these kind of games, Okami goes for a far more unique art style that is, as a character in Okami would say, “mui fantastique”.
Sound & Voices
Okami immediately loses in this simply due to the fact that it copies one of the worst voice styles in gaming, right from Banjo & Kazooie, where everyone speaks in single, repetitive sounds that become steadily more annoying as time goes on. Legend of Kay on the other hand just suffers from painfully bad voice acting, similar to what you would find in a terrible anime dubbing. Using over exaggerated or monotone voices, three year old level insults, and an overall plain script that ranges from cringy to downright idiotic. But at least it has a “so bad it’s sort of good” quality, sometimes to a laughable extent. One of the most humorous moments (for me at least) being when a blatantly female panda girl with a body straight out of a deviant art picture, speaks with an obvious and badly disguised voice of a man. Please. Never. Fix. This.
Okami on the other hand is just annoying to a frankly ear wrenching extent, less like a bad anime dub and more like listening to a bunch of people trying to communicate through rapid, obnoxious humming and burps. Sure you can turn the voices down, but if the only good thing about a game’s feature is the ability to get rid of it, that’s not a point in its favor. It might have saved them money on hiring voice actors, and maybe some people like it (some people who probably also enjoy listening to a tiger go nuts on a chalkboard), but I cannot see why this was their choice. Personally, I would have preferred the inclusion of musical notes to represent speech instead, with each character getting their own song of sorts that coincides with their personality, but that’s just me.
Speaking of music, both games have a more pleasant sound to the ears in the form of Japanese and Chinese music for both games respectively. Although the Legend of Kay’s soundtrack leans more towards what you would hear in a old time JRPG, whereas Okami stays more true to a traditional style of music. Unlike what passes for voice work in both games, the music is actually enjoyable, easy to listen to and adds to the ambiance of the game worlds. Okami gives the feeling that you’re in ancient Japan with its classical instrumental pieces and Legend of Kay makes you feel as if you’re in an Asian version of Banjo-Kazooie, with its bombastic beats and gamey tracks. Both are great for what they try to do.
BUT, regardless of the music quality, the important thing to note is, while Legend of Kay’s voice acting is simply terrible, Okami’s is straight up evil. Seriously, if you were to turn the volume up to 34 decibels, slow the voices to exactly 84% normal speed and take a f*ck ton of shrooms, it would literally sound like a demonic incantation…at least that’s what I’ve heard under those circumstances.
Now onto the most important part about a video game, gameplay. While audio and visuals are most certainly significant to a quality gaming experience, it is true that gameplay makes the game. Both Okami and Kay offer two slightly different flavors of the same action-adventure platformer dish. At their core, both games have very similar gameplay, heavily focused on platforming, navigating the environments and finding collectibles, and battling a varied array of enemies with a equal variety of attack patterns. But, while Legend of Kay holds true to the standard action-platforming game, Okami mixes things up with its unique main feature.
As previously mentioned, Okami offers a rather rare take on world altering game mechanics by making all the spells in the character’s arsenal cast through various simple painting patterns and symbols to yield different effects on the world as well as characters around you. Their effects include restoring objects to their original state with a mess of ink, cutting enemies or objects in two with a quick straight line, slowing time with two lines, and bringing life to flora or summoning the sun itself with a properly placed circle (thankfully doesn’t have to perfectly round, otherwise Okami would be unbeatable). This gives a fun, novelty method of puzzle solving and combat that change things up compared to standard action-platforming gameplay. Many levels, obstacles, and enemies can only be overcome with the right combination and execution of spells. As for the platforming itself, it’s fairly standard and simple. Just like a perfectly edible bowl of plain rice can be spiced up by some curry, puzzle and painting elements are that something extra.
Unfortunately, Okami has one, major problem… the combat is boring! It’s bland, it’s repetitive, and it’s too dang easy. I wouldn’t have a problem with it being easy if it was also fun, but after the twentieth time you use the same paint pattern on an enemy, it starts to become incredibly tediousness. It also doesn’t help that the regular attacks are completely lacking in variety or technique. You give a fortune to a dojo sensei, and all he teaches you to do with your god crafted sword is to swing it an extra time, maybe make you jump around like you’re chasing your tail, or even piss on enemies (that one’s pretty good actually). That’s it.
Weapon combos are the same, even when choosing different weapon types. Most enemies are not much of a challenge, you use the same spells and attack patterns over and over again to beat certain enemies. Further problems include that you can amass a ton of health and items, so you never have to worry about dying. The incredible frequency of combat just makes it become monotonous, especially when farming for specific money items like demon fangs, or farming for certain mobs during side quests. The consistent inclusion of new elements or powers and the more varied nature of the bosses somewhat eases the repetition and tedium. However not enough to excuse or make up for it. All in all, it’s fun if doing simple puzzling and platforming, but mentally dull during combat. Okami brings a lot to the table, but the blandness of one of the main courses can leave a player accustomed to complex combat found wanting.
On the opposite end of the table, Legend of Kay while lacking a unique selling point instead offers (at least in my opinion) a more refined action-adventure gameplay. I don’t call the game Proto-Kung Fu Panda just because it’s about anthropomorphic Chinese animals battling a tyrannical warmonger, the game really does go for the Kung Fu warrior gameplay experience. When it comes to combat you can use an array of different techniques to disable, grapple, and knock around opponents. You can use special attacks that require both proper timing and execution to be effectively carried out, as well as build combos that boost damage and evasion. Enemies sometimes swarm you in large groups and you must leap, roll, and dodge around their attacks to stay alive.
Not only do you have physical attacks but you have magic abilities that let you summon basically the wrath of the Chinese version of Thor upon your foes. Unlike Okami, you get given more variation when it comes to fighting style, the three weapon types are claws, a hammer and a sword. Claws enable speedy attacks and is powerful against unarmored enemies, but the downside is it’s weak when against armored opponents. The hammer being slow and cumbersome is countered by it’s ability to hit hard and knock enemies around. The sword is a balance between the claws and hammer, combining speed with strength with little drawback.
In general compared to Okami, Legend of Kay necessitates more skillful play to win fights. While running in and spamming attacks can work in the beginning, you’ll soon need to evade, block, and maneuver around the battlefield to break enemies’ defenses and take them out while staying alive. All of this is done with an aesthetic style befitting a cartoony Jackie Chan movie, which while not technically part of the gameplay, definitely adds to it.
What also helps to make Legend of Kay more challenging is that items are limited with a maximum of five items to be on hand at a time and they cannot be stacked. Further is added challenge with the range of difficulty modes offered, you can choose from easy to nightmare. While I didn’t die in either of the games, I was more engaged when it came to Legend of Kay‘s combat and felt noticeably challenged when it came to the higher difficulties. What Legend of Kay lacks in unique game mechanics such as Okami‘s paint technique, it makes up in engaging content that is not only enjoyable but makes it challenging to travel around in the game. While both titles offer pretty standard platform challenges, Kay has a way in making them feel difficult to overcome and more rewarding.
Both games also have their repertoires of mini-games to change thing up on occasion. On Okami’s side, you have a simple fishing game that plays like it does in almost every other game I’ve seen it in, as in you draw a line to the fish, then press the analog stick left and right until the fish is close enough to catch, which is about as fun as it sounds.
Then, you have a 2D side-scrolling maze that’s part escort, part Dig-Dug mission about navigating an underground cavern with the dumbest people on earth, who need a divine seeing-eye dog to keep them from walking into a spiked wall. Your objective is to get the person to the bottom by using your brush spell, to break blocks and move the person past obstacles safely before time runs out. It’s enjoyable, but latter ones may require a few tries to figure out where to go.
For Legend of Kay, there are occasional boar/wolf riding segments that function as a races and obstacle courses as you control the wild beasts. They can be fun, but require some trial and error to know how to dodge obstacles, and there are some collision problems where you can crash into something you shouldn’t have. There’s also a boat riding race, and a dragon flying race that functions similarly, but those are one offs.
Aside from mini-games, Okami also has a few minor side quests, such as finding hidden items, chasing down an infamous thief, ferrying people through city canals with a lily pad (don’t worry, they tip), and even a few foot races in certain sections. Legend of Kay, leaner in this regard has a few side quests that involve going off the intended trail, but they’re mainly just about finding a special item, or activating a switch. There are also minor puzzles or platforming challenges you encounter through the game in the form of Demon Zhongs, which must be hit in a certain order with a specific weapon. Finally, both games have hidden locations to find with money or items, unique enemies, and in Okami’s case, a power up or two.
Finally, I have to mention the length, with Okami stacking well into 20-30 hours depending on whether you complete side quests and hunt for all the secrets and bonuses. Legend of Kay on the other hand is much shorter, at around 10-15 hours in my case. In hindsight, this difference is probably what makes Okami feel more redundant than Legend of Kay.
It’d be negligent of me to compare two games about playing as an animal and not mention the Furry immersion to the role, as both Legend of Kay and Okami involve two versions of a furry animal role playing experience (and yes I know they’re not actually RPGs but screw you, that’s what I’m calling it). On Okami’s side, you are a dog (or as the some call it: a dawg, a.k.a Moon Moon, a.k.a the world’s dumbest looking canine). Seriously, even though you are the literal Goddess of the sun, source of all that’s good on Earth, able to bend the world and cosmos to your will, you sure get an insulting lack of respect for all you do.
Funnily, this gives a comical experience to player interactions, as most people think of you as just a regular mutt that’s wandering around, looking for food handouts and going to shops to buy supplies for your master. Despite what you do, who you are, and what you look like (a flaming white wolf with fur like clouds brandishing a giant floating weapon on your back and leaving a trail of flowers with each magical step), you just appear as a regular white wolf to everyone else save a lucky few. Apparently to old dancing fruit men you are an especially dumb looking mutt, which is a sharp contrast to your true form, as the dog is just a façade concealing Amaterasu’s actual form. According to physic ghost priests your true form is a beautiful woman.
In terms of gameplay, Okami offers a plethora of opportunities to let your inner “Moon Moon” out. Simply run through the woods or city streets to your heart’s content, barking all the way, digging holes all over the place to find buried treasures and bite whoever you want like a wild animal. Most splendidly, unleash a stream of yellow fury upon your enemies while dealing damage, harvesting items and marking them as your property all at the same time! Unfortunately, this power limited to combat only, so marking territory and peeing on people out of combat is out of the question. Also, unfortunately yiffing is not available despite the large assortment of animals, though at times you can have hot girls and big hairy men ride you doggy style, so that’s a plus.
Legend of Kay takes the more humanoid furry inclined approach by immersing the player in an anthropomorphic world like an ancient Chinese version of Zootopia, a Furry version of Mulan, or……..well Kung Fu Panda.
Now, Legend of Kay lacks Okami’s authentic animal experience, so don’t expect to be chasing mice or digging in litter boxes every other second. In trade however, you are brought into a Furry Chinophile’s wonderland where cats and pandas are honorable warriors, rabbits are shy but inventive tinkers, gorillas are power hungry, imperialist conquerors, rats are backstabbing money grubbing fiends, and frogs are bayou dwelling Jamaicans who swim in the same water that creates a thick, mind altering gas that’s totally gonna make everything “allllllright mon”. If the last two descriptions didn’t tip you off, there’s a slightly disturbing level of racial profiling and discrimination in this game, made worse by the commonly overused stereotypical insults everybody throws around.
It really is a game that tries to bring the iconic anthropomorphic Disney worlds into video game form, including the racial or rather animal profiling parts (if you watched the old Disney movies, you know what I’m talking about). Personally, Legend of Kay does so pretty well, with a world that’s like that of a human’s, but with the humanoid animal in mind. On top of that, much of the gameplay has you acting out the warrior’s journey while dicing up opponents like a samurai. Basically if you watched Kung Fu Panda and wanted a video game version of it (but thought that the official Kung Fu Panda games were a bit too garbage), here’s the game for you!
Despite the focus on a humanoid animal setting, there are some moments where you character acts like a real cat. After your feline player character gets out of the water, he shakes himself off like his real life counterpart and may curl up for a catnap. You can also crawl around like your prowling for prey, it’s not help but at least fun for a little bit.
Story & Characters
Okami’s story telling structure is more of an epic rather than a single self contained story, as the adventure of Amaterasu involves multiple separate yet connected stories as she battles the evil force that corrupts and destroys the land. Each storyline is almost it’s own individual tale, but connected by a thin string of continuity and plot events that hold it all together. If it wasn’t for that, each tale could very well be their own stories by themselves, existing as self contained chapters of the heroine Amaterasu’s quest to destroy evil wherever it lies. Whether or not a person finds this method of storytelling preferable to the standard affair depends on whether or not they like one big story, or many smaller stories.
Though, stories are more than just plot elements, character interactions or development, and whether or not the stories are actually any good are also important factors. In this regard, I’d say the game succeeds fair enough in these points. Okami is certainly about as emotionally and morally complex as a child’s fairytale, and get’s about as dark as such. Evil monster threatens peace and happiness, hero character buffs up to take monster on, monster gets face kicked into the dirt, citizens dance in flowers and sunshine forever more, hooray! However, it still retains interest through its colorful and cartoonish execution and characterization.
Most of the characters are over the top and comical, consisting of the myriad of stereotypical archetypes ranging from boastful warriors whose bark far exceeds their puppy-like bite, energetic and lively children full of dreams and innocence, old coots with eccentric personalities and themes (specifically in wearing flora and fruit on their heads), and every Disney princess character type from here to kingdom come. Young innocent and naive princess, young yet wise and mature princess, brave and selfless princess, pretty mermaid that transforms into a mother fu*kin’ sea dragon princess (ya know, the usual). But none of this is bad mind you, generic characterization is only bad if it’s done blandly and poorly, and Okami doesn’t do that, at least in my opinion.
Legend of Kay is a different story however in more ways than one. First of all, it is based heavily on the generic a hero’s journey to stop evil invading force from taking over home nation. If you’ve seen Kung Fu Panda 2, you’ve seen the Legend of Kay’s story, except better executed. Legend of Kay has a greater focus on the singular narrative, rather than Okami’s more divided storytelling. The game holds one central plot line, Kay traveling to the big bad ape’s doorstep to show him who’s the real king of the jungle, and everything else is a more or less straight line leading up to that. Each plot segment is a link in the chain connecting the beginning to the end, whether it’s trekking through an irritable dragon’s den, or wading through a murky swamp while saving a village of Jamaican frogs, the main point of the adventure remains in focus.
Unfortunately, Legend of Kay lacks Okami’s colorful cast of characters, as most, and by that I mean basically all NPCs are just sources of plain exposition with the afore mentioned voices being done by people who got all their English voice acting experience from watching old fan made anime dubs. This makes much of the story and character interactions rather wooden, lacking in both feeling and depth of any kind. Legend of Kay’s story really only serves as a reason for the adventure, rather than an actual story worth telling, and mostly takes a backseat to the gameplay (which given its quality, is probably a good thing). The minimal storytelling, poor characterization, bland writing and dialogue and overall generic plot really leaves Legend of Kay’s Story quite the opposite of legendary. Thankfully, there’s not much of it.
At their core, both Okami and Kay have about equal levels of been there, done that plot development, where Legend of Kay is a single tale with multiple chapters, and Okami is instead more of an epic with multiple different stories with some strings of connectivity linking them all together. However, Okami’s generic story and simple plot is saved by its funny and vivid execution of characters and plot events, while Legend of Kay is simply generic, and often times just plain bad with enough wooden characters on display to give mannequin makers a run for their money.
In the end, despite the flaws that both games have, some quite significant, I still think that both games are great, but for different reasons. While both are action-platformers that play similarly at their core, it is the style, aesthetics and execution of various mechanics that make all the difference. Okami though lacking in its combat, remains a solid action-platforming with a fun story and characters that excels in its artistic value in visuals and sound.
If you ever wanted want to play inside a traditional Japanese painting, live through the legend of a divine being, and know what it’s like to be a dog, Okami HD is the game for you. If you can get past the bad voice acting, bland story, and some visual problems here and there, and wanted a playable Kung Fu Panda or Disney’s Robin Hood kind of experience with the western version of Furry China, then Legend of Kay is a game you should definitely check out. Either way, both are good games and I whole heartedly recommend both of them for lovers of cartoonish action- platformers.
If you enjoyed reading this article be sure to check out our Okami Review. Be sure to check out some of our previews for upcoming games such as Octopath Traveler Preview – A Retro Turn-Based RPG With A Modern Twist and Warhammer 40,000 Inquisitor – Martyr Preview.