“Gather ‘round all of you who would listen. I have a tale to tell… A story of warriors and kings; a saga of dark magic; a legend of high adventure. Long ago, a series of dark spells were created with the power to enslave our world. Evil magic with no purpose but that of destruction. But before these spells could be evoked, they were stolen and broken apart. Dark and powerful, these words were not easily destroyed and so were hidden about the world, branded onto the souls of innocents, cursing their minds for eternity.
Men are mortal and time can be the enemy of fear. All too soon we forget how the bee will sting and the fire will burn. As time passed, these families forgot what the marks were for; dismissing the ancient warnings about these words of power… they were merely stories – tales from a long past time. But an evil sect, known only as the Kasai, knew nothing of time. And, with infinite patience, they waited… until their spells were discovered.” This is the plot behind Sony Computer Entertainment’s new action, adventure game for the PlayStation 2 called Rise of the Kasai.
Rise of the Kasai is the sequel to the legendary Mark of Kri. In the Mark of Kri, you played as Rau, a heroic warrior, who embarks on an adventure filled with conflict, discovery, and magic. In Rise of the Kasai, Rau is back but there are three additional characters: Tati (Rau’s sister), Baumusu (Rau’s mentor), and Griz (Baumusu’s mentor). The game begins with a bit of storytelling from Rau’s spirit guide, Kuzo. You then start your journey by choosing a character. The story follows different timelines – sometimes years before the Mark of Kri (during which you can play as either Griz or Baumusu) and sometimes years after the Mark of Kri (during which you can play as either Rau or Tati). In either case, you both work as a team to complete each level of the game.
This cooperative play is one of the new features introduced in Rise of the Kasai. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work. There are times when your computer-controlled partner will run off without you, alerting enemies to your presence. There are also times when he/she will just stand around and do nothing, which is obviously a bug in the game. Another problem is that if your partner gets killed, this also ends the current gameplay for you. There was one time where I was playing as Rau and Tati kept getting herself killed before I could help wipeout enough of the enemies, so I ended up having to start the level over again to avoid that situation the next time around. Of course, there are also many times where the cooperative play works nicely and you can see a glimpse of what the game could be like if the aforementioned bugs were not there.
Other than the new characters and cooperative play, Rise of the Kasai plays very much the same as the Mark of Kri. As you begin each level of the game, you can use your spirit guide to scout ahead for any upcoming danger. You can then destroy your enemies using stealth or straight out attacks. As with the Mark of Kri, this game allows you attack multiple enemies in any direction while performing fluid fighting combinations. The key is to target the enemies you wish to fight before any actual fighting begins. By manipulating the right analog joystick on your PS2 controller, you control the direction of a targeting beam that shines out from and around your character. When the beam hits an enemy, the enemy is targeted and assigned one of the three action buttons (X, square, or circle) on the controller. Pressing an action button makes your character attack the button’s associated enemy. The best gaming comes from playing as Tati as she brings a couple of new abilities to the table. She can throw poisonous mushrooms at enemies and she can become seemingly invisible while moving stealthily along walls.
As expected, the graphics and animation in the game are excellent. They resemble something you might see in a Disney movie, and the reason for this is part of the development team consists of former Disney animators. As with the Mark of Kri, Rise of the Kasai is rated M for Mature because of all the gory detail presented in the kill scenes. The music, sound and voice acting are also superb and really add to the atmosphere of the game.
Personally, I enjoyed the game to a certain extent, but was also disappointed that the developers didn’t take more time to iron out the kinks. I liked playing the game as Tati because of the new perspective and new abilities she provides, but didn’t like getting hung up in different areas because the cooperative gameplay just wasn’t working as it should have. For the most part, fans of the Mark of Kri will probably enjoy taking another adventure along with Rau and his friends, but the gameplay in Rise of the Kasai could have been much better.