Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Look Back - Legacy of Kain (Part 1)

I had intended to make this post at an undisclosed, later date when I'd re-familiarized myself with the Legacy of Kain series (Read:  Went through the Screenshot LPs of them in the SA Archives) but the series has been on my mind a lot lately, and with good reason.  It's Halloween, after all, so if there's any time to be thinking about Vampires, it's now.  And it's only appropriate that I capitalize on this prime opportunity now while the getting's good, but I still want to leave it open for myself to write on it again, hence the (Part 1) you may have noticed in the title header.  I thought it would be rather neat to do a post on the series as it is in my memory now (As in, I don't remember a whole lot), and then another when it's fresh; not only so I'll be able to be more clear on some of the more interesting aspects, but so that I'll be able to properly tell what was reasonably awesome and what's more nostalgia than anything.

It's worth noting that my only exposure to the Legacy of Kain series has been in fact only to the Blood Omen games and Defiance.  This is the first thing that I enjoy so heavily about the series in that it was told over two different protagonists and told in an incredibly smart way.  The Blood Omen games revolved around Kain, a Vampire who changed the world, where the other side to it, the Soul Reaver games,  followed Raziel who was more or less collateral damage in Kain's ever-growing acquisition of power.  The last game, Defiance, was a hybrid of both game types and, over the course of the story, changed you from controlling one character to the other.  It was, and remains to be, honestly brilliant to this day, in my opinion.

I hadn't even owned a copy of either Soul Reaver game until I happened upon them both at a garage sale for an exceptionally modest price and picked them up.  Being for PSOne and PS2 respectively, there wasn't a lot of chance that I'd actually play them, especially considering the latter portion of my collection of the games (Blood Omen 2 and Defiance) are both for the original XBox which I have no desire to plug back in anytime soon (and if I started the series, I'd likely want to play through them all again) but it was nice to actually have them.  Though, it's not as if I put a heavy amount of playing into the games of the series I had owned prior to that; in truth, I've only ever finished Defiance.  Which I find a little funny, considering that does nothing to prevent me from loving the series from nearly all aspects.

It's hard to tell whether or not that ignorance has made LoK better for me than it has a right to be, or if that devotion is well-earned; personally, I would swing towards the latter.  It's honestly the whole concept of the series that I love so much, the two-pronged approach (in a way that isn't a money-grab) and that the writing, direction and character work is all fantastic.  Should you have any reservations to accepting that at a base level, this would be the part where I bring up the fact that Amy Hennig, Head Writer and Creative Director of the Uncharted series, had her hands about that deep into the LoK series.  It's no wonder that the only game I don't see her listed in as Director and/or Writer for in the LoK series is Blood Omen 2, which I seem to remember being the, er, 'black sheep' of the games, if you will.  What I'm saying here, basically, is that the LoK series has the pedigree to back up my words, which could have been seen as mindless praise without something like that being brought up.

I imagine it is a bit unfortunate that my only time with Raziel was spent in Defiance, since at the point in which I started playing him in the game it was all so alien to me that I wasn't quite sure if I enjoyed it or not.  While the mechanics of both characters are somewhat similar, they're quite different as well and take a lot of getting used to, as I remember it.  That Defiance basically incorporated two entirely different games* into one for the finale is nothing short of really, really amazing to me, and one of the main things that really really blew me away when I first played it.  Of course, I was always a bit of a Kain fanboy, as I always embraced the philosophy of enjoying the good Bad Guy, so I really don't think I allowed myself to be properly introduced to him in all honesty.  Though I've inferred it, I should state right here that Kain, insofar as the overall series went was always the 'Antagonist' where Raziel was the 'Protagonist', despite the fact that you played as both of them (not only in both series, but in Defiance) and fought the other a lot.

I've strained and thought of it, but I can't really think of another game that's effectively done what the LoK series did, in letting you play as two characters that were 'fated' to go against one another as Kain and Raziel were.  I could suggest one game, but it would likely be a non-related spoiler, so I won't state it directly.  (But the clue would be a Capcom RPG in a series that has, unfortunately, fallen off the face of the earth)  But regardless of that, such an epic (and I use the word literally here, since that's what I would consider the overall story of the series to be) undertaking in this style hasn't been done since that I know about and it's honestly a damn shame.  To use an over-exaggerated idea, it would be akin to Nintendo making and releasing a game where, rather than Link, you play as Gannon(dorf), fresh off a recent defeat and aiming to regain his lost power.

Who wouldn't play that?

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