Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat

aka: Pirates Kat la Rouge, Pirates of Skull Cove
Moby ID: 5956
PlayStation 2 Specs
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Description official descriptions

Mara Rousseau, the fearless leader of the Pirates of Skull Cove, decided to settle down one day. She married Marcus de Leon, the governor of the Pirate Isles, and they had a daughter named Katarina. The governor always wanted to protect her from the dangers of a pirate's life - especially after her mother disappeared without a trace. But when the ruthless Captain Hawke begins to terrorize the islands with his gang, the Crimson Guard, Katarina realizes she must find a way to stop him at all costs.

Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat is an action game consisting of two main modes: sailing and land exploration. While sailing, Katarina's ship encounters hostile vessels and may engage in naval battles. The player must explore islands on foot to find special items that would unlock new areas on the map. Each island is a fairly linear area with respawning enemies hindering Katarina's progress. The player can also find keys allowing him to unlock treasure chests, and search for various items for collecting purposes.

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Credits (PlayStation 2 version)

206 People (183 developers, 23 thanks) · View all

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 77% (based on 23 ratings)

Players

Average score: 2.9 out of 5 (based on 20 ratings with 3 reviews)

If PS2s got scurvy, I could recommend this lemon.

The Good
With a pirate for a mother (deceased) and a governor for a father (almost deceased), you’d expect Katarina de Leon to have some issues or at least some sense of conflict. For instance, doesn’t it make her dad’s job harder if he’s trying to rule Buccaneer Bay while she’s blowing up any ships around it? It’s not like the Black Kat sails under a Letter of Marquis; the Wind Dancer flies the Jolly Roger. Unfortunately, Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat isn’t the type of game to answer questions.

Black Kat begins her quest shortly after her father’s dastardly death at the hands of Captain Hawke. Her first goal is reclaiming Buccaneer Bay from Hawke’s men. I’m not sure who she’s reclaiming it for since crabs and monkeys are the only lifeforms aside from Hawke’s men. Making her way afoot (think Tomb Raider), Kat finds and engages enemy the pirates.

Combat requires a degree of give and take. Going head-to-head against sword wielding opponents means Kat will have to time her attacks and blocks to keep them off-balance. Attacking (pressing the X button) swings her sword. She can perform combos (pressing the X button a few times) harrying a single foe or spreading her swings to several foes if she’s surrounded. Every time she scores a hit she charges a meter which lets her briefly freeze opponents while she unleashes a flurry of blows on them.

After Kat accomplishes her goals on land, it’s time to take to the sea. Controlling the Wind Dancer (also from a third-person perspective) Kat engages Hawke’s ships. Pirates has a battle camera which locks on to the nearest enemy ship, but it’s up to the player to line up the Wind Dancer’s broadsides before unleashing a barrage. Kat also faces enemy forts to liberate and enemy towers to destroy.

Ocean combat is relatively easy once you’ve figured out range and aiming. Depending on how much damage ships take, they might lose sails or masts affecting their steering. Direct hits knock cargo overboard for your crew to retrieve. As ships take more damage they catch fire with the blaze eventually spreading to the powder kegs resulting in satisfying explosions.

Of the two combat systems, sea combat tends to be more satisfying than land. I perceived a bit more strategy in the random ship encounters and going up against a fort is always dicey, but with a great payoff. Liberated forts swell Kat’s coffers and they also sell great items. Kat buys lumber and cloth to repair the Wind Dancer during combat. She can also upgrade her ship (ultimately to the prized Galleon), add more cannons, or buy special cannon balls: chained ones, incendiary, or stink bombs.

Back on land, Kat’s actions progress the story. Different islands hold maps unlocking more islands on the world map. The islands contain treasure chests, visible and buried. Kat senses the buried ones (the controller shakes) and she digs them up with the press of a button. Islands also house special items. Kat finds hearts ala Zelda to increase her health. As the story progresses, Kat finds better swords and ranged weapons: throwing knives and bombs. Magic items abound: tikis which freeze enemies or cause earthquakes, potions of invisibility, and more await. And, of course, there are many enemies.

Pirates is set in a fantasy world. While running through an island, Kat might find a teleportation circle which transports her to a haunted island crawling with skeletons, flying skulls, and banshee-like Sirens. She faces creatures like teleporting voodoo warriors and, later, demons and worse. Bosses, which require the most strategy, are the best realized. A battle against a Giant Crab is a multistage effort requiring getting the crab to flip over and reveal its vulnerable underbelly.

Pirates has great ambient sound and some nice scoring, especially in the earlier tropic isles. Graphics, however, are a mixed bag. The different islands have their own theme: desert, graveyard, snow, but textures aren’t convincing. Character models have smooth animation, but lack any real detail. Aside from a few slowdowns, the most jarring effect is when Kat almost falls into the water and she’s teleported back on to dry land. The sea mode, though, looks great. Terrific water effects show schools of fish and sunken reefs. Combat looks spectacular, with each cannon ball being shown—often ripping through a ship’s hull.

The Bad
Between the land mode and the sea mode, Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat is really two games in one. Unfortunately neither one is that good. The core of the game is sailing around a group of islands, finding an island to land on, and finding a map which leads you to another group of islands. There are several quests for Kat, but they all involve finding the 5 widgets scattered across the land, where widgets stands for flowers, masks, pieces of a map, and/or fallen stars.

Exploring an island involves finding the path which leads around the island and back to your ship. Whatever enemies appear on that island respawn, so there’s little point in fighting them save for whatever treasure they drop. Typically they don’t drop enough to make it worth your while.

The real treasure is to be found in the treasure chests, either the ones just lying around or the buried ones. Finding the buried ones would be more enjoyable if it didn’t entail inching around until you hit the correct hotspot while fighting off respawning enemies. Then there’s the bother of having the right key. When you do find a new key, you have to ask yourself if it’s really worth revisiting the islands you’ve seen just to get more treasure. If anything, it makes sense to wait until you have all the keys you need before backtracking, but I can’t see caring that much.

For how much time you spend on land, it’s amazing how dull and repetitive it is. The enemies are either nuisances or ungodly menaces like the mad bombers or the annoying automated turrets which spit out cannonballs with unerring accuracy. Luckily you can run past most non-boss enemies. Boss battles break up the monotonous gameplay, but they’re too far between. Where’s the sense of adventure? Kate controls very well and is a skilled jumper, but none of that seems to matter. Pirates is bereft of any sort of puzzle and any type of exploration is limited to venturing just a little off the path.

Luckily Kat can save when she’s on land, but there is no option to save while at sea. You’d think anytime the Wind Dancer docked you’d have the option, but Kat has to disembark and find a “Save Parrot.” Not that there is often a need to reload at sea, since (like on land) most sea battles are pointless and are easily avoided. The only thing that matters (except for a few plot battles) is liberating the forts. Enemy ships respawn like enemies on land, so there’s no need to engage them unless you’re interested.

Pirates is a long game that begs for depth. There’s no character interaction save for a few quick cutscenes. There’s nothing intriguing about Kat, except for the fact that her figure warrants codes for ten different bikinis. She’s voiced by someone who sounds like they are attempting an accent, but since Pirates bears no resemblance to the real world, I couldn’t even guess as to what kind of accent it is.

The Bottom Line
If a demo was ever released of Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat, I’m sure it presented a compelling product: Lara Craft meets Captain Blood. It actually would work well in small doses, but play for any length of time and it’s painfully obvious that Pirates relies on the worst type of rinse-and-repeat design. Every new area on the world map offers the same experience, just a little bit harder. I know I’m in a bad spot when I refer to a walkthrough just to see how much of game I still have to slog through (I’m looking at you Return to Arms). I’m the type of gamer who mourns out-of-print or rare games, but this thing needs to go back to the vault.

Frankly I blame Sid Meier, who created the ultimate pirate simulator back in 1987. I might have enjoyed Kat’s press X to attack if Meier’s game hadn’t given me three attack options. I might have been excited unlocking different sections of the World Map, if Meier’s game hadn’t let me sail anywhere I wanted to in the entire Caribbean. Blowing up countless ships might have been more entertaining, if Meier’s game didn’t have features like letting the enemy surrender, or boarding parties, or capturing ships and adding them to my fleet. Hell, I might not have loved inching around a patch of dirt trying to hit a hotspot, if Meier’s game didn’t have crusty sailors sitting in the back of the taverns with treasure maps for sale.

PlayStation 2 · by Terrence Bosky (5397) · 2005

Extremly Underrated Game

The Good
This game is very simple in its presentation and graphics. With that said, it is still a very nice looking game. The gameplay mechanics are as simple as you want or as intricate as you want. The ship battles are fun, especially if you felt like ship battles could never be button smashers. Ramming opponents ships is so satisfying and the strategies of shredding the AI ships sails to bring them to a halt is a fresh and valid strategy I have not encountered in a console game.

The mini-games (ski like run down a mountain) are a nice change and the treasure system and replenishing of supplies is fairly standard, but help promote the game play as time goes by.

Some of the strategies to take out bosses are very cool.

The Bad
The melee combat while playing as the Black Kat is very simple. Hack n Slash all the way. This game can be very simple and a little repetative.

Some of the strategies to take out bosses are not very evident.

The Bottom Line
An adventure game in the vein of Zelda (N64), but not as deep or original. Great game for the casual gamer or kid gamer. At the reduced price of 19.99 that I found it, it was a steal.

Xbox · by Giacomo (3) · 2003

AYE, I alike bein' a pirate! AYE, I like plundering! Hey, who's that woman captain... AYAYAYE!

The Good
Despite of what I think of Westwood (that they are simply infallible), and what I think of their game production (that everything they make must be good), and despite all that is true, I'll try to be objective and review this game as if I never heard of Westwood before. Otherwise, it could get overrated ;) Just kidding, I'm always objective, even in my review to "Myst" as much as it may seem otherwise.

Okay, it's one of those games I barely noticed on Westwood's site, never knowing much about it, thinking it'll probably get released in a couple more years or who knows when, but they'll probably place it on their site close to release date. Well, I was wrong. There was that "Command & Conquer: Renegade" game that simply was so over-anticipated for years, so that one took main place on the site, whereas "Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat" was actually released prior to "Renegade", couple of weeks earlier, actually. It was a sheer luck I ran into this game in some store and noticed it being released. That's where it all started...

Not long ago have I finally got my first console, a PlayStation 2 (and I don't think consoles have as close to quantity of good games as PC does, but those that are few are extreemely good ones), and after getting myself "MGS 2", I wanted to see how WS advanced onto new ground, with their first product for PS2. Well, it didn't take me too long to impress me, and even to think 'Is this game really much better than the famously renowned "MGS 2", or am I connecting somethign wrong?' but of course, that can't be entirely correct since both of those games are equally great at what they achieve.

Now let's see the points that did impress me...

  • After being disappointed by the lack of animations in "Red Alert 2" and "Renegade", I've already given up on seeing those brilliant (could be old, I don't care, I just wanted some pre-rendered 3D CG to see) animations I've seen in their earlier "C&C" series and games such as "Guardians of Destiny" or "Blade Runner". Well, I was pleasantly surprised how many cinematics does this game contains (must've been 'cos it's on DVD so they didn't have to cut a lot of 'em out). They do look a little outdated, but the atmosphere is to fit the time when pirates were, and that's couple of hundreds years back, so design they used with them is more than well suited. It's a proper mixture of 3D models and 2D backgrounds and pictures, really great looking.
  • The effect of graphic and lighting and all that is much more than I've encountered in any PC game, and after that "MGS 2" which used real-time cinematics look as good as pre-rendered, I'm starting to feel I either have outdated computer, or they just make crappy games when it comes to demonstrating the power of your graphic card. Either way, PS2 is fine since you don't have to think of any hardware problem, one way or the other. The way "Pirates" were made is fully 3D, and ship navigation, man, is that great or what? You can see from a first person from all sides of your ship, while firing cannon, crashing into enemy ship, speeding around opean seas, it's simply breathtaking how it all looks. Easiest way to navigate is looking from 3rd person perspective where you can zoom out to isometric-top-down mixture, or zoom it so close you can actually see your captain and some crew on it. While you're running on tha land, finding burried treasures, battling skeletons and pirates, you play it similar to "Indy V", only with a little more moves available. Mostly, this game is similar to those platform arcades you could also give title of adventureous, but is basically the same put onto 3D system, and it's handled pretty nice.
  • I really loved playing "Sid Meier's Pirates!" back 15 years ago on my Amiga, and it was a game which bsically gave you no story, but just a given time period to which you could play known areas, Carrebbean or such, plunder known towns, and battle spanish, english, dutch or french vessels, or against other pirates. What a great game it was. This one gives you almost everything like the classic original forementioned, but it has an exact story to play by (with many sub-quests aside, though), and you're not in the known waters, but rather in completely new created surrounding according to the story. So you can enter frozen vasts, volcanic islands, sailing over the lava and battling hellish minions that look as if they jumped by a mistake from "Diablo" game to this one. It's a variety alright, with a decent background story. I remember playing "RedGuard" once upon a time, now that was a nice game with some awesome music scores. Only not much piratery in this one, but is actually similar to this one when you're on land.
  • The level of details is really nice for a fully 3D game. When I first saw "Emperor: Battle for Dune" released by Westwood, only one thing came to mind, the game is 3D and that's probably why it looks kinda empty. Not the situation with "Pirates". You can see enemy crew in the middle of ship gunfights, flying around after the explosion, and seeing your sails getting holes, tearing apart and falling down, your ship wrecking apart after each shot, seeing whales swimming around, butterflies and birds, penguins, amazing effect whenever a cloud is passing over you, the land just simple gets darker or if you see the sun, your picture is too bright to know where you walk, so you direct camera from the sun, and not into thee. It's really amazing to what they all thought of.
  • Music is made by Frank Klepacki, a great composer who we all know from "C&C", "Dune", "Kyrandia" and "Lands of Lore" series, so you know what type of compositions to expect. It does help improving the atmosphere, as you can tell by the music if evemy ship is near or coast is clear. Some of the music in the game closely resemble to his "Nox" score, but aren't exactly the same. Sound of swordfights, cannons, towers raising, or fortresses exploading is great, and speech too, especially in the animations.
  • And the best part of the game is, of course, a woman :) You're acquiring a role of Katarina de Leon, governor's daughter and a pirate, depending on a given time. Set to find her mother's treasure, and to avenge her father's death, you travel many distant islands and performing quests in order to get the location of the legendary Skull Cove island (hence the working title that was to be original).

    **The Bad**
    Although voice acting isn't bad at all, dialogues may be simply ridiculous, and not quite well ballanced. Those of animations are fine, but ingame ones simple look too childish. "Move aside, or do you wish to die a second time?" or in even sillier fashion don't look at the level of Westwood's writing back from times of "Guardians of Destiny" or "Kyrandia" legends. There may be too much ships out there. It's not that it's difficult to defeat them, especially if you run into them with the proper front icon attached, but they're not pirate ships or who knows which, but all are carrying exactly the same flag, and that's of Captain Hawk, your nemesis. Since he was just a pirate serving in your mother's crew, he couldn't possibly raise such a navy and build all those ships and fortresses. I lost count after 200th ship I sank. There is a great deal put into making sea battles look great, but when something is great already, updating quantity of it may become tiresome. Also, when you're battling on land, when you defeat someone, go a little forward and then return, the same enemy will be there again. that kinda weaken reason of killing them all. However, if you've plundered some island and there is no treasure on it, it may appear completely empty with no enemy reappearance at all. Still, a typical thing that 'should' make console users more happy. Not that I have something against consoles, but they are made only for playing games, so game developers probably think people to have consoles are much more childish and don't need some deeper story but just fight fight fight. That's why games such as this one, "MGS 2" or "Silent Hill 2" are rare.

    **The Bottom Line**
    A reliving of the original "Pirates!" with much more emphasize on action than adventure this time, and in much bigger close up than in original. Also, the captain's now a she ;) No matter how title 'Pirates' of any kind may sound as pointless game with no goal but plundering around, destroying ships and fencing until your hands can't function anymore, in this case, it's an exception. This is a worthy title, and at leat worthy for you to see it before saying anything about it. Try, can't hurt, can it?
  • PlayStation 2 · by MAT (240988) · 2012

    Trivia

    When you're in walking more, use your right analog button to zoom your heroine, and hold it in the upper position as zoomed for a couple of seconds. Picture will get blurry, as if water is pouring all over it, and Katarina will stand is some more sexy position. If you move anyhow, you'll exit this water-image, however, you can use your right analog button to move camera around her (only don't zoom it out, 'cos that will also break the water-image back into normal).

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    Game added by MAT.

    Xbox added by Kartanym.

    Additional contributors: Indra was here.

    Game added March 14, 2002. Last modified October 12, 2023.