After the recent release of the sublime Kid Icarus you might have expected the quality of NES Virtual Console games to rise, but unfortunately The Legend of Kage is an almost catastrophic true drop in standards.
No need for rose tinted specs here, retro fans - this game was a stinker back in 1986 and is even worse today! Games with ninjas in should, as a rule, be excellent. Legend of Kage does contain a certain amount of ninja-related tomfoolery, but the lead character looks silly and is the proud owner of one of the most useless swords in the history of videogames. It has a tiny attack range and which results in much frustration on the part of the player, and his attempts at outsmarting his enemies are laughable - it's not often you see a sprite look so pathetically ineffectual.
The controls don't help matters, either; they feel stiff and stilted, and given that you die after taking just one hit, this inaccuracy can lead to frustration at the lack of control you have over the titular hero, Kage. On the positive side, you are at least able to leap high into the air and even scale trees, which is a nice touch and very much in keeping with the ninja ethos. However, even this acrobatic freedom is spoilt by a stupid downward attack which plunges you earthwards with no control over what danger you may ultimately end up facing.
It is recommended that you give this one a miss. Like so many poor retro titles, this inexplicably has a fairly sizeable fan base, but we can't fathom why anyone would want to waste time downloading this on the Virtual Console. If you really must play any version of this game, pick up the recent PS2 Taito retro pack as it features the arcade version (which it has to be said is only marginally better).