Developer(s): Platinum Games
Release Date: 21st October 2014
The legend of Korra anime was plagued by Nickelodeon’s indecision to put their faith in the show by not committing to full seasons of it. It was worse than that Katy Perry song about the quick change in temperature. However, that being said, the show did very well despite the fact. The only question that remains right now is whether or not the game is any good.
The Legend of Korra starts off with what everyone in the gaming industry would like to call, a dick move. You start the game off in the spirit world; info I gleaned based on my surroundings. All your power and abilities are unlocked at the start which means you can use all 4 elements to fight off the spirit monsters and not get horribly murdered.
An Xbox 360 controller for your PC is highly recommended so much so that the game makes the recommendation itself upon launch. The controls are simple and intuitive. X is for light attack, Y is for strong, hold either one to charge the attack, LT is to block/counter enemy attack and RT is to dodge by doing some pretty awesome flips.
These are the buttons you will be married to for the duration of your play so you’ll get to know them pretty well during your playthrough. The block/counter button and I have had an incredibly rocky start but it’s improved. If only a little.
The game is set after the ending of the show and once you are finished fighting in the Spirit World the game cuts back in time to a week before. You are in a pro-bending match, with Bender (Bending) Rodriguez as the Ultimate Champion that you have to beat on the secret stage. This may be a lie*.
The pro-bending match is, effectively, your tutorial as it teaches you the basic controls. Once you’re done with that the game cuts to a cinematic. All of the cutscenes in the game are done in the style of the anime. Now I’m about 90% sure they’re not hand drawn like the show but it feels like it which is pretty neat. During this specific cutscene, you are attacked by Chi-blockers who take away all of your bending.
This is the dick move I alluded to at the beginning of the review. It’s an old gaming technique, an infuriating one at that, where the player is given all of the abilities and attacks of the main character only to have them stripped away by some sort of event early on in the game.
It’s lazy, to say the least. Had the game just started you off at the pro-bending match and then take your powers away then it would have been a little better. That way because you’ve been confined to one element anyway, them taking the others away wouldn’t seem so cheap. The fact that there is a time skip at the very beginning makes me believe, right off the bat, that the story will be overly complicated with some ridiculously unnecessary bits.
The game is played in levels with replayability a feature on each level. Let’s use the very first level in Republic city as the example of how your experience will go in the game. This is about 90% accurate for most levels not counting the boss fights. You will run through alleyways until a load of enemies spawn during which time the exits will be blocked off by “spirit energy”. You can’t run away from these fights and the only way to progress is to defeat the chi-blockers that are out in force.
There are a few I’ve encountered during my time. The first is the bog standard “green dudes” who just attack you with their bare hands. The next level up you have the “blue dudes” who throw a chain/wire with two metal balls on the ends to capture you on the spot. If they hit you properly then you need to wiggle your left analogue stick to free yourself from the chain. The “red dudes” throw lightning at you which is cool to see but a pain in the ass to defend sometimes.
Once you’ve beaten all enemies in the encounter then the barriers release and you’re free to carry on my wayward son. The levels are fairly linear with little to no open areas to explore. This is a bit shit because I’ve love to see what Republic City looks like outside of combat.
In alleyways and other such corridors, you will see elemental barriers blocking your way so you can’t unlock the chest that’s there full of amazing goodies. To destroy the barriers you need to hit them with their designated element. At the beginning, you only have Water bending so the only barriers you can break are the Water ones!
There are different types of levels in The Legend of Korra, the ones with lots of fighting but also you have the Naga levels where you ride Korra’s pet Polarbear Dog! That’s right, you heard me. She has a pet that’s a cross between a Polar Bear and a dog.
It’s a nice break between levels in which you ride on the back of Naga and have to collect spirit energy but avoid obstacles. Your different bending elements give you specific powers that you can use to get hard to reach items or to protect yourself from the obstacles in your way.
It’s a welcome reprieve but like the rest of the game, it tends to get repetitive. In some video games this type of repetitive nature can be overlooked because the rest of the game is engaging but unfortunately for The Legend of Korra, this is not the case.
The boss battles tend to be the same throughout the game as the antagonists are the same three element benders except the character models have a different skin. I realise that movie or TV tie-in games are shoddy pieces of work pretty much all of the time but I’ve got to say, I expected better from Platinum games. They’ve set a high standard for themselves with games like Bayonetta but they’ve dropped the ball here.
There are plenty of collectables and treasure chests to find and there are many different items you can buy that change your attack, defence and health bar. You can only equip a maximum of four item types but in some cases, like the health potions, you can have three equipped in a single slot. What’s annoying is that you buy the items in the shop, then go to Korra’s room to equip them and then back to the battle to use them. Quite frankly it’s terrible game design from a studio that clearly should know better and probably does.
What hampers the game the most is not just one feature or design it’s the collection of small problems that turn into a very large one. The fact that your character’s powers are limited throughout large parts of the game make playing the game a slog rather than an enjoyment.
Equipping items after buying them from the shop should be one of the most simple things to do in the game and yet it’s a full-blown waste of time which ruins the experience and forces the games issues to the fore.
The repetitive nature of the gameplay, the levels as well as the bosses only serves to highlight just how bare the game is and how rushed it feels. The camera during combat, at times, is your worst enemy more so than the guys flinging giant rocks at you and it’s these symptomatic failures that ruin large parts of the game for me.
I love both of the Avatar series because the setting, the characters and the rich tapestry of lore bring a lot to the table. Unfortunately, The Legend of Korra has failed to tap into this and the parts I enjoyed were completely overshadowed by design flaws that are uncharacteristic of Platinum games. As a result, the game is not very good.
The potential is there but it needs work. A lot of work!
*It was a lie