Played on PS4
Platinum Game’s video game adaptation of The Legend of Korra offers a mild distraction, and nothing else.
I’m a huge fan of the both Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra TV shows, and, like all fans, have been aching for a quality game that lets us dive into a playground of element bending. When I heard that Platinum Games, the studio behind the phenomenal Bayonetta series and criminally underrated Vanquish, were making the game, I was super pumped. A studio known for it’s fast-paced, precise action games would be making Korra a video game reality? Count me in.
Unfortunately the finished product does nothing to reflect the show’s brilliance or Platinum Games’ track record.
The game takes place between the 2nd and 3rd seasons of the show, which unfortunately gives you the impression that nothing happening will impact the story in a meaningful way, as fans have already seen what happens in the 3rd and currently airing 4th seasons. Still, the game manages to pull together a fairly fun storyline, that serves to introduce and ultimately remove some new characters, essentially existing as an extended throwaway episode.
The premise created for players is that a mysterious old man blocks Korra’s Chi, causing her to lose her four element bending abilities. From here Korra sets out to regain her bending powers, and seek out this old man to discover his true intentions. I will give Platinum Games credit for using actual animated sequences to connect gameplay sequences, even if the animation isn’t quite up to the quality of the show – I imagine some concessions had to be made to condense everything into a 2GB game.
As neat as the animated sequences look and feel, the rest of the game is pretty terrible visually. Character models and animations definitely recreate the feel of the show, but environments are atrocious. They’re blocky, blurry, and disgusting. The game is also available on last-gens systems, and I don’t even think they probably look good on those systems either. I recently purchased a PlayStation TV, and Vita games blown up on an HDTV look better. Korra features jagged edges and low resolutions elements are around, not only from gameplay elements, but also for the HUD and menus as well.
Thankfully the audio isn’t as bad, with voice actors reprising their roles from the show, and including the shows wonderful music. There is limited in-game dialogue, which can get repetitive over time.
Now for the meat of this game – gameplay. It’s really a shame that Platinum Games totally dropped the ball with The Legend of Korra. You have a weak and strong attack, which eventually create combos only effective by spamming the weak attacks. There’s a dodge move that oddly locks you in place for several seconds if you try to use it more than 3 times in a row. And then there is a counter-attack that I still don’t understand – the timing window is so goofy that it’s often a complete surprise when you actually counter an enemy, rather than just blocking their advance. Element bending comes into play, as you can select which one you’re using on the fly, but they’re dumbed down. Water is for ranged attacks, Air bending helps with crowd control, Earth is good for stronger enemies, and Fire is there to be leveled up so you can earn the trophy for leveling up your attacks. Seriously Fire is a waste. As is the use of these elements. It could have been nice if the countering system accommodated the different elements, requiring some strategy in fights, rather than just button-mashing.
The overly simplistic controls are hampered by the bad camera and cheap deaths you’ll encounter. Animations for each attack aren’t the most helpful, so you’ll die plenty as you fight your way through the game. On the hardest difficulty, it’s only possible to stay alive by having purchased an item to equip that gives you health regeneration, as well as an item that makes you faster than most enemies. Still, I died plenty from the janking dodging system, and broken counter-attacks. There are plenty of checkpoints along the way, but they’re oddly placed, meaning you’ll have to run through empty areas just to get back into a fight.
Outside of the regular combat, there are 2 additional modes of gameplay that pop up throughout the campaign. The first is a Temple Run style mini-game where you ride Korra’s polar bear, Naga, to race through cities, or escape across landscapes. Like Temple Run, the actions consists of dodging and navigating a 3 lane path, hoping to not die along the way. They’re actually pretty fun, even if the controls feel a little loose.
The second is Pro-Bending – if you’ve seen the show, it’s the arena based sport that Korra and her friends compete in. It’s basically a 3v3 fight to the death, where you push the other team back, zone by zone, until either time runs out, or you knock them out of the arena. It would be a fun mode, but it’s hampered by the lack of smartly designed instructions – every detail for it is dumped to the player on a single screen. This meant I had no idea that my teams skill was tied to campaign bending levels. Returning to the arenas with maxed out skills meant my team dominated, instead of repeatedly getting my ass kicked. Once you’ve complete the campaign, a Pro-Bending tournament unlocks, which essentially serves to pad out the game.
And The Legend of Korra definitely needs padding. The game is very short. A couple of hours to complete on Normal, and it only takes an evening to finish Normal, most of a replay on Expert, and the Pro-Bending mode.
In the end, The Legend of Korra isn’t a terrible game, but it is a bad one. While I had pockets of fun during my time playing the game, those moments were grossly overshadowed by constant frustration and disappointment. Do I regret spending $15 on it? Nope. Would I have spent that money had I know the experience I would have? Also, nope.