It’s still a sad fact of the video game industry that most games based on pre-existing licenses are terrible. For every Batman: Arkham Asylum or South Park: The Stick Of Truth, you get a Robocop or a Rambo. That’s because, usually, developers of these licensed games are not given enough time or money to actually make a quality video game. So what happens when you give a pre-existing license to Platinum Games, a developer that’s notorious for making good games even with a short deadline and a low budget? Well…
The Legend of Korra is based on the excellent Nickelodeon series of the same name. This game takes place in the middle of the series’ second and third seasons. You play as the titular character, Korra, the Avatar. She’s a bender, someone who can control Earth, Water, Fire, or Air. But unlike other benders, the Avatar can control can control all four at once. Or she’s supposed to, anyways.
When you first start the game, Korra has no bending whatsoever. She’s kidnapped by chi-blockers who have, well, blocked her chi, and now she can’t access her bending powers. You spend most of the game going through and re-learning Korra’s bending, and I’m not a huge fan of that. I respect their choice of wanting to ease the player into new power, but it doesn’t dish out abilities at a fast enough rate, so some of the combat switching isn’t put to good use early on. It take away the player’s experimentation, especially since you have to leave up elements individually to unlock new combos. However, it was immensely satisfying to unlock the final element and play as a fully realized Avatar.
The combat itself is a ton of fun, and easily the best part of The Legend of Korra. Platinum once again proves that they’re the masters of the character-action genre. Like in any character-action game, you have to chain together different button combinations to find the best combos, which deal varying degrees of damage to your enemies. While using your bending, you’ll level each element up individually, and unlock new combos specifically for that element. You can also buy new combos from the in-game shop, so the combat always stays fresh. I really enjoy how freeform you can be with your bending moves.Changing bending powers is just a press of a button, and can be done at any time – even if you’re in the middle of a combo. This opens up a ton of opportunities for experimentation, especially as you unlock new bending skills. It feels very natural and fast to switch your powers.
This made fighting enemies very satisfying, and it was fun (as an Avatar fan) to see what it’s like to control all four elements at once. I had a smile on my face every time I unlocked a new bending skill, because it meant I could switch back and forth between more elements and unleash a hellish combo on my foes. Once I unlocked the final element, I truly felt like I was the Avatar. I’m really excited to go back through the game on the hardest difficulty, with all of the elements and combos I’ve unlocked, and see how it affects my playstyle through the introductory parts of The Legend of Korra.
Unfortunately, The Legend of Korra offers an incredibly disappointing story. I went in expecting nothing, but I somehow got less than that. The tale takes place between the second and third seasons of the show, and as it turns out, not a lot happens in that time. What I mentioned before about Korra being kidnapped and getting her bending taken away is pretty much all you have to go off of for two thirds of the game. You get some seemingly interesting history during the final boss fight, but it’s so vague that it’s almost pointless. The worst part is that we probably won’t be getting a follow up to this game, so that whole arc is more or less pointless.
The biggest sin this game commits, though, is its severe lack of Korra’s supporting cast. In the story mode, the only familiar faces from the TV show that appear are Korra, Iroh, Naga, and Jinora. Iroh only runs the shop and has maybe four lines, tops, and Jinora only appears for tutorial lessons. Even Naga, Korra’s spirit animal and most trusted ally, only gets three or four scenarios in the game, and never does anything else. Two more characters, Bolin and Mako, appear in the optional Pro-Bending mode, and while it’s certainly nice to hear them smack talking the opposing teams, I’m just confused as to why they didn’t appear at all in the story mode. This game is based off of a series with such a rich narrative and amazing cast of characters, so not seeing them take advantage of that in every leaves me wanting so much more.
The Legend of Korra is in a very odd place. It’s a Platinum Game, based on the Last Airbender franchise, but it doesn’t seem to reach the quality standard for either fanbase. While it has the fun and flowing combat of an average Platinum game, it doesn’t have the depth or the length and replayability of one. And while it has the incredible use of bending, it doesn’t have much to its story or characters for it to be much of a worthwhile experience for Avatar fans. They will enjoy it, but not as much as they deserve to. Is The Legend of Korra a bad game? No, not at all. In fact, it’s a miracle that it came out as well as it did. It’s a decent time, and a great, decently-priced novelty, but it’s nothing that will stand out amongst other Platinum games or Avatar material. The idea of a Platinum Games developed Avatar title has a lot more potential, though, and I can only pray that they get a chance to reach that potential some day. They’re just not quite there yet.