A firebending success or just full of hot air?
Fans of Nickelodeon’s sequel series to Avatar: The Last Airbender rejoiced upon hearing the news that Platinum Games – renowned for titles such as Bayonetta, Vanquish and Metal Gear Rising – would be taking on the challenge of a true Legend of Korra videogame. Licensed games typically have a reputation of failing to meet expectations, and while this may still hold weight with this year’s tie-in, fans will be pleased to know that they can still dive in and experience the power of bending for themselves.
The reason for this, despite being far from one of Platinum’s best, is that The Legend of Korra actually plays rather well when it comes to brawling. It’s a fine thing too, given just how combat-heavy this arcade adventure is. Without spoiling too much, you’ll plough through a few of the show’s locales with an increasing amount of bending prowess. The tale opens with the titular heroine losing her bending altogether in a videogame trope that we’ve seen many times before; what this does though, is provide a needed sense of progression and growing empowerment.
Think of Platinum’s main principles when it comes to game design and you’re just about there; Iroh runs the shop where Korra can purchase moves and items, pots and hidden crates can be smashed for currency, well-timed counters often hold the key to victory and other benders serve as the real challenge when it comes to enemy types. So far, so Platinum. New-game plus mode ensures you’ll never feel like your efforts have gone to waste, and powers unlock at the correct pace for a game of this length.
You’re always moving towards greater power, using the in-game currency to unlock new techniques and levelling powers individually based on how much they’re used. To be clear, this game doesn’t hold the complexity of bigger-name titles and nor are you paying for that. At time of writing, this is a four hour brawler with tight combat at £11.99 in the UK. That’s a far cry from the £40 price point that many Platinum games have released at with just a few extra hours on offer. Like it or not, The Legend of Korra is a budget-priced download and the production values are bound to reflect that.
Graphics are simple, voice acting is fine and cutscenes do well to tie the action into the show, even if they are much shorter than they ought to be. There’s no denying the limp story and lack of fan-favourite characters however. Were you hoping for time with Mako, Bolin and Tenzin? Think again, as it’s all about Korra laying waste to the chi-blockers and benders that stand in her way. This is very much a game designed for fans of the show who always wanted to toy with the elements of earth, fire, water and air and look cool doing it – it’s not for those expecting an interactive episode of the show.
Bosses are imposing and will leave you watching for a ‘tell’, even though many of them can be despatched in a similar fashion. What does tend to change is the animation; stunned enemies leave themselves open to a devastating finishing move that will blow them away in an instant, or in the case of boss encounters, tear down their health meter as water whips, huge boulders and fireballs hurl from Korra’s fingertips. Riding her polar bear dog, Naga, between stages provides a handful of endless-runner-style segments that increase in speed as you head towards the finish line. It’s a basic style of gameplay you’d expect from the days of the PSOne (and actually, Crash Bandicoot Warped had something similar) but feels right at home and is thankfully never overdone.
If you haven’t seen Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra then you owe it to yourself to do so. It’s a fun yet mature show dealing with high-stakes themes, likeable characters and a great deal of charm. Non-fans will find themselves a little lost during its references (Harmonic Convergence means nothing to the wider masses), but seeing the show is in no way a necessity when it comes to enjoying the game. With solid combat and flashy elemental moves all selectable on the fly, Korra’s outing is by no means a bad game. It’s not as great as the show however, nor is it as good as we’re used to from such an acclaimed developer. As such, the Legend of Korra will likely be a victim of its own hype and high expectations.