I always thought the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender should have created a new action game on a more recent platform than the Nintendo Wii. Although there were three games loosely based on the three seasons, I never got to experience them as I only experienced the series recently through digital streaming services. The followup series, The Legend of Korra, has already began its fourth season, although it has moved from a Saturday morning time slot to Friday evening and then to streaming services after Nickelodeon wasn’t impressed by a lack of viewers.
The Legend of Korra video game takes place between the second and third seasons, featuring a third-person perspective similar to the rest of the lineup from developer Platinum Games. This marks the first game in the studio’s history to receive a digital-only release. Available on a wide selection of platforms, players take control of Korra after her bending abilities are taken away by the game’s main advisory, Hundun. The game ties back to the events at the end of the second season after Korra releases the previous trapped Hundun from the spirit world. Although Platinum Games uses the source material well, the four to five hour experience is shallow and underwhelming.
The environments you’ll find yourself fighting and running through are uninspiring and barren. Although you will make your way through a damaged Republic City, the South Pole and outside an Air Temple, no creativity was put into creating these locales. Regardless of the path you take, the game does have branching paths that usually lead to more enemies and a hidden chest, but all the choices look the same.
As a Platinum Games title, the game is heavily combat focused. In every encounter, you’ll find yourself outnumbered by at least three-to-one. Chi blockers will be thrown at you at will with various benders acting as sub bosses throughout the different levels. Progressing through the narrative, Korra unlocks the different bending elements one at a time. Using a specific element will net you experience and levels for that element. At the end of each level, you can spend your currency at a shop to purchase scrolls that unlock new skills. These scrolls are locked until you reach a certain level with the required element.
You won’t have more than a couple of different moves for the first few levels, but once you unlock all of the elements, you’ll be able to change on-the-fly to produce some satisfying combos. The downside is the game is over before you know it and you have the chance to experience all of the possible combos. The game does allow for a second playthrough while keeping all of the powers that you had in your first playthrough. I didn’t make it far into my second playthrough, although it wasn’t due to the combat system.
Traversing the environments and moving around enemies, Korra controls like she is constantly on ice. The loose controls and some poor camera management in tight spots makes for some tricky platforming. A dodge and counter system allow you to turn your defensive maneuvers into offensive ones. The counters became fairly repetitive, but seeing Korra punch an enemy over a hundred times and have them fly off into the distance was enjoyable.
The game also has a grueling endless runner mini-game when you need to make it across environments faster or when traveling to a new location altogether. Hopping on top of Korra’s polar bear/dog Naga, you must navigate turns and avoid getting smashed into walls and anything else in your path. As you collect items and move from sequence to sequence, your speed will increase until you are dodging pits and walls by instinct alone. That is until you round a corner on the wrong path (there are multiple lanes to choose from) and die instantly. Cheap deaths aside, there are also combat sections where you must avoid giant robots and use your fire spells to destroy rocks. After beating the game, you unlock a pro-bending league, similar to the matches you’ll play in the campaign. I found these quite enjoyable as they did a good job at mimicking the sport in the show (Pro-bending > Blitzball). This is still a single-player experience, so don’t expect to be able to face a friend.
The Legend of Korra may be the smallest title Platinum Games has worked on, but the inclusion of newly animated cutscenes, the original voice actors and a mostly enjoyable combat system should please fans of the series. In other areas, the game falls on the lighter side with horrendous level design and a sheer lack of content.Note: The Legend of Korra was reviewed on PlayStation 4. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.