I love the Avatar universe. The magic feels real, the emotions are powerful, and the playful innocence of the whole thing makes fans out of the most unusual viewers. Storylines wind around, tie back, and keep you captivated. The Legend of Korra captures a small fraction of the appeal of Nickelodeon’s show, and only lasts about four hours. I was not wowed by this game, but I wasn’t upset by its underwhelming nature, either.
Playing The Legend of Korra was equivalent to about one or two episodes of the show, I felt like. That was one of the biggest problems since the story was short and insignificant. Very few emotions came into my mind from playing through the story. The only tangible feelings I had were at the end when Korra went into the Avatar state and the spiritual meaning behind being an Avatar was explored. I felt that a slight disservice was done to the Avatar universe with the loss of an opportunity to create a game that was a special and worthwhile addition to the Legend of Korra series.
It’s Good to be an Avatar
Playing as an Avatar is thankfully as fun as it sounds, and this game handles the powers of an Avatar very well. Korra loses her bending abilities in the beginning and is without them until you regain each one. Waterbending, firebending, and earthbending were introduced one by one very early on in the game, with airbending coming along a little later, appropriate to Korra’s story and personality from the series. Combos, countering, and dodging are all important in this button mashing beat em’ up take on an Avatar’s journey to keep the world in balance. You can level up, buy helpful items like health potions and new moves, and change Korra’s outfit. There’s even some satisfyingly old-school codes you can enter to get secret items and outfits. Each elemental bending has its own tactics and methods, so the combat takes some skill to succeed. I did have to rethink my approach to many battles as the game went on. Switching between the elements was easy, and I became good at quickly switching based on what enemy I was fighting. While I appreciated how the core of this game was done well, I just also got bored of it.
Progressing through the game, I noticed it was very linear, empty, and repetitive. There were some platforming elements that felt fun initially, but left me wanting more. They were fruitless, or ended too soon. The method for each level was predictable. Walk a little, break stuff, find a chest with a collectible, fight two to five enemies that spawn in a line/triangle/square, repeat. Each chapter was at least in a different setting. Even the three bosses before the end boss were different versions of each other. No story elements were really connected to them in any meaningful way — at least not up to my standards based off of the two Avatar series. The final boss character ties back to the show, but in a really predictable way that only had one small, superficial wow factor. After learning about it, though, he just becomes another “really bad guy” you have to fight and put an end to. The end boss could have been any bad guy, and the game would have been the same.
I must also mention/warn about the Naga levels. Naga is Korra’s polar bear dog. I was excited to see her play some heartfelt role in the game when she was first introduced. I was disappointed to find out that all she’s good for in the game is the runner in a handful of endless runner style levels. These were sort of fun at first, but much like the rest of the game, felt repetitive after a while. And they were the most confusingly story-deprived levels. It was almost as though Platinum Games had what they thought was the blueprint for a “good game,” and endless runner levels were part of that, no matter if they had a good story tie-in or not.
But It’s Pretty!
My favorite part of the game was the art style and the animation cut-scenes. This is because I already love those same things in the two shows in the same canon. The cel shading is striking and beautiful, as cel shading always is, in my opinion. The cut-scenes are animations that look cut straight out of the show. Some people may not like how the game felt choppy due to the cut-scenes looking and feeling abruptly dislike the gameplay, but I didn’t mind. Using such cut-scenes is somewhat of an antiquated way of making a game, but without the animation, this would be an even lesser experience. I did notice that the animations were often just transitions from one chapter to the next, since the levels were strictly gameplay and very little story. The scenes were actually pretty devoid of any weighty story either. Much of them were just, “Okay, let’s get going, Naga!” or “Time to go find ___ and stop them!” How disappointing.
While this game felt like maybe it was not made to impress older gamers due to the monotony and basic story, it does have a large appeal on the gameplay side. This would make a great Vita game with its focus on fun beat ’em up style gameplay. One really entertaining mode of the game is Pro Bending. You get to test your skills as Korra, the star player of the Fire Ferrets, against various other hilariously named Pro Bending teams. This is where the lighthearted humor the Avatar shows are famous for gets to shine. The whole game is sadly devoid of it, but it makes an appearance when playing the sport. Without Pro Bending and a new game plus mode, this game would feel like a very small package — yet another reason it feels more like a game better fit to handheld play. Lovers of challenges and new game plus modes will thoroughly enjoy it, though.
The Legend of Korra is a game that lovers of the show series will appreciate, but not go crazy over. It leaves much to be desired, but does a good job being a button mashing game with high replay value for those that care to play it. This generation of gaming has seen much more well-rounded games for ones of this type, and this title can be skipped over with no big loss.
Legend of Korra review copy provided by publisher. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.