When The Legend of Korra was first revealed a few months back, I was cautiously optimistic. It was a downloadable licensed title, yes, but it was also being developed by Platinum Games. If there was ever a team that knew how to produce an excellent action title, it would certainly be the team behind the likes of Bayonetta and Vanquish. On top of their excellent pedigree, the studio also had a property that not only could be turned into a solid title, but one that also desperately needed one. While the talent was there, the question was whether or not the studio could make it work, especially considering the fact that they were also in the midst of developing Bayonetta 2.
Taking place in between the second and third seasons of the television program, The Legend of Korra places gamers into the shoes of the titular Avatar. Following a successful victory in the pro-bending arena, Korra is ambushed by a group of armed thugs. After awakening, she finds out that she has been stripped of her powers by the entity known as Hundun. In order to defeat this ancient evil, Korra will have to figure out how to get her powers back, and defeat the forces of evil that have crossed over into her world.
Although it started out a little rough, the television program has blossomed into one of the better animated offerings on TV today. While the gorgeous animation is certainly pleasant, much of what makes the show enjoyable comes from the complex plot lines, particularly those found in the past two seasons. Unlike its counterpart, however, The Legend of Korra features none of that excellence. Rather than tell a deep story with a well-rounded cast of characters, the game just follows Korra around as she travels from location to location, beating things up. There’s barely a story here at all, and what is here lacks the charm of the show it seeks to emulate.
Even if the story isn’t up to snuff, it’s not like all of Platinum’s games have excelled in that department, so things could theoretically have been salvaged here. After all, gameplay is the main forte of the studio.
A beat ‘em up at its core, the combat is handled through the X and Y buttons, which are strikes, and the left trigger, which is counter. When the game first begins, the combat seems extremely shallow, as you have no powers and little in the way of combos. Fortunately, as things progress and Korra regains her powers, the engine begins to open up a little more.
The use of the Avatar’s four elements is where the combat shines brightest. Switching between each one is done seamlessly through the left and right bumpers, so you can mix them together as you see fit. And while the enemies don’t have specific weaknesses, if you’re like me, you’ll probably find one element that best fits your fighting style. For instance, I typically used the earth-bending ability, which is super slow, but also stronger. Each of the elements are fun to use, however, so it really depends on how you want your gameplay experience to go.
Unfortunately, as solid as the combat engine is, it can’t mask the fact that The Legend of Korra is very repetitive. Over the course of the title’s meager eight levels, you fight the same enemies over and over again. In fact, six of the levels end with one of the same three boss battles: A trio of triads, a giant robot, or a pair of giant spirits. And each of those bosses is handled in the same exact fashion: counter their attacks, and then either follow the directional prompts on screen or mash the X button repeatedly. It’s fun the first time, and even kind of enjoyable the second time, but by the sixth time you do it, it’s painful. Even at a brisk four hours, the game began to wear out its welcome by the time I reached its final few levels.
The obnoxious difficulty presented here is also likely to turn off more than a few prospective gamers. Even playing on the normal difficulty, I frequently found myself overwhelmed by the amount of enemies Platinum threw at me. This feels cheap and unfair more than anything else, especially when you find yourself locked into a reversal you didn’t want to do. Also unfair is the fact that any items your purchase from the shop are lost if you die. These items aren’t exactly cheap, and if you find yourself stuck in one section for an extended period of time, it’s entirely possible that you won’t have any items to help out on later runs at it. Again, that’s not tough, that’s just cheap.
Things also aren’t helped by the fact that the levels themselves are bland and lifeless. The only thing outside of enemies that can be found in these levels are rocks, cars and other assorted objects Korra can destroy for points. The worst among the bunch are the areas set in Republic City, which despite being a city, shows no signs of life whatsoever. It’s a bafflingly odd decision to leave these areas as barren as they are, as even small background details could have added some life to the proceedings.
While the beat ‘em action represents a majority of the gameplay in The Legend of Korra, there are other activities to be found within the game. Interspersed between certain levels of the story are sections that feature Korra riding on Naga, a polar bear dog. These sections play like your typical endless runner title, so you need to jump, duck, and dodge obstacles in order to reach your goal. Gamers can also partake in pro-bending competitions once the story mode is completed. Again, these sections aren’t particularly deep, but they are a nice change of pace.
I already railed on the barren levels, but the rest of the graphics aren’t exactly stellar either. The character models tend to be seen over and over again, and aren’t exactly great to look at to begin with. Korra herself doesn’t look bad, but during gameplay sections, it seemed like she had the same facial expression on at all times. The cutscenes look better, mostly because they look like slightly less detailed versions of the animation you would see on the television program.
Despite the fact that the combination of Platinum Games and The Legend of Korra seemed like a perfect match, the title never comes together as well as it should. Perhaps this is due to it having most likely been rushed and pushed out the door, or perhaps it has to do with the fact that the studio was busy with its other offerings. Regardless, the title may hold some appeal to fans of the show. Others who are simply looking for a good, action-packed experience, should look elsewhere for their fix.
This review was based off the Xbox One version of the title, which we were provided with.
Despite the talent behind it, The Legend of Korra is too repetitive and bland to be worth recommending to anyone but fans of the television series.