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The Legend of Korra

Score: 50%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: PlatinumGames
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:

What do you get when you take an acclaimed animated series and have it adapted into a video game by an acclaimed action game developer? Well, if The Legend of Korra is any indication, you get a pretty sizable disappointment. This game, based on the spinoff of Nickelodeonís Avatar: The Last Airbender, isnít functionally broken by any stretch of the imagination, but it takes a beautiful world and turns it into something rote as a machine and dull as dishwater.

If anything, The Legend of Korra does an admirable job of translating the look and feel of the world of the show. Color schemes are accurate and the animation work is up to Platinumís standard. But where it fails is in the level design. Regardless of where Korra finds herself at any point over the gameís eight-mission campaign, sheíll always been in a wide open area that doesnít contain much of anything. Itís one thing to be linear, but if you donít give the player anything to look at, all of the downtime that exists between combat encounters feels like nothing more than filler. And in a game as short as The Legend of Korra, thatís a huge problem. But again, the bending techniques and animation work look good, and the look of the show is replicated well enough, especially in the cutscenes, which look like theyíve been lifted right out of the show (and may very well have been, for all I know). Enemies are palette-swapped clones, and in some cases, literally identical to one another. This is hard to overlook.

For a licensed game, The Legend of Korra sounds decent. It neither ranks up with the best of its kind nor sinks to the abyss populated by many of its contemporaries. None of the performances feel particularly phoned-in, but none of them are all that impressive, either. The soundtrack feels appropriately Eastern enough to pass for the themes of the show as well as its parent program. Thereís a lot of energy to the proceedings, but when you look at the big picture, itís difficult to get very excited about it.


Gameplay:

Full disclosure: as of this writing, I havenít seen a single episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender or The Legend of Korra. I fully intend to very soon; I know Avatar is generally regarded as one of the greatest animated series of all time, and I also have heard that Korra is no slouch, either. If youíre up to date with these shows, you may understand this gameís plotline. I had only the vaguest idea of what was going on when I played through the game, and by the time Iíd finished it, I couldnít remember much of it at all.

But hereís what I remember. In a series of events that is sadly echoed through all franchises featuring an incredibly powerful protagonist, the current incarnation of the Avatar (Korra) is attacked by a chi-blocker, who succeeds in locking away all of her bending abilities. Convenient, right? So our heroine must tear through legions of identical (in look and sound) enemies in order to get them back. But of course, she ends up face to face with a far greater evil: Hundun, an agent of chaos who seeks revenge on the Avatar.

The Legend of Korra is a linear action game. Exploration isnít only discouraged; itís usually straight up impossible. There is often only one way forward. Enemies will often drop out of the sky, spoiling for a fight, and Korra, being the badass she always has been, is more than happy to oblige. The combat system is incredibly shallow, especially considering Platinumís pedigree (Bayonetta, Vanquish, Metal Gear Rising).

In an unwelcome change of pace, Korra occasionally mounts up on her polar bear dog Naga for what can only be described as endless runner without the endless part. These sections arenít broken by any stretch, but neither are they much fun. Like in other endless runners, you jump, slide, dodge, and collect spirit energy as you approach the end of each level. This gameplay actually makes its way into a pretty lousy boss encounter that has Korra and Naga facing off against a trio of mechs.

The redeeming factor in The Legend of Korra is the Pro Bending matches. These replicate the fast-paced competitions in the show quite nicely and add some direly-needed variety to the proceedings. You take your Fire Ferrets and square off against opponents in the arena. Itís a fast game of tug of war with a bending twist to it. Defense is paramount, especially if you want to be the one to knock the rest of them off the platform. Itís a fun little diversion.


Difficulty:

You can complete The Legend of Korra in two sittings, and if you play even the slightest bit defensively, you stand a good chance of breezing through it all. Enemies donít really have a particular pattern of attack, but they are all easy to counter. And once you successfully counter them, theyíre left open for a devastating attack that usually finishes them off entirely.

And youíll want to counter as many of those attacks as you can, because the most common one is plenty annoying. Most of your garden variety enemies sling binding cables at Korra. If they hit, sheís rendered immobile until you engage in some mindless stick waggling.


Game Mechanics:

The Legend of Korraís combat system is simple, shallow, and functional. No more, no less. Youíve got a light attack, a heavy attack, and a jump. Korra can defend herself, and if defense is timed properly, time slows down and she can launch a devastating counterblow.

As you progress through the game and regain Korraís bending techniques, youíd think that the combat system might find some depth to it. Perhaps enemies decked out in red might be weak to waterbending. Or maybe someone in green might be weak to firebending. Unfortunately, this opportunity to freshen up combat encounters is completely missed Ė at least as far as I could tell. Every now and then, three benders show up to fight; each oneís element is clearly designated in their apparel and in their attacks. And as far as I could tell, no particular bending techniques were weaker or stronger against any of them.

As you vanquish the enemies of the Avatar, Korra gains spirit energy. Much of this can be acquired by simply destroying as much on-screen stuff as you can, but most of it comes from combat. Between missions, you can visit Uncle Irohís Spirit Shop. With your acquired spirit energy, Korra can invest in consumables, combat upgrades, and talismans, which offer health benefits, extended combos, and passive effects (some positive, some negative). The economy is poorly-designed and forces you to grind away if you want to own it all. And when the gameplay isnít really strong enough to support such an incentive, itís really all for nothing.

I do believe that Platinum was the correct developer to handle this franchise; having played the other game adaptations, I can say that this is the best of them. But unfortunately, that doesnít mean all that much. The game is still a very weak one. But you know what they say: if at first you donít succeed, try, try again. And that is what I hope to see.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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