The Legend of Korra: The Game
This review is based on playing the PS4 version.
To say I’ve been looking forward to this game is an understatement. When announced at E3, The Legend of Korra looked to capture the magic of the TV show. Historically, licensed games haven’t had the best outcomes, but there was one factor that I thought could change Korra for the better, and that was Platinum Games. Former Clover Studios, Platinum Games developed some of my favorite games, including Viewtiful Joe, Bayonetta and Okami. Known for fantastic game-play and developing unique worlds, Platinum seemed a perfect fit for The Legend of Korra series. It seemed to be too good to be true, and it was. What we got was a poorly made tie –in that is an insult to the developer, the show and its fans.
For those who don’t follow the show, Avatar: The Legend of Korra follows the journey of Korra, the current incarnation of the Avatar. The Avatar is the master of all four “bending” styles: manipulation of wind, water, fire, and earth. Gifted people in this world can also bend, but only the Avatar can master all four styles and keep the world in balance between the human and spirit realm.
Taking place between season two and three, Korra has her powers taken away by a mysterious old man. Korra, along with spirit guide Jinora and her polar bear dog, Naga, must travel to several locations to figure out who this old man is and gain her Avatar powers back. For as complex and remarkable as the TV show is, it is heartbreaking to see how basic and bare bones the game’s story is. Each familiar location you go to is barren and empty, devoid of the character and life that inhabits the show. Along with bland locations, outside of a brief cameo of Mako and Bolen, the entire Avatar gang is absent. While in combat, Korra will mention sometimes, “I wish the gang was here to help.” So do I, Korra.
“The bare minimum” is what I experienced with this game.
While competent, the combat (a signature of Platinum Games) has a ton of technical problems. Biased around gaining levels, players get stronger bending techniques the more players use a specific bending style and every move that Korra executes consists of just two buttons and shoulder buttons for dodging. This would be pretty easy; the problem comes with a lack of any kind of tutorial. Sure, the game explains your basic buttons, but when gaining new abilities it’s like pulling teeth to try and figure out new moves. At the in-game shop, the game explains the button commands for a new ability, but this is the only place you’ll see it.
It’s frustrating in application to try to remember moves and have no way to look them up. There are times where you can string together combos and feel like Korra from the show, but those are few and far between due to enemies being unforgivably hard to beat.
Not being my first rodeo, I chose the normal setting and this game could have fooled me. Enemies and boss become frustratingly tough, at times being unpredictable in the worst of ways. In most games, reading enemy ticks and fighting styles is like a puzzle and once you unlock it, you feel accomplished. This is not the case here. It takes Korra several major moves to defeat most major bosses, while most characters can defeat you in a couple of hits. Instead of having any kind of skill, I feel like I was lucky to even beat a boss.
What’s odd is that the beginning of the game is unforgivably hard, but toward the end, once players get the airbending ability, the game becomes fairly easy. I pushed, fought and gnashed my teeth until the final boss and couldn’t take it. I quit playing because I was tired of the one-hit kills and, frankly, the cheapness of the overall experience. You essentially fight the same eight characters over and over again: two grunts, two robot bosses, the triple-threat triads, and a bad spirit (and the bad spirits don’t show up until the last two chapters). It gets so tedious. What’s worse is that cut scenes involving enemies are unskippable and each time I died, I had to re-watch it over and over again.
And don’t even get me started on the in-game store. Ran by Iroh, the store sells Korra new moves and buffs to make your journey a little easier, but it sucks. While new moves are great, the buffs are the worst. Giving impossible trade-offs, the buffs end up being more of a detriment to your game play.
To break up the combat, Korra has an endless-runner mode where Korra rides Naga, collecting gems. (It’s never explained what they are, they could be spirits but why would have that as currency?) It’s not really that bad, but it’s not really anything special. What I dislike about it is Naga has a life bar and if she gets hit three times, it’s game over. Trouble is there are more one-hit kill moments than single-hit obstacles, so why even have a life bar? This becomes even more frustrating in a later boss battle. Platinum Games also added Pro-Bending Arena mini game, but is isn’t worth talking about. It’s overly difficult, tedious, and a pain in the ass like the rest of the combat.
The one upside is that the cut-scenes look like they are straight from the show, which is rare to see in licensed animated games.
The in-game graphics aren’t worth writing home about, with flat, un-detailed locations, and basic character models. It looks like an early generation X-Box 360 game. Sure, it’s a $15 budget title, but so was Braid, Super Meat Boy and some of my favorite games from this console and last console generations.
The meaning of “budget title” no longer means what it used to and I expect more of $15 price point and the developer’s history.
The thing that kept on going though my mind with each death was “who was this game made for?” The combat isn’t good nor refined enough for fans of action beat-em-ups like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, but the difficulty is overpowering for casual fans of the show.
This game doesn’t serve either master. It’s a lazy, heartbreaking game and makes me wonder what we could have gotten if serious effort was put into it.