By Bryan Smith on October 22, 2014 at 9:06pm
Video game adaptations of different mediums are … tricky beasts to comprehend. They started out great with “DuckTales” and the varying Mickey Mouse games on the NES, SNES, and Genesis. Sure, there were several lackluster ones as well, but normally when a game adaptation was mentioned, people were excited. Not so much nowadays. Most notorious with movies that just released on the big screen, many companies tried to rush a game out that falls further than short to match the movie’s standards. Unless an adaptation is well planned ahead to exist in the universe or on its own (e.g., the “Batman Arkham" series), video game adaptations don’t inspire a lot of confidence.
That’s where “The Legend of Korra” comes in. This game is based on the popular series following “Avatar: The Last Airbender” that follows the new Avatar, Korra, as she tries to bring balance to the world. Does this particular game flow in smoothly to “The Legend of Korra’s” canon universe or does it reek of a quick cash grab on the series? The answer to that is it feels like a decent attempt to capture the TV series. Not a great attempt, mind you, but a decent attempt nonetheless.
Hey, You Got "Bayonetta" in my "Korra!"
“The Legend of Korra” is, at heart, an action beat ‘em up game. With developer Platinum Games controlling the reins, the game plays quite similar to a “Bayonetta” game. You can jump, run around, attack with light and heavy attacks, switch between styles, and punish enemies when they suffer enough damage or when you counter. Since Korra is the current Avatar, she has the four elements at her disposal. Water acts as a rounded attack style with a good mix of speed and strength with projectiles. Fire is a speedy style that isn't too high in strength. Air is more of an area-control style. Earth is for the heavy bruisers that deal high damage at a low speed.
The best way I can describe “The Legend of Korra” at its core is it’s a light version of “Bayonetta.” The combos aren’t as complex or numerous as Bayonetta’s arsenal, but Korra can get the job done. Just like in “Bayonetta,” there is a shop where you can buy items, combos, and other goodies to help Korra improve her combat. In addition, Korra can go to her home anytime to equip consumable items, whether at the level select screen or while fighting enemies.
Insane Difficulties Are Yours, My Friend
Another thing that “The Legend of Korra” shares with other Platinum Games is that it is hard, difficult to the point that I was surprised that a $15 game based of this series, which isn’t very known for anything hardcore, was this difficult. On the normal difficulty, enemies can easily crush you if you aren't paying attention, and when they bring the mini-bosses in, well, prepare for several brutal defeats.
The odd thing is that the damage output seems … unadjusted for the suitable difficulty. For the hardest difficulty, sure! I expect to die a lot as I was just careless but not for the normal difficulty. Considering that a number of fans of “The Legend of Korra” would be playing this game, and some of them may not be truly into hard difficulties, having such a harsh difficulty doesn’t seem completely right.
Execution, Story Need Work
The major drawback to this game is that it doesn’t live up exactly to the standards the TV series created. The story, what little there is, has a very basic evil bad guy, Hundun, getting released from the Spirit Realm, set up with the ending to the second season (Book:
"Spirits"). Hundun wants to get rid of bending, and so he unleashes havoc. Korra sets off to regain her bending, because Hundun blocked it out temporarily and to stop his plans. But nothing else comes of it. Enemies are bland, masked goons that offer little in variety. Korra doesn’t grow in character or that much in strength really other than the reset button being hit on her powers. The threat here does almost nothing to impact the series. While it fits canonically with the series, the game’s story feels that it was just put in just for the sake of it.
Whereas the 2D-animated cut scenes are gorgeous as ever, which pleasantly surprised me as it looked just like the show’s animation, some design choices are rather questionable. Korra only has one speed- run. She doesn’t walk or slowly jog. She’s constantly running. That may not seem bad in practice, but then comes the platforming. With other Platinum Games, there was a safe leeway for characters to get over narrow platforms, such as a double jump, glide, or a reliable edge-grab button. Here, Korra only has a jump and some bending techniques to keep her up … while fighting enemies. There really isn’t an easy way to stay on a tiny platform that makes you feel safe. Air Bending helps slightly, but it still feels awkward. The camera doesn’t like Korra that much either as it tries to decide what to do when fighting or putting you on the right path.
For a “Legend of Korra” game, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of the main characters. There’s Korra and Naga, but the other characters barely appear or are only mentioned. Bolin and Mako, two of the main characters, rarely show up, Asami is briefly mentioned, and Tenzin is brought up as a slight joke during a mission. They could have easily added more characters for more flavor, like have Bolin focus on Earth-Bending. Though I can't complain too much since this is only a $15 dollar game.
Even with characters actually showing up, the voice acting seems a bit … off. Jinora, in this case, sounds rather off, either by someone who doesn’t have experience with her or her actual voice actress, Kiernan Shipka, just doesn’t want to be there.
Minigames Are ... Interesting
Besides running around and beating goons up, there are two minigames to occupy time. There are the pro-bending matches, as seen in the TV series, and riding on Korra’s pet polar bear dog Naga. Pro-bending is styled after Korra’s fighting in which you try to knock off a team of three benders off the stage by hitting them with an element. For the most part, these matches are actually pretty exciting, they require a good amount of strategy and reflexes to win, though they tend to be rather quick. Before you know it, the match ends. You may not be where you want to be, and usually you are alone, which makes it disappointing that Bolin and Mako are missing in action a lot.
Then there’s riding with Naga. These segments act like an endless runner. Where one would think these would be cakewalks, Platinum Games reminds you who they are, difficult Naga gets faster the further along she and Korra run, so making turn after turn in only seconds becomes tense. Yet, the weirdest thing here is that the mood given for some of these parts doesn’t match the rest of the game.
“The Legend of Korra’s” overall mood is a good serious. Not too serious but enough to see that danger is at hand. When riding with Naga, it doesn’t feel that way completely. The music that plays suggests we’re going on a zany ride through the city. Korra and Naga act like it’s just a romp, where not just a few moments ago, when the first Naga-riding segment occurs, Korra was about to be pummeled senseless by a horde of enemies, and the “death” sequences, where Korra and Naga run into something very solid or fall down a pit, make it sound like Naga just slipped on a banana peel. If I didn’t know any better, this segment seems more at home on a mobile device than in a game where the mood doesn’t match. There's occasionally a fight that happens to be riding on Naga, which appropriately feels more right, but whenever it's an endless runner and not a boss fight, I just feel a little silly.
A Passable Downloadable for Avatar Fans
For what it's worth, I think "The Legend of Korra" is a decent $15 game for the fans. While the content may appear to be lacking overall, it's just a $15 game. If this was a full retail release priced at $60, then I would be more upset to have a very short, shallow game, but as it is, I think it's fine. You can certainly find worst that came out this year in quality and disappointments, that's for sure. On that note, however, there are other games that released at $15 this year that may be more worth your attention in terms of content and appeal. This is a game for "Korra" and "Avatar" fans. For those who do like hard games, this is also right up your alley. Though I find it hard to recommend this game to others who don't like hard games or "The Legend of Korra" or "Avatar: The Last Airbender."