The Legend of Korra Review (PlayStation 4)
Platinum Games and Activision have released The Legend of Korra, a third-person beat ‘em up title based on the animated series that’s a sequel series to Avatar: The Last Airbender. The game features a story based on a plot that takes place between the second and third seasons of the series, but judging by the execution, maybe we’re better off just sticking to the TV show.
At the outset of the game, Korra’s bending (her ability to manipulate the four elements of earth, water, fire and air), has been taken by a mysterious old man who seems to do nothing but laugh sinisterly and teleport around in clouds of miasma. So, of course, we have to start from the bottom and slowly unlock Korra’s ability to bend each of the elements, starting with water. Each element has a distinct style that’s tied to the type of martial art style that Korra uses to better channel it. For example, waterbending features slower, more flowing movements of T’ai Chi while earthbending employs some of the Hung Gar style, which is all about having strong stances and being rooted to… well, the earth.
It’s just a shame that Korra’s combat abilities are severely hampered without her access to the elements, mainly due to the fact that her attacks have very little range, so you’ll have to be right in an enemy’s hitbox to actually deal any damage. The animations for some of the bending attacks can take very long to complete as well, leaving you wide open for attack. Instead of smoothly flowing from one combo to another when facing off against large groups of enemies, it feels more like an awkward dance, with Korra stumbling every so often and failing to link attacks in a meaningful manner or even in ways that make sense.
Each of the levels has you moving through a corridor-like world while defeating waves of enemies and discovering hidden treasure chests that yield better treasure depending on how fast and how much you can hit them. The trinkets within are worth Spirit Energy, the game’s currency that can also be picked up in the levels or by breaking items. You’ll use Spirit Energy to purchase new skill scrolls, special moves and helpful items that either buff Korra up in battle or restore her health. You’ll use these items to breeze through the admittedly boring levels that task you with fighting clones of Chi-Blockers, spirits and bender mid-bosses every once in a while. You’ll trudge through enemies until you eventually unlock another bending art, gaining access to another element.
The levels, for the most part, look decent enough. You can go through Air Temple Island, Republic City and even the Spirit World. The colors are vibrant and emulate the style of the TV series, but are ultimately nothing to get too excited about. Objects in the environment are kind of like a bunch of Monets, which, for those of you who haven’t watched ‘Clueless’ means “from far away, it’s okay. But up close, it’s a big old mess.”
Between levels are short, but incredibly frustrating infinite running mini-games that have you hustling through streets and other tracks while riding Naga, Korra’s faithful giant dog… thing. You’re allowed access to your bending powers, but they have different functions. Waterbending gives you a shield that absorbs one hit, earthbending allows you a double jump, firebending lets you blast obstacles out of your way and airbending gives you a boost. These sequences pop up way too often between chapters and offer very little fun, especially because you can’t reach the next chapter without completing them. I would have rather had Naga appear as a summon on a cooldown to help deal with large groups of enemies than appear as part of a lackluster infinite running interlude between chapters.
Once you unlock airbending, all other bending styles are rendered useless, especially because airbending yields the most hits, spreads out to attack all enemies and keeps Korra moving the most, making it so she’s not just a standing target. It’s a shame that airbending is so overpowered, because being able to switch between the elements for viable combos would have been amazing and would capture more of what it means to have the power of the Avatar, able to effortlessly wield all four elements.
The one saving grace for this game, though it really isn’t much of one, is the Pro-Bending mode, which puts you in the ring, err --- on the platform, rather, to partake in 3 vs. 3 matches. The fictional sport from the TV show is represented here quite well and tasks players with taking all six sections of the platform, with the goal of pushing the opposing team back section by section until they can use their bending to blast them off the platform. Unfortunately, you only get access to this mode after completing the main story.
I wanted so badly to love Korra because I enjoy the series and the mythos behind it. I was hoping this would be the game to really make me feel like a powerful Avatar, but it just came off as a clumsy and lacking the heart of the show. It feels like such an empty experience because you don’t get to interact with the series’ wide cast of characters or really explore any of the beautiful locations in the show.
This review was based on a purchased digital copy of The Legend of Korra for PlayStation 4.