Just How Far Are You Willing to Tearbend? [The Legend of Korra – Game Review]
The Legend of Korra is best summed up as the Avatar game we need, not the Avatar game we deserve. And by that I mean it’s better than all the other terrible pandering Avatar games, but it’s still pretty bad. This discounted beat-em-up attempts to bring players into the wonderful, rich, vibrant world of the Legend of Korra anime. And while it falls so short of greatness, there’s still some enjoyment for fans that are willing to endure a lot of pain to find it.
Taking place after the second season of the show, Korra finds herself mysteriously (and conveniently) stripped of all her bending powers at the hands of a strange old man who hit her with a blow dart. That is pretty much it. The old man doesn’t even have a name, a rhyme or a reason until just before the final boss fight. The only thing worse than a complete lack of plot when the amazing source material provides endless possibilities – is that the game attempts to sell you this one without any characters. Makko and Bolin only appear for the first three seconds of the game where they get knocked off the pro-bending arena stage and are never heard from again till the game’s final credits. Asami? Tenzin? Nope. Despite being based on a show largely centering on friendship and teamwork, Korra is at it alone this time for no reason other than missing more opportunities to give this game value.
After the initial introduction with no bending powers and major buyer’s-remorse-bending, Korra begins to regain her abilities. This is the game’s strong point, so if you are going to have any fun playing this game, this is it. The bending combat in Legend of Korra is wonderfully animated, and unlike previous Avatar titles, feels authentic. Rather than use generic martial arts with various color particles and call it “bending” as we’ve seen before, Legend of Korra succeeds in bringing the fluid varied combat of the show to life.
Lifting rocks from the ground and kicking them into foes, throwing fireballs or launching a volley of ice crystals brings back memories of the imaginative iconic combat of the show. Each of the four elements can be accessed on the fly, and each succeeds in bringing its own style, attacks, strengths and weaknesses to your arsenal. Nothing makes you feel more like the Avatar than standing atop a pillar of water and raining down pain on your enemies.
But even at it strong point the game falls short. To its credit, The Legend of Korra is surprisingly difficult for a game based on a Nickelodeon show, but this isn’t always achieved in a good way. Enemies chain stuns and knockdowns, do incredible damage and stop the action with constant quick time events to cause many deaths that are less than satisfying. Some of the later boss fights involve enemies so large they completely obstruct any view of your character or the attacks you’re supposed to be avoiding. Even the shows iconic Avatar-state where Korra connects with her past lives to deal out glowing justice, doesn’t make an appearance till the game’s final acts. Like everything else, so much potential, and so little execution.
And unfortunately after the cool factor of being the Avatar and thrill of bending, the fun runs out. Small linear stages of mildly enjoyable combat are broken up by a meaningless smartphone-quality rail running mini-game, as you ride Naga full speed into various objects with no context and motivation. I often found myself wondering why not just SLOW DOWN NAGA. We’re not being chased by anything. There was no reason for me to be dying -but by golly if we weren’t going to run through the empty lifeless streets of Republic City at full sprint.
Everything else in the game feels recycled, from the same 3 enemy Triad benders who appear countless times as re-colors of the same model, to the environments filled with identical buildings on every corner. So is it a good game in its own right? No. Is it completely void of any enjoyment or value? No. Fans of the show can drop $15 for a small glimpse at what it would be like to get a real Avatar game someday. But it’s not today. This may be the best Avatar game yet, but that’s not saying much. Even fans of the series should be ready to pay a hefty disappointment tax for the small payoffs of this game. Not a huge fan of the show? Run. Run far away.