By: Jeff Cater
The Legend of Korra is a fill-in between the second and third seasons of the anime of the same name. As you can guess, you assume the role of Korra, the ultimate bender. See, most benders can only bend one of four given elements at a time, or ever. Korra, on the other hand, is some kind of badass that can bend all four at any given time. Did Platinum Games and Activision give us a game worth the namesake? Well…
…the trouble starts right from the get-go. The controls are easy enough to get the grasp of — it feels like any other brawler out there, well, more like the most sensitive and unforgiving brawler that you’ve ever played. Face buttons handle all three attacks and jump. The shoulder buttons let you switch between your different bending styles, and stringing together different styles into your combo is a breeze.
What drags down the fun of the brawl is the fact that on-screen button prompts often appear only for a moment before disappearing (and thusly punishing the player for missing the prompt). In an attempt to grease the wheels of combat, you’re allowed to lock onto an enemy with a press of the right stick, but the clumsy and inaccurate feel of it pretty much makes it a dangerously useless feature altogether.
Platforming elements of the game are nigh impossible to enjoy and serve as one of its hardest obstacles, even in comparison to towering robot enemies who want to do nothing more than smash little Korra. You’ll have to make deceptive jumps and deal with the camera wildly swinging around if you try to get a better angle (that is, if the game decides to let you move the camera at all, which is uncommon during the platforming segments).
Republic City is known to fans as the bustling Metropolis built by Aang after the Hundred Year War. You wouldn’t be able to tell that it is the same town by playing this game, however. It does not hustle, and it definitely does not bustle. The only connection between the game and series in regards to the city is displayed in fully animated sequences. Though the animated scenes do stick to the show’s established quality, actually running around the city in the game is a lonely and bland experience.
The game does open up into less linear and more interesting landscapes, but it never quite gets past the “simple snowscape cliffs” and “arena with rocky walls” generic feel. Character animation goes from great to terrible depending on whether you are fighting (great) to platforming (often laughably inaccurate and infuriating). Do you like landing on something that looks like a platform, only for the screen to go black and you’re suddenly placed at a checkpoint? I’d guess not.
It appears that all of the major voice talent from the show has made it into the game, so the voiceovers are top notch. The musical score is also appropriately tuned depending on the context of the scene.
The Legend of Korra can almost be interpreted as a mishmash of three different game genres. First and foremost, there is the brawling portion where you fight against waves of enemies while being restricted by barriers, locking you into a certain section until all enemies are cleared. This is all fine and dandy, but you’ll often find yourself getting mercilessly pummeled into corners and barriers alike.
During combat, button prompts will appear with insanely small windows of time given to execute the commands. Said windows are so small that it is easy to miss seeing them completely. You pretty much have to have psychic powers and nail those commands exactly how and when they appear.
Boss fights tend to use this mechanic a lot, but it is much more manageable during those fights because you’re often fighting one or two enemies, whereas street combat throws upwards of six opponents at you at a time, all demanding QTE mastery.
Bringing it back to the platforming elements, the level design shifts from a third-person view to a more traditional side-scroller perspective. This is all fine and well until you actually have to start platforming, then it’s a mad battle against depth perception and pixel-perfect planning. Korra will often try to grab onto a platform but instead bound over it, sending you to the black screen of death and your most recent checkpoint. On top of the villainous level design, the devs decided to pepper the foreground with enemies that fade in and out of view, never at a good time and seemingly always during a challenging jump.
The third part doesn’t even belong on a console. Anyone familiar with Temple Run? The mobile game? Where you swipe your finger across the screen? Well, in the Legend of Korra there are a few sequences in which you get to ride Naga, Korra’s gigantic Polar Bear Dog. As much fun as riding a Polar Bear Dog sounds, it should be more fun than taking left and right turns, and then jumping and sliding over/under obstacles.
Had the brawling elements received a bit more attention, and the unnecessary Naga sequences been nixed in the planning stage, The Legend of Korra could’ve been much more fun to play. Bending and combining elements to devastating results is pretty fun, but the restrictions during combat, such as the barriers and way too fast QTE events, add a layer of difficulty that reflects some shoddy design.