The Legend of Korra is an interesting title with an interesting history. While the publisher, Activision, is a AAA studio, the developer is a small, creative studio by the name of Platinum Games. Due to launch between Seasons 2 and 3, Platinum was in charge of making a game that would tie-in with the television series and bridge the gap between the two seasons. Several mishaps led to Nickelodeon airing Season 3 months before schedule which in turn diminished the amount of time Platinum had to produce the game. When all was finished, Platinum had basically made their first budget title. So the question stands: Can Platinum still work their magic when under tight constraints? Well….yes and no.

For those unaware of the series, The Legend of Korra takes place 70 years after the events in the Avatar television series. In this world, a majority of people have the ability to control a specific element, called bending. The 4 basic types of bending are air, water, earth and fire, with each person being able to bend only one element. Korra happens to be the Avatar, a sort of worldwide hero who represents peace and prosperity among the different nations and tribes that inhabit the world. One awesome perk of being the Avatar is the ability to bend all 4 elements. While the series itself has a rich background story and fantastic writing the same cannot be said for the game. Despite being written by one of the writers of the television show, the game uses the most basic tropes to progress the story. The antagonist is a generic “bad” guy who seems to have little motive for his actions. He isn’t introduced until the last level and that is primarily just to act as the final boss. The rest of the story is practically incoherent, frequently taking me to areas without any reasons why we should go there other than to fight enemies. Despite the issues that plague the story, a lot of work and care was put into recreating the look. Several voice actors reprise their roles and Platinum did extensive work replicating the visual style of the show. Even the cutscenes look like they were animated by the show’s team. It is a shame that the same amount of supervision wasn’t offered to the story since the show’s writing is some of the best on television. Even with the lackluster plot I often get the feeling that I am playing the show, which is no small feat and is definitely one of the highlights of the game.

As with most Platinum games the combat engine is worked and tweaked until perfection, complete with high risk, high reward tactics and tight controls. The four elements are treated as different weapons with each serving a specific purpose such as crowd control or single target, high combo or high damage. The elements can be switched on the fly allowing the player to not only alter their tactics in the midst of battle but to pull off flash combos while doing so. There is something highly rewarding about launching an enemy with a block of earth, jumping after him with a flurry of fire kicks, and calling upon tornadoes to clean up his buddies as he falls back to the ground. Rounding out her arsenal, Korra has the ability to dodge, block, and counter the onslaught of attacks. The combination of all of these options produces an exceptional amount of depth and is easily the best part of this game.

Another Platinum staple is brutal difficulty and this game delivers on that in spades. Even on Normal difficulty I ran into more than enough areas that I had to replay over and over until I found just the right mix of luck and strategy to push through them. The game gets a little easier after unlocking Air Bending but the first 5 chapters are brutal and have a heavy emphasis on defense. Very unlike Platinum, though, there are various options to tweak the difficulty of the game to the player’s preference. Not only is there a casual difficulty but there are plenty of items to purchase in the item shop that provide passive bonuses such as regenerating health or a shadow that mimics you, effectively doubling your damage output. Checkpoints are frequent and there is no consequence for dying. These additions make The Legend of Korra more accessible to a larger audience, which is something I would like to see more of in this genre. Fortunately, none of it is a detriment to the players who want more of a challenge. I found trying to get platinum medals on Extreme difficulty is just as difficult as it is in Bayonetta or DmC. Maximizing high risk, high reward passive items — like trading double damage for half of your health — and perfecting the combat systems are requirements and a simple mistimed counter can empty most, if not all, of your health bar.

Unfortunately, that is about all of the praise I can give the game. There is a lack of enemy types and the same 3 bosses are used throughout the entire game. These bosses are also the only time you fight any other benders, which is actually something I wish we had seen more of. The final boss is a bit of a disappointment as none of the tactics you learned throughout the game work on him. While attacks do deal damage, they do not cause him to flinch and he will simply attack through your combo. The best course of action I found was to sit back and try to counter his attacks which lead to a slow, boring battle. Oddly enough, the last 10% of the battle seems stripped right out of Asura’s Wrath complete with QTEs and over the top action sequences.

There are two mini-games as well, but neither really struck a chord with me. One is part of the story and usually happens between missions. Korra rides on her polar bear dog in a Temple Run style format. Korra has three lanes to move between and can jump and slide as well as use her bending for additional options such as destroying a barrier or double jumping. These segments are annoying at best and absolutely infuriating at worst. The other mini-game is Pro Bending which is a sport that consists of three vs three battles where contestants attempt to push the opposing team out of the ring using bending. This is a fun diversion from the core experience but the AI isn’t that great and all of the complexities of the core combat engine are missing.

While the areas can be explored, this usually means breaking a wall to find a side path that dead ends with a fight and a treasure chest, then backtracking to the main path. Speaking of breaking walls, there is quite a bit of dissonance between the narrative and the gameplay. Much like other beat em ups, the entire world is destructible and you get currency by destroying objects. This seems really out of place as Korra is a hero who is trying to protect the city. It is really strange hearing Korra talk about how the city is falling apart as I completely destroy cars and fruit stands for spirit points. The game is rather short, even with my innumerable deaths it only took me 4 hours, but I feel the more important issue is pacing. There are only 8 chapters to the game and Air Bending isn’t even unlocked until Chapter 6. It feels like as soon as I finally unlock everything and the combat system fully opens up to me the game ends. I also have a small gripe about the lack of accessibility options as the game doesn’t have any subtitles or closed captioning.

The Legend of Korra isn’t a bad game by any means but it definitely feels incomplete. While Platinum did a great job recreating the action and aesthetic of the show, so much of the rest of the game is half-baked. I would really like to see a sequel that was given the proper amount of development time but I doubt that will happen. As for this game, if you are a fan of the show and like beat em ups I highly recommend it. From someone who falls in that category, I enjoyed my time with it and will be revisiting it for Extreme difficulty. For others this will probably be a game to pass up.

Review: The Legend of Korra
Pros
  • Tight Controls
  • Good Combat Mechanics
Cons
  • Lack of enemies
  • Short
  • Forced Temple Run-style segments
6Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)
0.0

About The Author

Contributor

Bryan is fascinated with the potential of video games as a story telling medium, both through narrative and mechanics. He loves playing games with deep systems and mechanics, giving players lots of room to tinker in the games in search of optimization. This has led him to favor fighting games and RPG though he has a soft spot for fast paced FPS titles and their twitchy, reaction based skill set. Outside of video games he enjoys programming, fiction writing, and music composition and performance.

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  • Platinum handled MGS:Rising and does the Bayonetta game from what I know. Bayonetta is mentioned so it’s clear this is the same company. It seems like a real stretch to say Platinum is a small company (even though Rising did look like a PS2 game pumped through the PSOne in lots of places.)

    I think this site would be better served to narrow its focus below the level that includes major commercial IPs like Game of Thrones and Air Bender. Even if the teams receiving these IPs are small and basically handed them as a P.R. exercise because of past successes, when there is a connection to a major production studio (all animation requires massive warehouses of animators) it doesn’t LOOK “indie” even if according to some broad/highly technical definition it just IS. Optics are what’s important. You don’t want to be like the IFC channel in the US handing out “Independent Spirit Awards” and eventually distancing yourself from the indie/DIY scene altogether as the people associated with those scenes grow out of them until you become just another television channel with no clear identity.

    For me indie video games mean the digitization of art. To be fully digital means we keep approaching that point from the bottom where the creation of the art becomes zero cost and the playing field is absolutely leveled so that we can know for certain that the only thing getting in the way of making the best games possible is our collective brain deficits.

    • Bryan Rumsey

      Indie is a difficult scene to describe as it has flourished exponentially in the last few years and has become something other than one or two person teams making low budget personal games. To me, Indie represents ideas that challenge the AAA scene. This could be done with mechanics, story telling, types of stories, budget, etc. For instance, I see Double Fine as an independent company yet Tim Schafer worked in AAA for the longest time. For these larger projects I tend to use the term “Indie With Budget”, mind you this is my personal feeling and does not necessarily reflect Indie Haven or the other writers. In my opinion Platinum, created from ex-Clover personnel, will always represent an indie mindset. They constantly make games that would never be greenlit in the AAA sphere.

      • I think if you want a hard fast definition of Indie you need to at least look at the publishers. Platinum’s games listed on Wikipedia have all been published by the same publishers that are supposedly what independent games are supposed to be independent of, and Platinum’s games seem to be solidly in the AAA mold right down to being pretty sketchy professionalism wise around the edges.

        But my comment gets more at is iHaven going to focus its resources on elevating real people, give voice to the voiceless, and more importantly help teams that could otherwise never promote their own work on their own? or is it going to cover the same things that every single other video game reporting outlet will cover? What’s its function.

        I mean you are free to choose, but the optics look much better and make iHaven seem much more relevant if you it would eschew the mass media ways and do some investigative reporting where it is actually needed, wherever relative unknowns are making the games of tomorrow (personally I feel like the games of today have little-to-nothing redeeming to them. They are over the deep end. At the bottom of an intellectual abyss. And have been that way nearly across the board for a solid decade now with no signs of going anywhere. If the way games are made doesn’t change it’s a dead medium)

        • Bryan Rumsey

          I will agree that Platinum is on the fringe of Indie but that is still Indie nonetheless. As for Indie Haven’s stance, I don’t see why we can’t cover small games with low marketing and games with a budget. In fact we do this all of the time and I don’t feel there is a need to deviate. It is quite possible to cover both TellTale games and experimental browser based games.

          • Of course. It’s just when writers are writing about something that necessarily means there’s something they are not writing about. A person’s energies are zero sum. So is the front page.