Erik Fattrosso ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
It was hard to not get excited when The Legend of Korra video game was announced. Not only was the game rumored to bring a new story to the series – with the real voice actors – but it was also being developed by Platinum Games, famous for games like Bayonetta, Vanquish and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. The Legend of Korra game is pitched as an action game in a similar style to these, but with full access to all of Korra’s Bending. The final product, however, is nothing more than an empty shell of a game that leaves little room for fun.
First things first – the game is gorgeous. The Cel-Shaded art style really brings the characters to life and the bending looks excellent. Right from the start, players are treated to neat displays of bending and an amazing opening level. Beginning in the midst of a battle against a swarm of dark spirits, the elements are introduced one at a time and the player is given the ability to switch between them as he/she so chooses. It really makes the game seem like something special, just at level one.
At the beginning of the second level, the player is stripped of his bending abilities and must earn them back, element by element, over the course of the game. Removing player abilities is standard fare for games of this genre, and it would be fine if fighting with fists wasn’t incredibly unexciting. Much of level two is spent punching and kicking Chi Blockers, which is both slow and stiff. The animations here don’t look nearly as good as the bending, and it just isn’t fun (this is ignoring the plot hole in that Korra shouldn’t be able to fight numerous Chi Blockers at once with her bare hands).
But wait, you may be saying. Surely once you get your bending back the game will return to being awesome! But there, you would be wrong. Along the course of getting your bending again, the player is treated to minigames to break up the combat. The first of which is Pro-Bending, which is cool in concept. The player plays the sport just like in the show, but the lack of any multiplayer feature and the tedious nature of the sport makes it fall flat quickly. The second minigame is a type of Endless Runner that has you riding Naga through various locales. Again, it’s fun at first, but it quickly falls into aggravating trial and error. The Naga segments end with a fight against several mecha-tanks, which is just about the peak of trial and error frustration.
Speaking of the Mecha-Tanks, those are cool the first time the player fights one, even if it takes about ten minutes to actually take it down. They get less and less interesting when they start to become common enemies and have so much health that the player could actually go watch an episode of the show (a much better choice) before finally taking them down. The repetition and tedium don’t end with the tanks though; standard enemies quickly become boring when the player starts to realize that every enemy is essentially two models that are just made different colors. Even bending can’t save the game at this point, as the finisher animations are the same – every single time. When the player starts fighting spirits and Korra comments about not being able to Spirit Bend, he is wrongfully led to believe that that will bring something new to the experience. Spirit Bending becomes just a slightly different animation that happens when the player hits the finisher button, but somehow manages to be even less exciting than the water finisher that managed to burrow itself deep into the player’s subconscious by the time he has stopped playing.
Moreover, the targeting system is finicky and is often a fight separate from the actual fight appearing on screen. Players can level up each bending ability, but experience is lost on death (and you’ll die quite a bit, this game isn’t easy). They can use your money to buy upgrades and health potions, but the necessity for health potions at all times makes it incredibly difficult to afford upgrades. Each time the player buys something, he needs to back out of the screen, open up another, listen to Iroh and Korra say the same dialogue again, and then equip what he just purchased before going back to the actual gameplay. Encountering big enemy bosses, including the final boss, quickly starts leading to reactions of “God not this again” because about halfway though, players realize just how long it takes to take down any enemy slightly bigger than they are. Combat is fun if players do their best to vary their attacks, but it gets very easy very fast to constantly spam the same AoE attack and win.
The game constantly runs the line between hard and unfair, and one particular bit at the end has Korra using her fists again, but this time, she somehow moves even slower while her enemies are moving at normal speed. Yes, that is as frustrating as it sounds. Finally, getting the Avatar State is great for about five seconds, but then the player realizes that the big enemies still take far too long to take down when he’s quite literally the physical embodiment of all the power in the world. It also only lasts for about seven seconds, so the player gets a few seconds of disappointment before the effect wears off.
The story throughout the game is close to nonexistent with almost no characters other than Korra, who is actually around for more than a minute or two of the experience. The player’s enemy is an evil old man who simply does standard evil old man things, and there’s nothing notable about him. Jinora astral projects herself to the player on occasion to serve as a guide of sorts, which really begs the question of why nobody else is helping Korra through this journey, and is instead sitting back and watching as if to say “Screw you Korra, this is what you get for Season 2!” (Which admittedly is a completely valid thing to say).
Recommending this game to anyone is difficult. It’s not fun, it’s not exciting, and it doesn’t even have a plot. The only purpose this game serves is giving Platinum Games the very rare opportunity to say that they released one of the best (Bayonetta 2) and worst games of the year in the same week – maybe that’s what this game exists for. There shouldn’t ever be a time where someone is playing a game for the sole purpose of finishing it so that he/she can feel satisfied about never touching it again, but that’s the feeling that permeates this entire experience. The player really doesn’t want to keep playing, but he sticks around on the desperate hope that it just might turn itself around – and it doesn’t.
Final Grade: 3/10