When I first heard that a new game based on the Avatar franchise was being released, I had my hesitations. Previous titles based on the IP have been lacking, to say the least. Franchise games are often in a difficult position. Obviously, the main audience is those who have a love of the source material, but there is still the secondary audience, those that don’t care about the source material and simply want an enjoyable game to play, or are fans of the developer behind the project.
Like any other franchise game, Platinum Games’ Legend of Korra finds itself in exactly that position. So the main question is: does it succeed in pleasing both fans of the series it’s based on as well as fans of beat-‘em-ups?
The short answer would be a yes, though it’s a more tentative one in regards to it pleasing fans of the source material.
The combat, as one would expect and hope from a beat-‘em-up, is the game’s strongest point. The combat has a very satisfying feel. You are able to switch bending styles in mid-combat (though you don’t start with all of them unlocked), giving the game’s combat system a simple and smooth adaptability during gameplay. Different situations will call for different bending styles. The game includes charge attacks, which fills a spirit meter as you use them. This basically equates to a power meter, and it causes your attacks to be stronger and your combos to be that much more devastating. In a way, this makes you immensely overpowered, causing some battles to last about a couple of seconds when your bending styles get into the higher levels.
The combos are versatile as well; some combo strings are able to branch off into other strings. It creates a fast-paced combat system that a game such as this should have, which makes you feel as though you are playing as the Avatar; as well as being enjoyable outside of the context of the source material.
The game also includes a Pro Bending (an in-world sport in the original series) section, and it captures the feeling the sport has very well. It’s fast-paced – much like the standard combat system – but requires an equal, if not greater, amount of concentration and strategy in comparison to the main game’s combat.
The Pro Bending mode is only unlocked upon completion of the main game scenario, and functions as a tournament mode; going through increasing difficulty levels, with a small number of matches for each.
Power-ups are also used in the game, which the player can purchase in an item shop (using a form of currency gathered in-game), that can enhance your abilities – though usually at the expense of limiting another. These can be used to help the player get bigger combos or more powerful attacks, let them recover health slowly over time, or have their spirit meter constantly charged.
Now, where the game really falls short is its story. The Legend of Korra is set between the end of season 2 and the start of season 3, stretching over the span of a single week. For a game like this, the gameplay is more important than the story, so there was simply a missed opportunity. The main character in the story is Korra, as one might expect. But she’s the only main character truly involved. The only other main series character she finds herself interacting with is Jinora, a young airbender form the original series, who mostly serves as a combat tutorial guide.
While the game is called The Legend of Korra and is therefore Korra’s story, one of the big draws to plot lines is often the supporting cast, who give even more life and reality to the story. Korra is certainly an endearing character, but progressing through the game without even so much as meeting another character aside from the main villain of the game, in passing, left its plot feeling hollow and overall non-existent.
That is something I feel will disappoint fans of the original show the most. However, since more focus was clearly put into the gameplay, the game manages to stand on its own and is worth the price of admission. It is incredibly satisfying to have a good, solid, entertaining game placed into the Avatar franchise; one that has kept me eager to pick up and play again.