Platinum games has been well known for their over-the-top action gameplay since they were formed from the remnants of Capcom’s Clover Studios. Their mastery of deep combat mechanics and intense, exciting cinematics has put them in the spotlight in discussions about licensed games. It’s not uncommon in online discussion for fans of properties such as Kill la Kill or Avatar: The Last Airbender to mention Platinum as a developer for their dream games.

And so comes Platinum Games’ first shot at a licensed game for a non-videogame property: The Legend of Korra, based on Nickelodeon’s show of the same name. The game takes place between seasons two and three of the show, and does feature some pretty significant spoilers from season 2, so be aware if you’re not caught up!

The story starts with Korra losing her bending to a mysterious old man and having to get her powers back one-by-one as the game progresses. The plotline of the game is very, very basic. It doesn’t add anything new to the characters involved (in fact, everyone but Korra herself have bit parts at best) and the only lore introduced is the kind of stuff that will only be remembered on fan wikis. While the plot may not have much to offer, the voice acting is largely on-par with the animated series and features the same actors. The animated cut scenes created by Titmouse, Inc. are unique to the game, and nice to see, but unsurprisingly don’t measure up to the high-quality visuals of the show. The game’s soundtrack is pulled directly from the show, which is an easy but very welcome decision, as the show’s music is great to listen to and fits the game’s scenes perfectly.

The combat is where the game really shines. You regain more elements as the game progresses, and each has their own strengths and weaknesses: water allows you to hit targets at a distance and freeze enemies in place with ice, earth is extremely powerful and stuns or launches enemies quickly but is slow and has limited range, fire has quick attacks and allows you to boost to chase targets during combos, and air has many attacks that have wide range and allow you to hit a large number of enemies at once. The best part is that you can switch between them on the fly, mid combo. It’s incredible fun launching someone up into the air with a pillar of earth, knocking them around with fire and air, whipping them back towards you with water and then slamming them into the ground with earth again. I would have liked to see “advanced” bending types like metal bending or lightning bending show up in the game, but these aren’t so much as mentioned. Like other platinum titles, the game rewards you for creating big combos by giving you higher scores and rating your performance at the end of each battle. The game has a parrying system as well, where you’re rewarded with big damage for blocking at the exact time an enemy attacks you.

Unfortunately, likely due to the short development time of the game, the elements are not at all balanced. While they all have their place in creating big combos, for general utility I found myself using earth and air almost exclusively, along with the occasional water for distant foes. The game’s large bosses can’t be launched or juggled either, so there’s not much point in switching styles, and I found myself only switching away from earth if they moved out of range and I needed water to hit them. This was true for every single boss in the game.

Not only that, but the combo system seems wasted on the game’s incredibly small pool of enemies. Your cannon-fodder foes total out at about nine types, many of which are model swaps with a few unique abilities. The bosses in the game, too, are similar and can mostly be fought all with the same strategies—not counting one unusual fight and the final boss. The game gives you a large number of fun tools to use, but very few problems to solve with them. Even outside of combat–with the exception of water–“puzzles” that need to be solved with a certain element simply consist of a colored barrier that needs to be hit by the appropriate style, instead finding a creative way to use that element’s unique properties. The result is a game that gives you the ability to be the avatar, but no real reason to do so; Bolin could have handled most of the game just fine.

Fans of Platinum’s other games like Bayonetta or the Wonderful 101 will feel very familiar with many of the game’s mechanics. Just like both of those games, you can buy extra moves and healing items in the shops, as well as accessories that carry both positives and downsides; such as doubling your damage at the cost of cutting your health in half. Korra can dodge four times in a row before being subjected to a slow, laggy dodge, just like Bayonetta. The rating system is very similar as well.

In addition to the action sections that make up the meat of the game, there are a few Temple Run style “runner” sections where you ride on the back of Naga, Korra’s polar bear-dog  and try to avoid slamming into walls or falling into pits. As regain control of the elements, each will do something unique in these sections, too, allowing you to go back to earlier stages and obtain better scores or access alternate paths. I actually found these sections well designed and much more fun than I was expecting, and overall thought they were an excellent addition to the game.

There is also a pro-bending minigame. While it only shows up three times in the main story and very shortly, beating the game the first time will unlock a secondary pro-bending mode where you compete with different teams. This uses a very simplistic version of the game’s mechanics and involves attempting to push the other team off the edge of the platform. While it’s not terrible or anything, I personally didn’t find it very entertaining, and thought Platinum wasted potential by making the mode single-player only; both co-op and competitive versions would have been a welcome addition.

The game is very short from beginning to end, clocking in at about five hours, but has a reasonable amount of replay value with an unlockable difficulty and deep combat system that’s fun to master. The game also has alternate costumes unlockable for Korra that reward you for beating higher difficulties or finishing Pro-bending mode. The content in the game is limited compared to other Platinum titles, but not bad for a downloadable budget game.

All in all, while it may not be the dream Avatar game imagined by fans, The Legend of Korra is a very worthwhile title for the $15 entry price, and provides a fun distraction for both fans of the show and the Platinum faithful. While enemy types are limited and the story is largely forgettable, the combat system shows why Platinum are masters of the genre. With any luck, we’ll see a full-sized Korra title someday in the future.

SCORE: 7/10

-Edward (Left knee of A7)

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