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Thursday, 23 October 2014

Legend of Korra: The Video Game.


Do you think the thing lacking on this blog is ranting about poor businesspeople vying for the attention of a grumpy working-class lord? I have a guest series at Nine Over Five.

Legend of Korra.



I think this one might come down to cost versus reward, to be honest. We'll get to that.

Legend of Korra, based on the animated series of the same name, is a tie-in done mostly as a passion project by game developer Platinum Games, best known for Bayonetta and Vanquish, both of which I adored. Set between the second and third series of the show, the game puts you in the shoes of multi-element wielding god-spirit-woman Korra, who, having been attacked by an elderly gentleman and left without her abilities, has to regain each of her four elements back one by one and defeat him. 

It's a very bare bones game, which is where the idea of cost versus reward comes in, to be honest. I don't think people who bought this game were expecting a lot. Some fun bending action, some of the voice actors back, preferably an interesting plot to go with it, in more or less that order of preference. The game does sort of deliver on the first two, even if it falls flat on the third, and it has a pretty low price tag of £12 for UK audiences and $15 for US audiences. If it was a smooth, well-oiled game, it would have definitely been worth the cost. 

But there are issues. By jove, are there issues.

Pro-bending mode is a massive issue all on its own.

Let's start with fun bending action. It was a lot of fun, and to be honest, one of the main good points about the game. You get to switch between four styles - water, good for long ranged attacks; earth, good for defending and countering and thus your go to when dealing with bosses; fire, good for short range attacks and combos; and air, good for crowd control. Pretty solid basis. What lets it down is that there isn't really much to use your skills against. I don't mean a shortage of enemies here: I mean a shortage of enemy varieties. You have three strains of chi-blocker, all with different abilities - fine. Mecha tanks that are functionally minibosses - fine. Bending triads who fight much like Korra does - great. That's ... really it. Even when dark spirits show up in the game later, they fight fundamentally like those five enemy types.

A few more types of enemy would have done wonders, especially if they took advantage of the style-switching mechanic. Chi-blockers who actually block your chi, maybe, temporarily cutting off whatever bending style you're using and forcing you to switch to another. Benders or spirits who can only be defeated by using the opposite style. Metalbenders, lavabenders, bloodbenders, lightningbenders, combustionbenders. You have so many options here, and the variety of enemies is conspicuously tiny even for the price tag. 

These exact guys will show up multiple times with different hair colours.

Let's move on to voice-acting. Janet Varney's in as Korra, along with Kiernan Shipka as Jinora. We get to briefly hear JK Simmons, David Faustino and PJ Byrne as Tenzin, Mako and Bolin respectively too. It's not a gigantic amount of voice actors back, but I don't think anybody expected much in the regard, so I'm not going to dwell too much on it.

Storyline, meanwhile - it was bad, guys. Bad, and not improved by the very shoddy cutscene animation that looked vaguely like the actual series if it had been transported back to the early 90s. The villain is unconvincing, the story is loosely sketched out at best, and the inclusion of certain villains from the series is barely justified and feels wrong. For a game that ties in to a series praised for its storytelling, you would think it would be a little more story driven to, you know, cater to its most obvious audience.

It's not even that difficult to think of a storyline for it. Here goes: Republic City has a new, charismatic Triads boss, and she's gathering a Triad large enough to be an army, having recruited leftover chi-blockers who were disillusioned and faced with otherwise being fugitives after Amon's fall, along with a range of benders, including dirty metalbending police officers. Seeking to take out the biggest threat to her power, she has Korra chi-blocked, cutting off her access to her bending, and starts to consolidate her power over Republic City, throwing it into a state of all out war (thus explaining why nobody's around, but their cars and belongings still are - the explanation given in game is that it's 'the abandoned part of town'). But all is not as it seems, as Charismatic Triad Boss Woman has partnered with a mysterious spirit with his own vendetta against the Avatar. 

Get used to these guys.

See, now we have an excuse for all of the enemy types in the game, we have an opportunity for at the very least metalbenders, we have a good reason for there to be no civilians around, we have a charismatic villain (you know she's charismatic because I described her as charismatic, you see), and we have Spirit World Shenanigans.

Add to this that the game is incredibly laggy (to the extent that at one point during playing, I had to leave Korra standing around for so long she went into her idling animations, just waiting for the main villain's attack to hit) and this is a very flawed product, even for the price attached to it. Also, there are no subtitles. What about deaf people?

Oooh, fire.

I don't really regret buying it, though. I haven't really harped on about it in this review, but even with the lags and the lack of enemy variety, the gameplay is really fun. I enjoyed myself greatly playing it, especially once I got a hold of airbending, which was by far the most fun of the four styles. So I have good feelings towards this game. It's not all it could be, I'd hazard to say it's not even all it should be, and if you're not already a fan of the series you will probably hate it and be entirely justified in doing so. 

It is nice to have a video game coming out just as the series is winding to a close, though. That - that is nice.

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