The Legend of Korra: A Legend Lost to Time

Too soon gone, too late appreciated

The Legend of Korra: A Legend Lost to Time
Source: Press Kit.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the most perfect shows ever made. While I’m pretty sure this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this claim, I have to set the stage. The show means a great deal to a lot of people, and it means a great deal to me too. Where the fanbase starts to disagree is regarding the sequel show, Legend of Korra, which premiered 5 years after the original ended.

The sequel show has its fans and defenders, but even they can’t bring themselves to say, generally, that it’s a match to the original. The world which fans grew to love is still here, with beautiful animation and stellar action scenes, it's just slightly updated with the times. The signature balance between humor and drama remains a strong suit. But it's the unbalanced, oftentimes baffling story choices and character moments that tend to keep it from reaching new heights, even if, for the most part, it's considered an excellent series.

Whether you're a fan of the show or not, most people seem to agree that Korra was a victim of heavy mistreatment by Nickelodeon. From sudden, unplanned season renewals to the exile of website-only premieres, the network didn’t do the show any marketing favors, especially in comparison to its predecessor. One of the prime examples of this lack of care was in the video game department. While Avatar: the Last Airbender had games that loosely adapted each of its seasons, The Legend of Korra had only one interactive outing during its run.

Set to fail

This could be attributed to the changing climate around licensed games at the time, but it still feeds into the narrative that Nickelodeon simply didn't care to market or uplift Legend of Korra. I came across a few people who were aware of The Last Airbender games but were baffled when I mentioned Korra had one as well. As opposed to the previous ones, which were developed by a small studio and served as retellings of the show, The Legend of Korra game was an original story written by the franchise’s creators. It was developed by Platinum Games, the studio behind Bayonetta. 

Source: Press Kit.

You’re probably wondering why it went under the radar for so many people, besides lack of marketing, and I think the fact the game was digital only didn’t help its case in terms of availability. You couldn’t just walk through the store and stumble across it on the shelf, you HAD to have a digital account on Steam, Xbox Live, or PlayStation Network. The reviews at the time were also pretty negative, so I can imagine this caused a general lack of excitement for many fans. Oh – and it was also delisted by Activision a few years ago, so if you didn't buy it then, there’s no way you’re playing it now.

This is a pretty bad fate for any game, let alone one that's part of such a beloved franchise. But the real question here is: "did it deserve all of that?” And no, my dear readers, I believe in all honesty that it didn’t.

Original, fun, flawed

I’ll just say it right now: The Legend of Korra remains the best game in the Avatar series at the time of this writing. I will note that I haven’t played The Last Airbender's Quest for Balance game and even though I don’t think it looks good, I’ll reserve judgment on it for now. Is The Legend of Korra a perfect game? Of course not. Am I confused as to why critics trashed it as much as they did back then? Not really, because I can see the problems they had with it, but calling it worse than the M. Night Shyamalan movie seems like an over-exaggeration of the facts. 

Taking place between the second and third seasons of the TV show, the game tells of the story of Hundun, an evil spirit trapped in The Spirit World for hundreds of years due to a previous Avatar locking the portals between the spirit and earthly realms. Following Avatar Korra’s decision to leave the portals open during the season 2 finale, Hundun is released, and he has a score to settle with the current Avatar. His first order of business is to hire a bunch of Chi-blockers to take away Korra’s bending abilities… and this is our first problem.

I’ll just say it right now: The Legend of Korra remains the best game in the Avatar series at the time of this writing.

In a game in which you play as the Avatar, any Avatar, you’d expect to be able to bend all 4 elements. It only seems fair. It’s the defining thing about being the Avatar. And yet; after a brief tutorial in which you can use all the elements… you’re left at the mercy of regular punches. That’s not what fans would want out of playing as Korra, who by that point in her narrative had mastered all 4 elements. The first real level of the game forces you to simply punch enemies and while it works well enough, it’s not what you really want to be doing.

But you do eventually unlock the elements, and the way in which you do so is actually really clever, however frustrating it can be to get there. Water bending is unlocked after drinking some spiritual water, which involves a short collecting mission that works well enough considering it's Korra’s signature element. Earthbending is about maintaining the ground you stand on, so you unlock it by guarding and parrying attacks. Firebending relies on one’s inner fire, meaning you unlock it by keeping a combo going. Finally airbending symbolizes the wind around you, requiring you to dodge attacks at the last second. 

Source: Press Kit.

Part of me thinks that this might have been the reason you have to unlock the bending as you progress through the game, in order to make sure you get the most out of each element. That’s such lazy reasoning though. If the elements aren’t balanced, then balance them! Don’t lock the player away from the potential of what playing as the Avatar could be. It may sound like a nit-pick, but I honestly believe it hurts the game in the long run and serves as the main reason for its criticisms.

It might sound shallow, but first impressions are important. If you, me, or any other person isn’t impressed by what they’re playing then there’s not much reason to keep going, right? We dedicate time and money for any game we play and if we're not having fun in the first few levels, is it worth it? It’s sad to say that The Legend of Korra has a very bad beginning…and locking the bending away for later doesn't help.

The game isn’t simple either. I played it in normal mode and remembered that back in 2014 it kicked my butt hard. Having played it again since then, I realized it might not be as difficult as I remember. I guess the best way to describe it is to say that the game’s tricky, and it expects you to understand how it works in the first full level. While that's definitely doable – considering I’ve played harder games than this – the learning curve is still very harsh and might frustrate players just looking for a good time. The gameplay does improve the farther you progress and master the mechanics, and at times can feel even simpler than the start, but I also get why some won’t have the patience to see it through.

Source: Press Kit.

The price of obscurity

This is all pretty tragic, because I do believe the game gets a lot better as you play. The more you unlock and the further you get, the more satisfying the game becomes and suddenly, out of nowhere, it becomes the best Avatar game ever made. Once it clicks, the combat becomes more fun to master, and you have tons of options on how you approach enemies. The graphics are superb and match the show’s visuals almost one-to-one. The soundtrack is a bit forgettable but Janet Varney’s vocal performance as Korra gets the job done, even if it is disappointing that most of the characters from the show barely make an appearance.  

What makes this upsetting is that despite me thinking the game is worth it, even with its less then spectacular beginning, I can’t recommend it to you. Not because I don’t believe you should play it but because it’s no longer available. Anywhere. The only way you’re playing this game is if you bought it while it was available. And if you didn't? Well, tough luck. Some legends have a tragic end and I’m afraid Korra’s video game legend, while flawed, suffers that fate. 

People claim that legends contain some element of truth. The truth here was that we got the best Avatar game in 2014…and we slept on it, not knowing that one day it would be gone. 


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