This ain't your grandma's cartoon
The Legend of Korra, like its predecessor The Last Airbender, is the kind of show that begs for a video game to call its own. Focused on a girl who can control earth, fire, air and water, Legend of Korra boasts lovingly researched martial arts and explosive battles that are nothing short of a gamer's dream. Well, ask and ye shall receive: Platinum Games (creators of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Bayonetta) is making the dream a reality with The Legend of Korra game. In this action-adventure beat em' up, you play as the eponymous Avatar in all her glory, battling against those who would throw the world out of balance. Or most of her glory anyway. You have to get her powers back first.
The Legend of Korra will be available for digital download on Xbox, Playstation and PC this coming fall. In the meantime, here's what we know so far about this journey through Korra's world.
The game fits right into the show's narrative arc
It's no surprise that Platinum is announcing this now, since it coincides with the show's third season premiere this Friday. (If you haven't already, you should check out the trailer for the new season here.) The game takes place between the second and third seasons, just as Korra starts dealing with the effects of a spoilertastic choice she made in season 2. Here, she is kidnapped by a strange old man who takes her bending abilities away, and as she struggles to hunt him down she must also work to recover her powers.
Over the course of her journey, Korra visits many of the places fans know and love, like Air Temple Island, Republic City and the South Pole, allowing us to visit those places for ourselves. Enemies from the two seasons collide as well, with anti-bending martial artists known as chi-blockers and giant tank mechs showing up alongside dark spirits from the spirit realm. Plus, with fun tidbits from the show added in just for fans, it looks like the game could have walked right off network television.
Bending is just as fun as you imagined
As you've probably already guessed, playing as Korra lets you control four powerful elemental forces. While she doesn't have any bending abilities to start out (which she makes up for with mad kung-fu skills), part of the adventure comes using in-game events to jog her memory and reset her powers. Different bending styles level up individually as you acquire them, so Korra gets realistically better the longer she works with an element. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and they can be easily toggled, so trying each out allows you hone your bending style as you go. Plus, the ability to use quick or charged attacks adds an additional layer of strategy and fun.
These elements are all used in fast-paced, vicious battles against enemy hoards and tough bosses, but the controls are smooth enough that using them feels natural. The ultimate reward here comes in using all the elements together and switching between the freely, allowing you to destroy your opponents with everything Korra has up her sleeves. Plus, with several levels of difficulty, anyone from non-gaming Avatar fans to Platinum-loyal brawlers can find something to enjoy in the Avatar's shoes.
The game loyally recreates the best aspects of the show
Korra fans, rejoice! A look at this game in action shows that the art style fits in comfortably with the animation standard the Avatar series is known for. While it doesn't look exactly the same, lovely cel shaded characters and foregrounds matched up with brush-stroke backgrounds give the whole thing its own gorgeous flare. Bending has also been carefully recreated, keeping to the real-world martial arts inspirations for each of the bending styles and showing just how carefully the show was followed.
This is thanks not only to direct collaboration between the show's creative team and Platinum (more on that later), but because of Platinum's love for the source material. According to producer Atsushi Kurooka, the studio knew nothing about Korra when it was approached by Nickelodeon, and established IPs are foreign territory for them. However, when they got a look at the show's beautiful animation, engaging story and great action scenes, they jumped at the chance to make it. The result is an addition to the franchise so loyal that "spin-off" doesn't seem like the right word anymore.
The collaboration between show creators and game devs is top-notch
If the 'why' behind the game's loyal reprise is Platinum's interest in Korra, the 'how' is their tight collaboration with the series' creators. The game's script is the work of Tim Hedrick, writer for both The Last Airbender ("The Puppetmaster") and Legend of Korra ("Beginnings, Part 2"), meaning the tale we're getting comes right from the source. The game also sports the same voice actors as the show, as well as the same background music and even sound effects. Then there's the final boss, and while his/her/its identity remains a mystery, we know that creators from Nickelodeon Animation and Platinum directly collaborated on its design, ensuring it fits within the story we know and love.
Since the show's current fans are this game's biggest market, this kind of exchange is a definite plus. In a perfect world, all tie-in games would get this kind of treatment, with assets liberally shared between studios. This seems to be the exception however, and it's exciting to see creators and devs working together to build a product worthy of Korra's wide fanbase.
Expect fun mini-games, like competitive bending
Story-based beat downs aren't all this game has to offer: there are also beat down mini-games! Specifically, you get to take part in pro-bending tournaments, sporting events that fans of the show will remember as brutal and unforgiving brawls. While pro-bending definitely appears in the game's main story, a side mode will also be available where you can try your hand at the competitive bending circuit. Honestly the game would have felt unfinished without pro-bending, so the punishing duels and vicious combat this mode offers are totally welcome.
This isn't the only mini-game available, however. You can also expect an infinite-runner sidequest starring Korra and Naga, the Avatar's polar bear-dog companion, where they race through the streets of Republic City at top speed. Those are the two big additions we know of so far, but there may still be more to see before the game drops this fall.