by Matthew Thompson
Platinum Games is the current king of pure action gaming and October saw the release of their two latest titles. After putting them both through their paces over the last few weeks, I am here with a mini-review for each.
The Legend of Korra
It’s hard to not notice the budget constraints when playing The Legend of Korra, but there is still plenty to like here. The main appeal is the combat. If you are a fan of either of the Avatar TV series, this game will deliver the joy of bending the elements in game-form. It takes a little too long to unlock all your powers (which makes a second playthrough a bit more fun than the first), but once you do there are a lot of options at your disposal in combat. Each element has its own advantages. Earth provides slow but powerful attacks while Fire gives you much quicker combos. Waterbending is the best to handle enemies at range while Airbending is… well… really overpowered but fun as hell to use. Being able to switch these on the fly and string them together for long combos is where the fun really lies. One second you’ll be kicking large rocks towards your opponents while the next you are filling the air with swirling tornadoes before finishing foes off with a barrage of ice shards. Standard action game components like dodges, counters and mini-game finishers help flesh out the battle system. Where it falters is with its lack of enemy and boss variety as well as a troublesome camera in tight areas.
It also doesn’t do a great job outside of combat. I love the idea of working Naga into the game. I mean who wouldn’t want to ride around on a polar bear dog? But doing so in a Temple Run knock-off is not what I had in mind. To top it off, the boss fight from one of these segments is probably the low point in the game. While Pro-bending fares a bit better than these, it didn’t do a lot for me either.
I really wish they had done a bit more with the world and story too. The Avatar universe is a much more appealing one than Platinum’s original efforts, but the world here feels really empty and the story isn’t anything to write home about. While the voice-acting, visuals and music help to transfer some of the series’ charm to this game adaptation, I was hoping for more.
And that is kind of how I felt about the whole game. I can’t help but imagine what a bigger budget Korra game might feel like. One where you explore larger regions with NPCs and side missions. Maybe even using Naga as a ride-able mount in places. With more enemy types to provide a more varied combat experience. Still what Platinum delivered for this smaller downloadable title is solid. The combat system here isn’t Platinum’s best, but it is still a step above most full-retail games. Those looking for a cheap action game or fans who want to play the role of Avatar and bend some elements will have fun with The Legend of Korra. Grade: B
While Korra is a fun way for action gamers to spend some time, Bayonetta 2 is an absolute must-play for fans of the genre. Combat simply doesn’t get much better than this. It has everything you’d want from that aspect and then some. Lots of weapons (along with the standard pistols, I personally loved the scythe). A deep combo system including high-flying aerial attacks. Plenty of different enemy types. This includes bosses of both the giant screen-filling type and the ones that are more like Bayonetta herself (the Masked Lumen battles are particularly great). And then clever things like Witch-Time and Dodge Offset that help give the series a unique flavor of its own. Plus I just love how over the top it all is. There is nothing like summoning a giant hair toad to munch on an enemy or playing Rock’em Sock’em Robots with a rival’s own giant baddie. It is just plain fun and one of those things that makes me love gaming. If all that sounds a lot like the original that is because it is. But there are a bunch of smaller tweaks that make for a smoother experience as well as larger additions like Umbran Climax, a welcome alternative to the Torture Attack finishers that help you keep the combos flowing.
Bayonetta 2 also cuts some of the fat from the original game. While there are a couple of vehicle sections of sorts here, they aren’t nearly as obnoxious as in the first affair. I’d even go as far to praise Umbran Armor, a mech of sorts, as the exact kind of change of pace vehicle segments I like to see in games. Like Halo’s Ghost, it controls very similarly to the way the standard gameplay does. So it helps create a varied play experience without getting too far away from why I want to sit down and play Bayonetta in the first place.
If I had to knock Bayonetta 2, it’d be in the story area. I don’t come into action games like this for the story, but some of Bayo 2’s talk-y cutscenes hurt the momentum and pacing. Having a bad story is one thing, but having it get in the way of my fun is another and at times this one does. I’m also not really big on the game’s aesthetics. I generally like the environments and some of the enemies, but other character designs and the way some characters act aren’t really my thing. Loki’s design is some all-time bad stuff and to be honest, I don’t like Bayonetta’s look either. These are small gripes in the grand scheme of things though. The game’s visuals are technically fine and it runs fantastically which is more important in a game like this than the actual graphics.
Bayonetta 2 is the most enjoyable pure action game of its ilk I have played outside of Itagaki-era Ninja Gaiden. And with Team Ninja a shell of its former self, I am so glad that Platinum with Nintendo’s aid was able to create this sequel. There is nothing out there quite like it these days and if for no other reason than that, it is a can’t miss title. Grade: A-
That will do it for my take on Platinum’s latest titles. Be on the lookout for more game reviews soon. Thanks for reading!