If you're done with all the Dragon Ball Z and Naruto games flooding the market and you want some more anime action then perhaps Avatar: The Last Airbender is what you crave. Based on Nickolodeon's anime du jour, the game is an action-RPG that tries to capture the flavor of the humorous and exciting animated series. Unfortunately, the action, RPG elements, brand usage, and Wii-specific controls aren't as good as they could have been.
What the Hell is an Airbender?
Avatar: The Last Air Bender is set in a world where elemental powers rule the day. The four elements of earth, wind, fire, and water correspondent to various alignments and nations (which are, naturally, of the warring variety). The protagonist of the show, Aang, is the manifestation of the planet's spirit in human form. Only he can master all four elements and unite the lands in peace.
While the premise of the show is pretty cool, the narrative in the game is quite shallow. The game's story lacks the compelling character development and unique humor of the cartoon. It's a pretty cut-and-dry tale that will definitely disappoint fans.
The gameplay is an interesting mix of action and RPG elements. Think of it as a kiddy version of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. You run around, beat things up, go on quests, collect things, and eventually save the day. The seeds were there for this to have been a quality game, but enough care and time was given to the product. Both the combat and RPG elements are trite. There's way too much mindless bashing and fetch quests going on in this game.
One of the key differences between this game and other action-RPGs is that you have a party of heroes to control. The game features four playable characters from the show. While you control one character, the game's AI takes care of the others in your party. Each of them has unique abilities and special attacks. Unfortunately, the differentiation and character balance are off. For the bulk of the game, you'll find yourself using the lead character. Occasionally you'll switch to the designated healer when things aren't going your way. The other two character? You'll see them in the dictionary when you look up there word "meh."
Poor Wii Controls
While the special attacks are cool and could have added a lot of depth to the game, you never really have to use them. It's entirely possible to beat the game with 99 percent button mashing. Furthermore, the implementation of special attacks on the Wii feels tacked on. On the other consoles, you had to time button presses to unleash special attacks--if you were accurate, you'd get a big payoff. On the Wii, you have to draw matching symbols to use these attacks…and, for better or worse, accuracy left town during this implementation. You can be pretty far off from what's on the screen and you'll magically bash you enemies with style. Again, this was a potentially cool facet of the game that fell flat on its face.
If you're looking at screenshots of the game, Avatar on Wii is a pretty fair representation of the show. The characters and color palette appear just as they do on the show. While they look great in still shots, the animation is a little clunky, repetitive, and ultimately a let down. Sound is similarly uneven; while the music is forgettable and the dialogue repetitive, having the real actors from the show definitely adds some authenticity.
They Made this Game for Whom?
Okay, so who is this game for? Well, fans of the animated series will like it more than they ought to, but will be secretly disappointed. Gamers looking for a cool action-RPG with some anime style will be let down. The only way we can absolutely recommend this game is if you love Avatar: The Last Airbender as much as you do breathing. Even if you're huge fan of the series, this game is worth a rental at most.
Article by: Raymond M Padilla
Video produced by: Michael Benson