“In a lost age, the world is divided into four nations: the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads. Within each nation, there is a remarkable order of men and women called the “benders” who can learn to harness their inborn talent and manipulate their native element. Bending is a powerful form combining martial art and elemental magic.
In each generation, only one bender is solely capable of controlling all four elements. That bender is the Avatar. The Avatar is the spirit of the world manifests in human form. When the Avatar dies, it reincarnates into the next nation in the cycle. Starting with the mastery of his or her native element, the Avatar learns to bend all four elements. Throughout the ages, the countless incarnations of the Avatar have served to keep the four nations in harmony.
Then, the firebenders attacked. Just as the world needed the Avatar the most, he mysteriously vanished. A hundred years later, the Fire Nation is near final victory in its ruthless war of world domination. The Air Nomads were destroyed, the Air Temples ravished, and all airbender monks eradicated. The Water Tribes were raided and driven to the brink of extinction. The Earth Kingdom remains and fights a hopeless war against the Fire Nation. Many believe the Avatar was never reborn into the Air Nomads and the cycle is broken.
In the desolated South Pole, a lone Water tribe struggles to survive. It is here that the village’s last remaining waterbender Katara and her warrior brother Sokka rescue a strange 12-year-old boy named Aang who has been suspended in hibernation in an iceberg. The tribe soon discovers that Aang is not only an Airbender–the extinct race no one has seen in a century–but also the long lost Avatar. Now Katara and Sokka must safeguard the child Avatar in his journey to master all four elements and save the world from the Fire Nation.”
Now that you know the story, know the game. Avatar: The Last Airbender the game is an original thread in the overall Avatar story line, and not only is it a licensed game, but a very competent one.
Normally, when we get licensed titles, the games are built around poor graphics engines in order to save the development team money on a tight budget. Fortunately for us gamers, the DS allows developers to create strong and stable engines to run their games at an economical cost. With Avatar, we are presented with an isometric view and a very solid 2d engine with some quasi 3d game worlds. Each part of the game is broken up into fairly large areas to explore, and each area has its own unique look dependant on the location in the game world.
From the arctic to the desert the game represents the Avatar world very convincingly. As well, all the characters look great and look like they were pulled right out of your television. Animations run smoothly and the effects are clean as well. There are also several nice touches as well. You can rotate the camera so you can get a good look at all of your surrounding, and the game has fully animated cut scenes! Not a lot of them mind you but enough to make one take notice. I was definitely pleased to see the developers craft a world true to the source material. I did knock the game some because a lot of what was done in game graphically could have been done on the GBA alone, and I would’ve liked to see them take advantage of the DS hardware more.
I cannot tell a lie. I am a big fan of the Avatar music. The game pulls all of it’s soundtrack from the television show, and it’s all top shelf tunes. Since the Avatar cartoon is heavily derived from Eastern and Asian influences, it is only fitting that the game shares that slant. On top of the great tunes, Avatar has limited voice acting and fairly decent sound effects. The DS’s stereo speakers deliver every attack and spell with a crisp and clean sound. THQ even thought to have recorded voice acting straight from the cartoon’s talent. If you’ve read any of my other DS reviews you would know that I am a big fan of voice acting in my games. So it makes me very happy to hear the voices in the game, and not just in my head.
Let me get my own control gripe out of the way. Like many multiplatform DS games, Avatar doesn’t utilize the touch screen like they should. This is a problem that will keep popping up until Nintendo really kills off the GBA. You use the touch screen to access your inventory, maps and chose your character to use. Beyond that there is not much that doesn’t use the buttons. Avatar is an action RPG, and it the controls are very solid. Two separate attack types are mapped as well as two different block moves. These are used in combination to defeat a multitude of enemies. Combat is easy to grasp and is actually a lot of fun once you learn the nuances of defending and attacking.
As I mentioned, the camera control is great and really allows you to explore the entire game world. The major drawbacks with the controls systems are repetition of attacks. Being easy to use sometimes translates into repetitive actions. Adding some more combo attacks into the game would’ve been appreciated. Lastly, if you aren’t going to map a majority of the controls to the touch screen don’t make me have to use it to use items to heal. Otherwise, the controls work, are easy to master if not a little repetitive.
The basics of Avatar are exploring each area to advance the story line while beating up Fire Nation troops and taking on the occasional side quest. Built around an original story, fans of the television show will be salivating to find out what happens to Aang and friends. All the major show characters make an appearance and you can play with all of them as well.
Gameplay is centered on an action RPG mechanic. All battles are real time and you can see the enemies on the game field before moving in for a fight. Each character has upgradeable and unique moves that only they can use. Aang air bends, Sokka has weapon moves and Katara water bends. As you defeat enemies you gain the requisite experience to get stronger and learn new moves and upgrade the ones you already know. One thing that was disturbing was the need to level grind. There were parts that were very difficult to pass without beating up a lot of troops.
In addition to making war with the Fire Nation, Aang can also help the locals with their problems. The only issue I had with the side quests is that most of them devolved into fetch quests. I would’ve much rather had more variety in these quests. Along with the side quests are specific special sections. In each area there are areas that you normally wouldn’t have to check out and you are rewarded for exploring with new skills, items and experience when you figure what to do in these special areas. On the whole, the game play is fairly basic and generic action RPG. It doesn’t mean that it’s broken, just that it’s geared to the less experienced gamer. If you know anyone who has reservations to role playing games, but likes the Avatar world, introducing them to this title would be a great gateway game.
There’s some good meat to this single player only adventure, but the title will still end too soon for gamer