Asura’s Wrath Review
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Oh, Japan… I know you’re an amazing, prosperous country that is well ahead of its time in many aspects, but when you’re not weirding me out with your square watermelons, or grossing me out with your tentacleness, you’re usually blowing my mind with sheer testosterone-filled superhero martial arts space operas. I’ve been through my fair share anime phases throughout my short life, but never really considered myself a huge fan of the style. However, I’ve recently come across Capcom and Cyberconnect2’s ass kicking lovechild: Asura’s Wrath.
The player takes up “arms” as Asura; a hot-headed, yet warm hearted, demigod in the midst of the ongoing war against the Gohma: a demonic race of beings willed into existence by the planet itself. And although he manages to subdue the most powerful of these beings, he finds himself caught up in a conspiracy of astronomical proportions; framed for the assassination of the Emperor, and betrayed and murdered by his fellow demigod generals, who slay his wife and kidnap his daughter in a plot to gain power to “save the world” whilst suppressing his own. Awoken by a mysterious golden spider, dangling from a tower in the underworld of Naraka, Asura climbs furiously toward his traitorous foes seeking revenge and the rescue of his daughter, Mithra.
Let me get things started by discussing the gameplay that frequently switches between a beat ‘em up brawler and an on-rails shooter, tightly woven together with cinematic action sequences that progress forward with simple quick time event button and joystick prompts. During the former, Asura’s fury can manifest itself through the deity sprouting six arms, or sometimes when he’s taken enough of a beating he literally doesn’t have any arms at all. These novelties are purely aesthetic used only to further the plot events however and don’t affect the combative gameplay in the least.
The combat consists of the run of the mill light attack, heavy attack setup with the addition of the “Unlimited Gauge” that allows for continuous heavy attacks and the “Burst Gauge’ that is filled according to the damage done to enemies. Damaging opponents and using the burst gauge is then used to trigger events which then further the story, instead of the traditional alternative of simply depleting enemies of their health.
The on-rails sections are, with exception of one or two sequences, vapid and consist of your character spraying energy all over the screen at whatever comes up until, again, the burst gauge is filled to continue on. Most of the game, however, is spent watching cutscenes and participating in quick time events during the performance of both the seemingly insignificant and ludicrously epic physical feats of the title character. These events do succeed in their effort to immerse you in moment by assigning certain buttons to specific actions (pushing the joysticks toward each other will clasp Asura’s arms together, rapidly mashing B button produces a flurry of hypersonic punches, etc.), but can also distract you from the spectacle that’s going on and, oddly-vice versa- getting caught up in the spectacle can distract you from the button prompts.
From what I’ve said of the gameplay so far and if you, um… ignored the score at the bottom of the page, I may be giving the impression that I’m coming down on it hard, but that’s not necessarily the case. The presentation of Asura’s story is what makes the game stand out from the masses, being a cinematic tour de force like most nothing else on the market. Cosmic set pieces, cross-continental fist fights with memorable, eccentric characters, and boss fights with immeasurable grandeur brought to life with beautifully designed character models. Those of which are made to mimic the visual style of anime, done with cel shading and textures reminiscent of brush strokes in paintings. Asura’s model being particularly impressive, principally his facial expressions that do one hell of a job capturing his rage. Villages, valleys, canyons and mountains are all rendered superbly with appropriate weather effects to complete the ambiance used to enhance the ridiculous brawls at hand.
With a brilliant blend of Japanese figures of Buddhism and science fiction, mythology meets technology, the hierarchic world of Gaea and the cybernetically enhanced demigods that rule it become unbelievably believable in a wacky, cheesy bad voiceover kind of way. Watching the drama unfold, and the spectacular battles destroy the gorgeous landscapes harkens me back to my DragonBall Z days of old. I mean, getting stabbed with a sword long enough to penetrate clear through to the other side of the planet, and a climactic event of literal global proportions all whilst sporadic traditional Japanese music spliced with guitar solos can’t be described as anything but 100% pure awesome.
The game is separated into episodes, again, akin to an anime series, including the credits spurred over the opening and closing scenes with recaps of the previous episode, and don’t forget the classic “next time on…” to close things off. In between said episodes are text-based interludes to tie together the events of the plot, featuring stunning work of some of the very talented artists at Capcom’s disposal.
Replay value is limited with most of the concept art and extra features being unlocked as soon as you finish the game once. Although it is attempted with certain achievements, difficulty levels, and health gauges, immediately playing the game again can be gruelling as the cutscenes are unskippable, naturally, being a heavy part of the interactivity. The gameplay overall may be shallow and anything but innovative to the genre, but is mixed and used sparingly enough, with a surprisingly varied enemy roster, that it remains engaging throughout. You’ll also likely blast through the entire game in a day or two, making it a tough buy to recommend to all gamers, but definitely worth a rent.
Unique in its own right, it’s worthy of cult status – what with the space armadas commanded by robotic versions of religious figures, single punches taking out colossal cosmic gods, and demon gorillas (And who in their right mind isn’t intrigued by the prospect of demon gorillas?) a tale of deific vengeance has never been put forth with such, well, badassery. It’s a word.