Capcom had lots of exciting footage back in 2010's Tokyo Game Show, but one of the most interesting titles announced dealt with a demigod with an incredibly short fuse. Asura's Wrath promised an experience like no other; one that would blend cinematic cut scenes and gameplay in a seamless package. And while it may have fallen short in a few areas, the final package most assuredly delivers on its promise. Asura's Wrath is unlike anything I've ever experienced.
The game is set in an intriguing blend of Asian Mythology, Religion and Science Fiction, weaving the action together with fantastically choreographed anime style action sequences. The story revolves around the Eight Guardian Generals – demigods; upper class beings with extraordinary power, who rule over humans in the central nation of of the world - Shinkoku Trastrium. They protect the humans from monstrous creatures known as the Gohma, who come in all shapes and sizes. By harnessing Mantra – the essential life force or souls that exist in all beings of their universe, they can convert it into usable energy to fight off the Gohma. The most efficient way to harness mantra is through a Priestess, who can also amplify mantra in a being (such as the Generals). One of the Generals, Deus, grew tired of their leader's passiveness and staged a coup that framed Asura for the murder of their leader, stole his daughter Mithra, the current Priestess, and used her powers to amplify each of the (now 7) Guardian Generals. Forced into exile, Asura is banished for 12,000 years. And this is where Asura's Wrath picks up.
The story is your typical, if predictable, revenge tale. Asura climbs through the ranks, brutally fighting his way back to the top so he can beat Deus and rescue his daughter. As typical as this may be, the execution is outstanding and that is largely due to the structure of this game. Broken up into 18 chapters (plus a hidden chapter after acquiring S ranks on a certain number of levels), each chapter is presented in a way that truly feels like you are participating in an ongoing animated series. It goes as far as giving you previews of the next “episode”, intermissions that provide interesting background information, and each begin with rolling credits. The bulk of the game is presented through cut scenes, in fact there is about a three to two ratio for cut scenes to actual game play. This sentence may have already turned some players off, but the way the game transitions from gameplay to cut scene is marvelously done.
Most of the cut scenes have audience participation by way of quicktime events, where you quickly respond to action-heavy segments by hitting the corresponding button prompts. CyberConnect2 is notoriously famous for crafting some amazing quicktime events. The Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm games are perfect examples and have been universally praised for cut scenes that are near indistinguishable in both action and choreography from its anime source. With Asura's Wrath, they raised the seemingly impossibly high bar, and turned things up to 11. Asura is an angry, angry, angry dude. And he would like to share his anger with the rest of the world that opposes him. Throughout the game you will take on creatures that eclipse you, rendering you a tiny spec. You'll knock down giant tortoises and elephants, and of course, the Guardian Generals who betrayed you in their lust for power. Each boss fight feels like you're taking part in an episode of Dragon Ball Z.
I had to think long and hard for an appropriate way to critique the gameplay portion of Asura's Wrath. The game, isn't technically a game by traditional standards; it favoured a flashy presentation over an intricate game play mechanic. It certainly takes some very bold directions in terms of gameplay and should be commended for it. However, whether players find its variety in gameplay fun is another story. The game is basically split into three categories: quicktime events, on-rails segments and traditional action gameplay. If you're expecting a game that is solely dedicated to beat 'em up action, you will be disappointed.
The first is the obvious use of the quicktime events – staged pieces where you participate in elaborately directed action sequences. The second takes pages out of Space Invaders and plays like an on-rails shooter. These missions are littered with things to shoot at, and one of them in particular feels like a modern-day Sonic. Finally, we have traditional beat-em-up gameplay, where you mix light and heavy attacks, incorporate precisely timed counterattacks, unleash devastating supers, and build your meter so you can get into Burst mode (QTE's). Enemies come in all different sizes, and all have a different strategy to beat them with the most efficiency, however you may find yourself mashing buttons. While minimal, and simplistic, what's there works well. It's a different take on video games as a medium, where the gameplay takes a colossal back seat in place of the tale told, and the way that tale is presented.
Each chapter or episode concludes with an overall grade based on your performance. This depends on how fast you beat the chapter, how well you performed in combat and how fast your reflexes are for quick time events. Perfectionists like myself will definitely aim to score an S-rank on all chapters so in that sense there is a level of replay value. Outside of this however, there is very little reason to come back to Asura's Wrath after the first play-through. You can go back and unlock all the artwork, videos, and special life-guages if you wish, but it is not necessary, nor is there any real incentive. Capcom, and CC2 have already announced DLC for this game. Make no mistake, this isn't stuff cut out of the game; you're not receiving an unfinished product. These are additional content that flesh out the story and also provide a humerous nod to other Capcom series. The first DLC announced expands on the story and is presented in beautifully drawn anime. The second is a Street Fighter IV challenge where you fight against Ryu, and the level is structured to look as though you're fighting in a round of Street Fighter IV.
Visually speaking, Asura's Wrath is an assault on the eyes and ears. Characters have a gritty anime look to them, and if I haven't mentioned this already, they are some of the most expertly scripted scenes I've seen. During my initial play-through, I opted to play with the Japanese voices, a feature available for PS3 copies. The voices are all well done, and really hit the mark. As a test I tried the English audio for comparison. On the whole, it's predominantly good, with Steve Blum being fantastically over-the-top as Augus. It all boils down to preference in the end, but I was very pleased listening to the Japanese voice actors. The only downside to this, is that the lip movements are modeled to match the English dub.
Graphically, the game has its many ups, but some nasty downs as well. CyberConnect2 decided to use the ever popular Unreal 3 engine. As expected, the UE3 engine looks great when fully rendered. Therein lies the near consistent problem with the engine. Most games built on this suffer from texture pop-in, and unfortunately Asura's Wrath is guilty of this in spots. They only rear their ugly head when the camera is positioned at a certain angle where you're forced to look at a flat wall or muddled ground, but these are not frequent experiences. The game overall performs and looks fantastic.
I may be talking this game up to no end, but make no mistake: Asura's Wrath is not for everyone. If you're open-minded, and want something different from gaming, something you haven't quite experienced before, Asura's Wrath will absolutely quench your thirst. If you were expecting the next Devil May Cry, then you may have to wait til...well...til DmC comes out. Those that seek more substantial gameplay may feel uneasy about forking over $60, especially since the game runs for only about 7-9 hours. But, its ambition alone may be all the justification you need to warrant a purchase. Asura's Wrath truly is a shining example of what happens when developers get full control of creative design.
This game was reviewed on the PS3.
|» An experience like no other.|
|» Interesting setting blending Asian mythology, religion, and science fiction.|
|» Beautifully choreographed action.|
|» Minimalistic gameplay.|
|» Not much replay value outside of DLC.|
|» Unreal Engine 3's notorious texture pop-ins.|