Wow… What the hell did I just finish playing?!
Wow… What the hell did I just finish playing! I’m not saying that in a bad way, but more in the vein of the stuff that happens in this game, it’s crazy, it’s mental and it’s INSANE! Asura’s Wrath is an epic adventure, it’s a game that’s more of an experience, and it’s done in such a unique way that it’s not like any other videogame I have ever played. This is both a good and a bad thing, and at the same time limits the audience to a selected few who will understand what this game is trying to accomplish. You see, Asura’s Wrath is CyberConnect2’s attempt to make an anime-inspired videogame, and they’ve done that so well that calling this a game in the traditional sense is somewhat misleading.
You are thrown straight into the action when you start this game as you take control of playing Asura, the protagonist that has to be one of the most badass characters to grace gaming in a while. He’s part of The Eight Guardian Generals, a group of powerful warriors who serve to protect civilisation. The action kicks off with Asura spearheading through space blowing up strange infested beings known as the Gohma. After successfully saving the planet, Asura comes home to a hero’s welcome and has a meeting with thee Emperor. Unbeknownst to Asura, the Emperor is already dead, assassinated, and when he arrives to the meeting he’s set up as the murderer. Just to rub it in Asura’s face, the remaining seven generals kill his wife and kidnap his daughter. Wanting revenge, Asura goes after them and ends up getting banished into the pits of Naraka. 12,000 years later Asura is back and he’s full of anger, so much anger!
CyberConnect2 describes Asura’s Wrath as an “interactive anime” and have taken influence from anime TV shows. The game is split into 18 episodes, each lasting roughly around 20 minutes as it sticks closely to fully recreating the TV imprint that is imbedded in the game. Every episode has an opening and ending credit scene. There’s even a break halfway through an episode showing the title card artwork to simulate as if the show was taking a break for some adverts (sadly no spoof adverts are included) to show. Other games have done the episodic idea already, but none have done it to the point where it follows that idea so much.
Keeping with the anime theme, the art style and presentation of this game is simply dazzling. Models are covered in a pencil line effect to represent a hand drawn approach. These truly shine when you see them panned around in the well-crafted camera angles on display. The only ugly thing that rears its head is some screen tearing and the fact that this game uses the Unreal Engine 3, and we all know what that means…yeah… those damn textures that pop up later on after the models and environment have loaded in and are animating. It’s a damn shame this stuff isn’t sorted out yet in that engine because it spoils what is a super-stylish, nitty-gritty manga style that looks more adult in tone than a lot of the popular anime shows today.
During the course of the game you are going to do some crazy stuff. I mean seriously, this game has you fighting a boss that is bigger than the planet you live on, and the most amusing thing is how you take it down [which will be left to your imagination as I don’t want to spoil much of the action that goes on in Asura's Wrath]. It’s one of the best things about this game; you never know what madness it’s going to throw in your direction next. A lot of this stuff isn’t done through your typical gameplay; instead the game includes a huge amount of player driven events, although to you and me we mostly know them as quick time events (QTEs). The reason why CyberConnect2 refuses to call them QTEs is because you technically cannot fail the input press. When it comes to games that include QTEs they usually require you to replay the scene until you pass all the inputs, not in Asura’s Wrath. Player driven events are more to do with synchronising yourself with the on screen action. If you fail the input you will still continue on and the scene won’t change, but your overall score at the end of the chapter will be lowered because you didn’t get the timing spot on. QTEs are positioned on the screen to closely represent the action that is going on. I am a fan of QTEs and I enjoyed every minute I spent performing them in Asura’s Wrath.
I haven’t spoken about the actual gaming parts yet, and as you’ve probably guessed by now that’s because there isn’t much of that. If I was to take a stab at guessing the percentage between gameplay and interactive scenes then I’d probably say this game is 70% cutscene and player driven events and 30% combat. I do wish there was more of it because the combat is a pretty good. When you are down to controlling Asura there are two types of situations that appear. One is a Panzer Dragoon/Sin and Punishment on the rails shooter where you have to lock onto targets and blast them away with energy from Asura’s fists, the other is bare hand fighting.
Fist combat isn’t the deepest, but it contains enough to keep you engrossed in pummelling your foes. Asura has the ability to attack using a combination of punches and kicks. A stronger attack can be used to blast foes away, but after use it must recharge before you can do it again. Constantly beating on fools will charge up a bar of energy that when released allows you to repeatedly use the stronger move until the metre runs out.
Exploring is never an option on foot as fights are locked in location, setting up some kind of gladiator arena showdown. Fights serve as a purpose to give the player something to do in-between scenes. Bosses don’t have health bars. To kill them you need to keep applying the pressure until the Burst bar is filled up so that you can initiate it. I like to call this the “flipping cool bar” because on activation it leads to the next lot of QTEs. In the end that’s what you are always aiming to do, charge the bar and then interact with some cool action sequence as an reward.
All this awesomeness does come at a cost, and it’s a cost that I can’t see many people jumping on board for unless they are stoked for some gaming anime. Asura’s Wrath lasts around six hours. I’m not a person who delves that much in to a game’s length, since Vanquish was about the same length and was one hell of a game. The problematic thing with this is that you are technically playing one third of the game, pressing buttons for the other and then just sitting on your arse for the last third. It’s something I can’t see people willing to spend £40 on at launch.
After the exceptional ride I was taken on with Asura’s Wrath I had to sit down and think hard for a while. Can I simply hate on a game that’s not allowing me all the freedom that most games do? I could say yes, but I’d be lying straight through my teeth. Screw rules on what a videogame should be. When I am taking part in this one-of-a-kind ride that was absolutely mind-blowingly ace, I don’t care about them. I want CyberConnect2 to work on getting this blend of anime storytelling and interaction spot on for a sequel, and I will fully jump for joy if it’s ever announced. Asura’s Wrath is a game that goes into a rage and stomps on whatever we call the convention of video games. And you know what? I’m going to join in the stomping too, because the reason I play games is for refreshing engagements that entertain me, and Asura’s Wrath hit the spot.