Asura's Wrath Review: So Much Wrath
Asura's Wrath may be the biggest gamble I have played in a long time. Its an interactive anime from Capcom and CyberConnect2, being primarily played via quick time events with some limited points of direct player control. Its an extremely strange game, being similar in certain ways to the likes of Dragon's Lair and Heavy Rain, but with a striking style and theme. So, does this bizarre hybrid of a game hold up against the competition, and is it worth your time?
The story of Asura's Wrath pits a technologically advanced and extremely powerful civilization against a demonic race of monsters called the Gohma. The Gohma are ravaging the planet and destroying all life in their path, and the only force capable of opposing them are the 8 Guardian Generals who lead the armies of the Shinkoku Tristrium. Asura is one of these Guardian Generals and the game opens with the Asura and his allies victorious against the evil Gohma. However, things take a turn for the worse and Asura is betrayed by the other 7 deities and franed for a heinous crime he didn't commit. His family taken from him and after being cast down, Asura reawakens after 12,000 years in the underworld. So begins a bloody quest for vengeance as Asura witnesses the bleak tyrannical world ruled over by his former allies, who have made themselves gods.
Asura's Wrath is a revenge story at its heart but it is told in a surprisingly delicate fashion, alternating between the intense combat sequences and the quiet moments of reflection. The game is broken up into 3 parts, each consisting of 6 chapters. There are anime art scenes between each chapter, expanding the story and explaining events that further the strength of the scene. While its a pity these little filler sections are not fully animated they do add a lot to the story, especially regarding the villains and their actions and motives.
Asura himself is a reasonably likeable character despite all his screaming and anger. His plight is just and the game does a great job of getting the player on his side. There are some great villains, with the Ganondorf esque Deus in the lead antagonist role. Augus and Wyzen are also amusing and entertaining foes, and the interactions between Asura and his divine enemies is really fantastic. The Gohma also play a strong role in the game, representing another faction that is opposed to both Asura and the gods that betrayed him. Its an interesting narrative that could have been better if the dialogue was not so stilted and unnatural in so many important scenes.
The aesthetic design of Asura's Wrath is really beautiful, mixing Asian mythology with sci-fi themes to create a really unique look. Many of the enemy designs and environmental areas borrow from Hinduism, Buddhism and far eastern architecture to create a fantastic and detailed world in certain areas. Asura himself looks like his flesh has been chiseled out of rock, and many of the characters have a striking similarity in style to the Street Fighter IV cast. Exaggerated muscles and powerful physiques are the order of the day, and its a fantastic visual style for the game to adopt.
On a technical level the game is slightly less impressive. Textures often lack details, with some scenes involving human villagers being particularly lacking in detail. The character models hair was very poorly rendered and the village was sparse and empty, along with identical character models and ugly backdrops. However Asura's Wrath is more often good looking than these few poor visual scenes, with a world rich in colour and vibrant thanks to its energetic style. The soundtrack of Asura's Wrath is stunning, with a fantastic mix of Japanese traditional music and monk chants. Its a selectively and wisely chosen mix of tracks that go really well together and bring the game to life. The voice acting of the main characters is strong, with the flamboyant Augus in particular being incredibly funny. Sadly the side characters can be voiced horribly, but they take up so little screen time that it is nearly irrelevant.
Finally, something has to be said about the fantastic character animations. For a game that has so many long and over the top cinematic sequences Asura's Wrath really manages to pull of impressive choreography in exactly the way it needed to. There are scenes that will challenge all the possibilities you had in your mind for the content of this game, with the boss fights being the most explosive and impressive parts of the game, and this is a striking triumph for CyberConnect2.
Despite the excellent visual style and music and entertaining story, the gameplay of Asura's Wrath is where things become problematic. The vast majority of the game is made up of quick time events, and while entertaining they get rather repetitive and lacking interaction as things progress. I don't have a problem with quick time events, and when they are used well they are fine. Asura's Wrath does use them well, but the issue is that they are most of the game, and this is just not a satisfying way to play a game in my opinion.
The combat sections where you do have direct control over Asura are also sorely lacking, with limited combat options and a certain slowness to them that is laughable when compared to games like Bayonetta, Darksiders 2 and God of War 3. The enemy types are very limited and you always end combat sequences the same way: fill up your bar to its max by inflicting damage and then hit RT to get to the next QTE section. Its lacking in depth and just gets in the way of the games focus on the story driven QTE's, relegating the combat to time filler.
The boss fights on the other hand are generally excellent, with some truly exciting sequences that were clearly well thought out in order to leave the maximum impression on the player. These are the heart and soul of Asura's Wrath thanks to their scale and level of entertainment, and are the main reason to play through this game. The other sections of direct controlm overwrought QTE's and shooting galleries are a side show at best.
Focusing on what it wants to do, Asura's Wrath is a well designed game. It implements its quick time events nicely and controls easily throughout its 6 hour length. I encountered no technical issues to speak of and overall the game just runs well and as intended. However, there are some bad design choices present in Asura's Wrath that damage the overall package. Firstly, the game plays the credits list at the start of every level, and I mean every level. This is intrusive, annoying and completely unnecessary. Maybe it was done to capture the essence of an anime show on tv but this is a video game and I feel that the constant credits had no place in the game.
The menu system in Asura's Wrath is also poor, with no continue option available and a clunky UI layout that can get int the way of the action at times. These are not major issues but they were enough to be particularly annoying considering how important it is to be able to react to the QTE prompts that the game so fondly throws at the player. Asura's Wrath also takes breaks in the middle of every level, almost like a "previously on" section. This does become very annoying and is another unnecessary intrusion that was likely made in the name of making it feel like an anime.
Asura's Wrath is a unique and extremely strange game. It has a worthwhile story with fantastic boss encounters and a soundtrack to match. The art style is attractive and sharp, and the animations are a pure joy to behold. It is also an extremely short game, with no multiplayer to speak of. There is an unlockable hidden ending that expands the story, but this is only resolvable by purchasing the DLC, a disgusting practice that I hate, and that Capcom is all too fond of doing. I really enjoyed my time with the over the top Asura's Wrath, but it is very difficult to recommend this game at anything more than half of full price. Its just too short and with too little player interaction to call it a must buy, especially with how little replay value it contains. Asura's Wrath would be a great rental, and certainly give it a try if you can find it cheap. However, despite all its merits I would say that Asura's Wrath can be safely missed, largely due to it having an identity crisis between being a video game and being an anime show.
- Lovely aesthetic style and animations
- Great soundtrack
- Massive scale and impressive presentation
- Very few game like this on the market
- Too little player interaction
- Short with no replay value
- DLC ending
- Shallow and repetitive combat system
- Silly design decisions
- Moon battle
- 7/10 - Good