Giant Bomb Review

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Asura's Wrath Review

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  • X360

You may not be the kind of person who should play Asura's Wrath at all, but if you are, you're in for one hell of a weird ride.

My fist your face yeeeeeeaaaaaah!

By the numbers, Asura's Wrath sounds terrible. A six-hour game composed primarily of cutscenes and Quick Time Events, with some simplistic God of War-style character action peppered here and there. Less frequently it turns into Panzer Dragoon for a few minutes at a time, but I am telling you for your own sake, right up top, that you will play through most of this game by pressing a single button or nudging an analog stick when instructed in order to keep the elaborately choreographed but otherwise hands-off action roiling across your screen. It feels like the kind of guilty pleasure that you and me, serious players of video games, should be embarrassed for enjoying. What satisfaction could there possibly be in a game that largely plays itself?

In spite of the one big, obvious caveat, I kind of love this game. It's just so unashamed to be utterly ludicrous--actually, it's infectiously excited about being ludicrous--that you can't help getting swept up in the neon-colored, planet-spanning clashes between gods taking place in front of you. What the developers actually set out to make is not a traditional video game, but instead a mildly interactive season of Dragon Ball Z that's slightly more adult in aesthetic and tone...but only slightly. They not only nailed but surpassed that goal with so much aplomb that I repeatedly ended up leaning forward in my seat, practically pumping my fist in the air. I was definitely pumping my fist in my head, anyway.

The framing of the action is top-notch.

You don't need to concern yourself with the particulars of the game's story to marvel at its spectacle. But the woeful tale of demigod Asura and his betrayal at the hands of seven other deities is actually told with care, alternating deftly between moments of quiet pathos and high-flying kung fu fights in space. The former is largely there to justify the latter, as you spend the bulk of the game helping Asura expunge his rage into his onetime allies' faces with his divine robot fists, which he usually only has two of but which will occasionally multiply into six when the action calls for it. Things only get more ridiculous from there, and if you were impressed by the buzzed-about scene in the demo that pitted human-sized Asura against a world-destroying, planet-sized space Buddha, well, there's plenty more where that came from.

That sequence seems kind of tame, now that I think about it, considering the sorts of unrestrained nonsense the game flings at you later on. Sheer craziness isn't enough; it's also about the way the craziness is presented. The visuals have a tremendous scale, and the action is masterfully framed by someone who really knows how to work a camera angle. And it all takes place against a backdrop of marauding demons and divine plans to cleanse the world in fire planet-sized tentacle monsters and trillions of souls coalescing into metaphysical superweapons and...well, it's the sort of quasi-mythological futuristic nonsense that's exclusively the domain of anime and JRPGs. I'm generally so fatigued by that stuff these days that I rarely want to go near it, but this game lays it all out there so willingly and is just so darn enthusiastic about it all that I eventually threw myself in there and gleefully went along for the ride. It's a hell of a ride, and it tweaks your brain's pleasure center for flashing lights and clashing fists so hard that I was surprised how much I also cared about what was going to happen to specific characters by the end of it. It's almost as if the story beats give weight and meaning to the action. Imagine that!

RAAAAAAAAAAAAGE.

Asura's Wrath is an incredible thing to watch, but in thinking about whether to recommend this game, I can't help coming back to how you play it. There's just not much to it. The Quick Time Events should be self-explanatory, and the melee combat is also largely devoid of technique. You've got a light combo attack and a heavy move with a cooldown, a jump kick and a charge punch. Even bosses lack health bars; the goal of every combat encounter is to fill up your "burst" meter by attacking stuff, and when it's full, you pull the right trigger to explode out another QTE that will move you along to the next part of the story. (Yelling "Burst!" every time you do this is optional but highly encouraged.) The fighting is really just something you button-mash your way through between big action sequences, with the exception of a couple of annoyingly tricky bosses who do a ton of damage and can knock you out of your attacks and generally just obliterate you. In those cases it's best to hang back and dodge until they launch into a canned animation that you can parry with a button prompt, which is the best way to fill up your burst quickly. See, they can't even keep the Quick Time stuff out of the parts where you're almost playing an actual video game.

For story-related reasons, the game at least does a good job of mixing up the rare moments of gameplay by leaning more heavily on shooting in the last third, where you'll be taking down multiple targets with the sort of lock-on shooting for which Panzer Dragoon has become the obvious shorthand. While I'm getting all referential, there's more than a tinge of Space Harrier in those late-game shooting sequences as well, when you start running or flying forward at a zillion miles an hour through spaceship corridors and galactic fleets, dodging obstacles and shooting down bad robots. The game actually scores you on your combat performance, button-prompt accuracy, and time, doling out a ranking after each episode (culminating in the coveted S) that feeds into some unlocks and achievements, so there's an incentive beyond seeing the story to try and do well at this stuff, and even to go back to it multiple times if you truly need to get everything.

Seriously, y'all.

Simple as the game may be, I just couldn't bother to feel underwhelmed by what I was doing when contrasted with the sheer enormity of what I was watching. This game could have just as easily been an actual animated series or movie with little lost in the translation, but I'll admit to a Pavlovian sort of satisfaction at the repetitive action of hitting a button every few seconds and being rewarded with another exceptional action scene. Whether that's enough to qualify Asura's Wrath as a truly interactive experience isn't for me to decide, but somehow the whole thing comes together and works a heck of a lot better than it seems like it should. The pervasive anime trappings help bind the package together, all the way down to little "next time on" teasers that play after each episode, and customizable commercial bumpers the game cuts to at dramatic moments. The English voiceover is perfectly serviceable, and in fact the actors clearly had a lot of fun with the amount of yelling they got to do. But the inclusion of the Japanese voiceover is much appreciated since the acting there has such a throaty, dramatic weight, as it does in almost all anime. The designers even know how to work the UI for maximum impact, dropping an extra title card at a dramatic moment here and there, or doing some creative things with the placement of the button prompts to correspond to the action. The expert presentation and production values really help make up for the low degree of interactivity.

Even still, Asura's Wrath is such a strange game to describe, much less to try to recommend, or not. I don't think it's the best value at the full $60 price, and if the idea of mostly hitting buttons when prompted for six hours sounds like a drag to you, it won't be a good value for you no matter how cheap it gets. At the same time, it feels like Japan embracing what Japan does best, tying together strong art design, passionate storytelling, and a decades-long tradition of high-flying action starring larger-than-life mythical figures. It's an anime with pixel shaders instead of ink, bringing to bear all the strengths of that medium but with just enough game-like hooks to justify its place on a console. Do I think all games should head in this direction? Certainly not. But am I glad this one is the way it is? You bet your planet-destroying space Buddha.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
164 Comments
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Posted by isles

I never asked for this.

Posted by Ares42

Nice to see Brad finished this =)

Posted by Animasta

... really? was not expecting that.

Posted by Brad

@Animasta said:

... really? was not expecting that.

You and me both.

Posted by Cloudenvy

YEAH!

Posted by RaidenMitsuru

This game has cool characters and a cool world. But the gameplay is just not there, this could have been an outstanding new character action game.

Posted by isles

This review has sold me on getting this game when I have money to spend on games. I really do not care about the QTEs if the craziness of the game is as well done as you intimate.

Posted by kerse

Man, thats unexpected but awesome, I knew from watching the quick look I would probably love this game. I'll be getting this soon probably. Thanks Brad.

Posted by Cheesebob

Yes Brad! You rock!

Posted by Oni

Alright, that seals the deal. If even Brad can get behind this game, after seeming pretty down on it in the QL and in concept, I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy this (I enjoyed the demo a lot, for what it's worth).

Posted by Satsugai

I find myself playing this with a big, dumb grin on my face.

Posted by OllyOxenFree

Glad that you enjoyed it, Brad! Now if only we can kickstart cyberconnect2 on making a DBZ game...

Edited by LiQuid3600

I watched the entire game played on YouTube. As someone who dislikes character action games, rail shooters and quick time events, there is nothing here from a gameplay perspective for me. I'm also not typically a fan of anime or Japanese weirdness, but the stuff here is so over the top, akin to Fist of the North Star, or Dragon Ball on steroids that it is a total blast to watch. For the crossover of action/shooter gamer and anime junkie that this game is best catered to, I'm extremely glad that it exists, for there's nothing else like this out there.

A shaky value proposition at full retail price, just given its component parts, but if you're the type of person that stands to reap the most benefit from a production like this, I don't feel like any asking price would be too high for the amount of belly laugh inducing zaniness on display here.

Well done, Brad, for shining a light on a game that is likely to go under a lot of radars.

Posted by CJduke

Another surprising review

Posted by Hailinel

RAGE NEVER GETS POOR REVIEWS.

Posted by RecSpec

Insane Heavy Rain with more gameplay? Sounds like a winner to me.

Posted by Floope

Not a three? oh my. I think i want this.

Edited by IkariNoTekken

You obviously enjoyed this game Brad, and it shows in this wonderfully personal review. Also must add, the screenshots used are fantastic; I always look at them in reviews but this time they really stuck out to me. A credit to the games art style and over the top display of action.

I'm buying this, no question about it.

Edited by MarkWahlberg

Unexpected Space Buddha: Fingers of Rage is the direct translation of the original Japanese title.

Posted by cjmhockey

After watching the Quick Look, I definitely was intrigued by the game. I don't think I will buy this at the $60 price tag but will most likely check it out once the price drops a bit lower.

Posted by TheHT

Oh hell, he reviewed it! And liked it! Right on, I think I'll get this when it gets cheaper.

Posted by RampageAssassin

I was expecting a 3. I'll be definitely giving this a rent.

Posted by ReyGitano

From reading this review it seems like Asura's Wrath turned out as well as I thought it could. I'll definitely be excited to play this, but much later and for cheaper. Already have too much anticipation, time, and money invested in waiting for SSX and Mass Effect 3 right now.

Edited by mutha3

Hey man -- if Modern Warfare gets away with its measly 4 hours of blowing up tanks and killing a thousand dudes, there's no reason Asura's Wrath should be disparaged for being a 6 hour, blatantly linear quest of blowing up planets and killing millions of dudes.

Not my type of game, though. But I'm interested : how crazy does this game get?Gurren Laggan Levels?

Do you eventually become ten-billion light-years tall and start chucking galaxies at the opponents?y/n

Posted by Animasta

@mutha3 said:

Hey man -- if Modern Warfare gets away with its measly 4 hours of blowing up tanks and killing a thousand dudes, there's no reason Asura's Wrath should be disparaged for being a 6 hour, blatantly linear quest of blowing up planets and killing millions of dudes.

Not my type of game, though. I'm interested though: how crazy does this game get?Gurren Laggan Levels?

Do you eventually become ten-million lightyears tall and start chucking galaxies at the opponents?

not that I disagree with you, but MW has multiplayer

Edited by mrfluke
@Brad: u are the fucking best dude, wonderful review, as you rated it more on your experience while docking it enough by keeping the end consumer in mind about the value of this game and what this game actually is  
  
 this  photoshop is not the greatest but it doesnt have to be :P 
    
     Brad's Wrath
Posted by MysteriousBob

I was expected a two. Whatever.

Edited by BBQBram

I for one am glad it's not just a character action game. There's too many of 'em as is. And this seems great - I don't get why it should be a taboo to blur the line between interactive and non-interactive media. Loved the demo, and reading the review it seems like it's at least consistent in it's quality and craziness, so it's really a matter of wether or not you have a taste for this weird blend of anime and QTE. I think I do!

Posted by golguin

So now I have Ghost Trick, Shadows of the Damned, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, and this to play eventually. The QL was really something to behold.

Edited by Sackmanjones

Its a shame that this game will most likely sell very poor. Plus it's launching very close to Mass Effect 3 which puts even MORE strain on the release. But the game does seem actually quite interesting.

Posted by talkingtoast

Well, Brad just sold me on this game. Here I come, EB !

Posted by MadLaughter

It's reviews like this that make me love the subjective, personal nature of GiantBomb's persona. They went from bored to ecstatic during the Quick Look (as did I) and I definitely want to give this game a rental.

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

@kerse said:

Man, thats unexpected but awesome, I knew from watching the quick look I would probably love this game. I'll be getting this soon probably. Thanks Brad.

Posted by defcomm

I want it, but not right now. I'm glad the good kind of crazy still exists in Capcom, it gives me hope for RE6.

Posted by Draxyle

Wow, four stars is quite unexpected. It did look better than my initial impressions after the quicklook though.

I've been tempted to toss this up on my Wishlist at the very least. It's not something I could justify 60$ for (that price will drop like a brick, guaranteed), but I do want to see some all out JP craziness sometime down the road.

Posted by killacam

great review. i'll wait for a price drop.

Edited by Gerhabio

@Brad said:

@Animasta said:

... really? was not expecting that.

You and me both.

Syndicate and now this, everything I thought I knew about games is a lie!

@OllyOxenFree said:

Glad that you enjoyed it, Brad! Now if only we can kickstart cyberconnect2 on making a DBZ game...

Dude, I've been wishing that since Ninja Storm

Posted by billyhoush

I would pay $40 for this.

Posted by NorseDudeTR

I love Brad's reviews.

Posted by Daveyo520

I am surprised you liked it Brad after how much you were not into it in the QL.

Posted by csl316

@Daveyo520 said:

I am surprised you liked it Brad after how much you were not into it in the QL.

Indeed, although he did seem to be warming up to it toward the end.

I thought this looked cool when I first saw the crazy giant finger attack. But now that it's getting some praise, it looks like I'll be picking it up. Reiner and Phil took a pretty good look at the intro, which actually sold me on the game.

Posted by Napalm

Hm. I have a rekindled interest in this since the introduction put me off so much.

Posted by zyn

Okay. I'm getting this.

Posted by Applederp

This is not a video game, it's an interactive movie.

Posted by Marz

This game definitely looks fun to watch, but i dunno if i'd pay full price to play it.  I'll probably just end up watching some youtube playthrough because that seems like all you need to do to enjoy it.

Posted by G0rd0nFr33m4n

@Marz said:

This game definitely looks fun to watch, but i dunno if i'd pay full price to play it. I'll probably just end up watching some youtube playthrough because that seems like all you need to do to enjoy it.

My thoughts exactly, youtube will save me $60 on this one.

Edited by Sanj

@mrfluke: You've inspired me.

Brad actually pumped six fists in the air, which inadvertently caused the sun to explode.

Posted by mbr2

I'm so baffled by a lot of GB's reviews lately. A lot of 4's and a few 5's to games that bring nothing new to the table both gameplay wise and aesthetics. Literally nothing I've heard from the staff would warrant those kind of scores.

Posted by Turambar

This game just really, really wants to be an old school anime.  Classic character and ship introduction text and enemy battleships shaped like the ones from Gunbuster.

Posted by MikkaQ

Good to see Brad warm up to it, but he's got a point about the value proposition. I'm gonna wait for a price cut on this one, but I do eagerly await it.

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