By Hailinel 64 Comments
I'm sure that, given their obvious similarities, comparisons have already been drawn between Asura, the rage-fueled protagonist of Asura's Wrath, and Kratos, the rage-fueled protagonist of the God of War series. But even with that being the case, I felt the urge to add my own views to the argument. Namely, that in terms of their characterizations and despite their similarities, Asura is the better, more realized of the two, even taking into account that Kratos has had more games in which to develop.
Warning! The rest of this article is scattered with spoilery references to things that happen in Asura's Wrath. If you care at all to experience the game for yourself, don't read any further!
Despite that advantage, Kratos's characterization exists more or less on a downward slope. The first God of War is a tale of revenge and redemption as Kratos makes up for being tricked into murdering his own wife and child. But then the sequels only serve to regress him. He becomes less a tragic hero or antihero, and more just straight-up petulant, like an angry teenager. He goes about murdering everything in his path with very few exceptions, and falls into the trap of being more or less defined by his thirst for slaughter above all else, with a side of sex minigames.
You know, because he's supposed to be a badass.
Asura, on the other hand, is a more sympathetic figure. Whereas Kratos's thirst for revenge came from, in general, being a violent fool that pleaded to Ares for power and became a zealot, leading to his family's deaths, Asura is never under any such delusions. From the outset, he's a pawn in a coup enacted by his comrades, framed for the murder of the emperor, and branded a traitor. Further, his wife is killed and his daughter is kidnapped not because of anything he does, but because of the villain's overarching scheme.
As for the nature of their ever-present rage, I've noted before that Kratos's anger, which is at first justifiable toward Ares, grows petulant over time. There's little about it that serves him, other than being his one definable emotional trait. On the other hand, Asura's rage is innate because of his demigod powers. His Mantra is empowered by his fury, but even when he's at his most volatile, he doesn't just lash out at anyone and everyone. Asura saves his wrath only for those that are his enemies, while Kratos would likely stab an innocent to death, and then rip the poor soul's head off, for merely standing between him and Zeus's throne room.
And as for their sexuality, there comes a point in Asura's Wrath that almost seems like it's there to make fun of Kratos's conquesting libido. One of the game's chapters is spent relaxing in a hot spring at the behest of Asura's mentor, Augus. While in the spring, Asura is waited on by a scantily clad, busty beauty. There are even several humorous trophies/achievements linked to this portion of the game, such as one for ogling the attendant's assets. But if the player decides to allow Asura to indulge in too much booze, he can enter Burst mode, at which point he'll get frisky with the lady.
Then he gets shot down in hilarious fashion. No boobies or ridiculous sex minigames for you, buddy. I'd actually prefer it if God of War had this sense of humor; the sort that's willing to put the protagonist in a depreciating scenario of humiliation.
But to get back on track, over all, Asura, despite his anger and his furious ability to do battle with a giant space Buddha, is a man of compassion. Against forces that have absolutely no qualm in killing countless humans, he's the only demigod that comes to understand how idiotic and cruel their scheme is, despite his former allies' belief that they're working toward a greater good. During the entire course of the game, the one thing that sets him off the most isn't some perceived slight against him, it's witnessing the death of a human girl that looks like his daughter; the only human in the game that refuses to accept these mass slaughters as some sort of gift from the gods, and who sympathizes with Asura's desire for revenge. He learns how to channel his rage so that it doesn't consume him; so that he can still look his daughter in the eyes when all is said and done. That's not something that I think Kratos would ever be capable of. Not when his last act of God of War III is to (supposedly) kill himself just to spite the one remaining goddess of Olympus that was in any way his ally.
Asura may be a very melodramatic character (a natural tendency, given the styles of anime that Asura's Wrath is meant to evoke), but in the end, his journey is a far more satisfying one than Kratos's. Where Kratos embarks on what becomes little more than a juvenile power fantasy, Asura's tale is one that features more emotional weight that feels heartfelt. And for that reason, I would much prefer to see an Asura's Wrath II, complete with its crazy mix of cinematics, quick-time events and action, than another romp with Kratos.