Asura’s Wrath: review

Asura’s anger knows no bounds. Betrayed by his fellow deities, he shouts and punches to the point of exhaustion in a quest for vengeance, one that is more interactive story than video game.

Asura’s Wrath is rather unique; a heady mix of action game and anime that is short on gameplay but unmatched in spectacle. The tale unfolds through quick time event-laden cut scenes, where player involvement often feels like an afterthought and an interruption to a story that is well told and engrossing. Think Heavy Rain, only in space and featuring muscle-bound, shouty demi gods. JASONNNNNN! Yes, just like Heavy Rain.

Wearing its anime influences on its sleeve, Asura’s Wrath makes the most of its episodic format, featuring regular recaps, teasers and credits that serve to constantly remind you that this is not just another action game. These stylistic elements add to the charm and perfectly suit an outing that is concerned first and foremost with telling a story, not offering a traditional gaming experience.

Thrust into the role of demi god, facing off against a fleet of nasty space rocks, the opening level is quick to introduce the gameplay mechanics that you’ll be repeating for the next six to eight hours: QTEs, linear button mashing combat and shooting sections. The stunning art direction instantly jumps out and will quickly take your mind off the fact that you aren’t really doing much of anything. Elements of Sci-Fi, Eastern mythology and spiritualism make for a vibrant and memorable mix, resulting in unique moments that you won’t soon forget, such as the first time you spy a giant, smiling Buddha flying through the air, brandishing a gun the size of a house.

Unfortunately, what little gameplay is on offer falls well short of what we have come to expect from third person action games. With few exceptions, you are either fighting a succession of enemies or a boss within a small and clearly defined arena, or are moving at speed along a linear path, firing away at moving targets. These clashes all require you to do enough damage to activate your Burst, a special attack that will either end or progress the fight, then rinse and repeat. QTEs are interspersed throughout these showdowns and, played on medium difficulty, are rather forgiving. Even gamers with the slowest of thumbs will find that they have plenty of time to key in the simple commands and, for the most part, the consequence of failure is limited to a drop in final score and rank.

The overly simplistic and repetitive rough-housing offers neither a levelling system nor new moves to spice things up. For the majority of the game you are limited to attack, heavy attack, dodge and jump until you meet the conditions for Burst, at which point the QTEs kick in. The other-worldly bosses are impressive but they still follow the exact same format as the lesser fights that are usually waged against the Gohma – humongous zoo escapees that all seem to suffer from a painful looking rash. The boss encounters are completely over the top – your first opponent towers over the Earth and attempts to crush Asura with a chubby digit – but their bark is far worse than their bite. On the whole this is a relatively easy game when played on normal difficulty – quite the departure from the hard as nails Tokyo Game Show demo – and you may well find yourself getting close to the end before realising that you can actually die.

What Asura’s Wrath may lack in substance, it makes up for in sheer spectacle. There is a lot of enjoyment to be found in this over the top adventure and a great deal of satisfaction in besting your fellow demi-gods, all of whom make the mistake of grossly underestimating your power (you’d have thought they’d have cottoned on after the first couple of divine blood-baths). Our hero spouts extra arms, perishes and is reborn numerous times, even defeating one particularly nasty beast while missing his arms, clasping a sword in his teeth and making the most of his ample neck muscles. Another encounter sees you transported to the moon for a fatal showdown, having just shared drinks with your foe at a hot spring, waited on by scantily clad female attendants. Asura’s Wrath never lets up and moments like these succeed in keeping you invested, even when you are doing little more than simply watching events unfold.

The cut-scenes are excellent and populated by a larger than life cast, many of whom have a propensity for shouting every line of dialogue as loud as they can, making this a game that partners/family/friends will appreciate you playing with headphones on. Unfortunately, the cut-scenes are plagued by terrible lip-syncing, which becomes increasingly difficult to ignore the longer you play. In a game where you spend the vast majority of the time either watching or interacting with cut-scenes, you would have thought CyberConnect2 would have ensured that the character’s lips were flapping in time.

Widely labelled an “interactive anime”, Asura’s Wrath succeeds in telling an engrossing story whilst demanding very little of the player. It falls well short as an action game with its sparse, shallow and repetitive gameplay, but a compelling narrative and unique style make it worth a look for those of you searching for something a little bit different.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Written by Matt M

Matt has been a gamer ever since Father Christmas left him a Master System II in the early 90's. Santa was clearly a Sega fan, as a Mega Drive and Saturn would follow in later years. Matt has long since broken free from the shackles of console monotheism and enjoys playing a wide range of games, almost as much as he enjoys meticulously ordering them on his living room shelves.

Leave a Reply