When Asura’s Wrath was first announced, I had very high hopes for the title. Early trailers showcased a brutal and over-the-top brawler that perfectly captured the essence of a action-packed anime: A wounded Herculean protagonist who loves to scream and punch everything in sight, an evil legion of Buddhist statues that serve as cannon fodder, and wild and devastating acts of violence that blast enemies all over the place. It also had the weirdness typical of anime too: A transformation that grants the main character six arms!, and one planet-sized Buddhist statue who apparently likes squishing people with his index finger from outer space. All this gorgeously animated and presented with dynamic camera angles, jump cuts, and accompanied by a heart-thumping soundtrack.
It was the most outrageous thing I had seen, and I honestly loved every second of it. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the game.
But now, having completed it, I feel a tinge of disappointment and regret. Some of the magic was lost in the translation from trailer to full game. Gone was the brawler that I had expected to see. In it’s place was something else entirely.
I expected much more.
Spread across eighteen episodes (each complete with intro credits and a next episode preview at the end!), Asura’s Wrath is quite a unique experience. As you guide demigod Asura on a quest for revenge and redemption, you realize just how different the game is from all others on the market.
How different? For starters, the game, in a attempt to become a truly cinematic experience, is mostly just one huge QTE (Quick Time Event). By pressing a button (or buttons) when prompted on-screen, the player can alter the outcome of in-game cut-scenes. If you perform well, the game rewards you with an excellent and engaging story, and some of the best action sequences in the industry. If you perform badly, Asura will lose health and the player could fail the scene. You will watch Asura carry out amazing feats of courage and strength, defy physics and death, and take opponent’s apart piece by piece in lengthy cut-scenes. All with just the tap of a couple of buttons.
You’ll be doing this for most of the game. Seriously.
Occasionally, the game lets the player partake in other activities. When Asura’s not murdering people and surviving the craziest odds at the flick of a button, players can enjoy two other gameplay types: a beat-em-up section where players take control of the always angry Asura and destroy his enemies, or a somewhat on-rails segment where Asura can dash or fly towards opponents as he goes berserk shooting energy projectiles (akin to Space Harrier or Devil May Cry’s last stage). Neither mode is particularly any good; the fighting is quite repetitive and lackluster, with a limited selection of options and combos to use to take down your enemies; and the shooting gets boring quickly, as it feels like Asura’s projectiles have no real effect on enemies other than the common grunts. You can shoot a boss or a large enemy with a barrage of bullets and they won’t even feel it.
Both game-play modes also serve no other purpose than to lead into more QTE’s. Once the rage meter is filled and activated (Neither gameplay mode will end until the player does so!), the game will usually cut to Asura going into a fit of uncontrollable rage and then lead into a playable cinematic once more.
Both gameplay modes quickly lose their luster, eventually proving to be more a distraction than a fun implementation.
In another effort to provide variety, the game offers control over another character during the latter part of the game. As welcoming as it is (the character has different animations, attacks, etc.), the addition does little to alter the overall experience.
Once the game is finished, little remains to keep the player enticed. Episodes can be replayed to obtain a higher score, determined by the accuracy of inputs during the QTE’s and the player’s battle prowess. Doing so can unlock an alternative eighteenth episode. The extras are also quite thin, with the standard art galleries and character biographies, and trailers. The only worthwhile extras are the unlockable bumpers, which are alternative life-bars that can be selected to alter the main game experience. Some make Asura more resistant to damage, others make his rage meter fill faster. Some achievements/trophies can only be obtained this way.
I’m not saying Asura’s Wrath is a bad game. It just could have been better. If the game is taken solely as a cinematic experience, it works quite well. The plot is well done and emotional, and is quite a spectacle to behold. It’s a real thrill-ride from start to finish. It’s only when you look past the story that it fails and shows what its true colors: It’s a lackluster game.
I guess it depends on what angle it’s looked at.