Anger is a raw and powerful emotion. With bountiful amounts of adrenaline coursing through their veins, humans can accomplish feats of strength normally impossible under average conditions. Asura is a bit more extreme. This demigod punches planets in the face.
Now, given the gaming industry's current state of affairs, the term originality is not to be thrown about lightly. With some franchises seeing their fifth release in as many years this winter, consumers have plenty of the same old options. Sure, this method of generating an essentially identical product hasn’t been without success, but watching developers throw caution to the wind to bring gamers a change of pace is always refreshing. Who knew the publisher would be Capcom?
Talk about putting the weight of the world on one's shoulders.
The beginning of Asura’s Wrath does not immediately convey the sheer lunacy about to unfold. The atmosphere above Gaea plays host to thousands of warships massive in size. The Emperor and his eight Guardian Generals are in the midst of an all-out war with the Gohma, an impure race of creatures that seek to desecrate the planet. As Asura and his compatriots soar through space wreaking havoc and misfortune on anyone foolish enough to sustain a deadly blow, the head demigod Deus hatches a coup to kidnap Asura’s daughter, a young priestess notable for harnessing Mantra – the energy that constitutes a gods' life force and power. The seven remaining generals conspire against their rage-fueled brother, exacting a plan that leaves both Asura’s wife and the Emperor dead, and Asura labeled as a traitor.
A one-sided confrontation with Deus ends with Asura falling to the planet Gaea below, where he slumbers for 12,000 years. The fallen deity then awakes to the destruction of the world he once fought to protect. The other gods have deformed and reconstructed a bleak future for humanity during Asura's dormancy. Little do their troubles matter, however, as the general-turned-scapegoat intends to annihilate the scum that betrayed him. The familiar God of War revenge theme underlies the events that follow.
Some sunscreen will clear that chapped complexion right up (may not remove spears).
Japanese developed games like Katamari or Bayonetta have a reputation when describing unbridled ridiculousness, and Asura’s Wrath carries that torch to wonderful effects. Rather than shy away from the mockery of outsiders, the developers at CyberConnect2 embrace traditional anime tropes. Asura’s screams empower the reluctant hero, summaries and previews narrate the episodic story, and a late-game transformation shatters the boundaries between Super Saiyan (Dragon Ball Z), Perfect Hollowfication (Bleach), and Tailed Beast Mode (Naruto). If you recognize any of these transformations, you’re in for a treat. Clobbering worlds cannot remotely compare to the set pieces involved.
Meanwhile, the combat remains heavily context sensitive, like an interactive episode of Dragon Ball Z. The limited extent of light and heavy attacks – with ranged fireballs thrown in for appropriate measure – keeps the combos to a minimum. Instead, these attacks build to each climactic sequence in the form of Asura’s Burst meter. Once the bar fills, a quick RT press unleashes a quick time event that would turn Kratos green with envy. These scenes range from pummeling a Titanic-sized god into space, resisting the impalement of a planet-length sword, or growing Asura four additional arms. Smaller skirmishes between Gohma and disposable mechanized soldiers artificially extend the length of the campaign, which only fueled my excitement for the next boss encounter. Calling the combat “over the top” would be a disservice to the mayhem released upon television screens.
The climactic student versus master showdown. Who will come out on top?
With this heavy a focus on quick time events, the overall narrative length is understandably short. Six hours will net you a full completion percentage. However, Asura’s Wrath remains a prime example of why gamers should not judge the quality of a game per hour spent playing. The campaign doesn’t overstay its welcome. (The last thing I want to do is mash the B, Y, or RT button for twelve hours.)
Although, the plot tries to play on gamers’ heartstrings to middling success. Asura merely wants to save his daughter, but the gods would use her for their own selfish gains. Players unfamiliar with anime storytelling may find it hard to establish a connection to the jaded protagonist with a penchant for shouting his dialogue. And yet, I admit Asura’s attempts to protect a peculiar village girl evoked some feelings of compassion.
Prepare to kill hundreds of these guys.
My only real complaint is the shady ending. By word of mouth, future DLC will presumably bring true closure to the narrative. I hate to give in to rumors, but considering the unexpected cliffhanger, it would seem those leaks contain some measurable truth. DLC has earned a fair amount of flak in prior months. Capcom’s releasing of content integral to the plot is pushing the company’s luck.
Sadly, there is virtually no replay value, either. Concept art and cinematic rewards offer the only collectible incentives. Even the various gameplay-altering Burst meters could not encourage a return visit to Gaea.
So Asura’s Wrath is best described as one-and-done affair – no emotional attachment, no awkward silences as you fumble words for conversation, no pretending like the relationship has any sort of longevity. One awesome night of reckless fist bumps and jaw dropping feats of insanity will encompass your playthrough. More so than wrath, brevity is Asura’s greatest gift.
Release Date: February 21, 2012
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign)
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3