Asura's Wrath Review

By Alex Rubens - Posted Feb 29, 2012

In terms of story and presentation, the tale of Asura's Wrath is one of the best of this console generation, but a scant six hours of gameplay and lengthy cutscenes holds it back from being perfect.

The Pros
  • Beautiful presentation that is just plain fun
  • Great story and narrative
  • Awesome jaw-dropping moments
  • Despite passive gameplay, builds an engaging experience
The Cons
  • It's really short at only six hours
  • There isn't much player input, it's mostly cutscenes or quicktime events
  • Overly tame voice acting

Asura's Wrath Review:

Gamers often complain about the lack of narrative in games. Asura’s Wrath is the exact opposite: a perfect example of how great games can be with an exceptional story-driven design. It may sacrifice some gameplay elements to do so, but as a whole, it is just too outlandishly fun to find time to stop grinning, let alone critique it.

 

 

U Mad Bro?

Asura, one of the Eight Guardian Generals tasked with protecting the world from the beastly Gohma, returns home to find his wife dead, his daughter kidnapped, and that he has been framed for the murder of his world’s emperor. Talk about a bad day. He later finds that the leader of the Generals is the true culprit, who kills Asura when confronted.

Asura is left for dead but awakes 12,000 years later, hanging from a pillar with no recollection of prior events. He soon regains memory –through flashback sequences and the help of a talking golden spider– and is hell-bent on revenge toward those who betrayed him. As the story unfolds, Asura’s rage begins to grow, channeling immense power that he uses to defeat his foes. However, his thirst for revenge causes his rage to overwhelm him and Asura struggles to control his newfound power and regain his sanity.

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Half movie, half game. 

The presentation of Asura’s Wrath is simply brilliant, blending traditional Japanese mythology with science fiction in a way that is ambitious and unique. Transitions between gameplay, cutscenes, and quicktime events are seamless and were even hard to catch sometimes, which is probably why the experience works so well despite most of the game taking place in the latter. It’s easy to miss a quicktime button prompt mid-scene, as they often appear at unexpected moments during cinematic sequences. While frustrating, this has no real consequence aside from a percentage of quicktime sequences completed that is tallied at the end of the episode.

Though the cinematic-heavy presentation is stunning, it isn’t as satisfying as it would have been were it under user control. It feels like more than half of the game consists of cinematics, pure video with no gameplay. The quality of these scenes is ridiculously great, but disconnects players from the game. As much as some players may enjoy long cutscenes, Asura’s Wrath too often feels like only half a game, and the other half movie. Which is a shame, because combat is exhilarating. 

Asura's Wrath

Deity, Super Saiyan, or both?

There is something so immensely satisfying about the way that Asura takes down entire rooms of enemies without once showing needing to consider his health, as enemies rarely get an opportunity to fight back.  A combination of heavy, light and ranged attacks mix up the combat, but due to the often untimely cool down period on the heavy attack, the majority of combat is handled using what combos can be paired together through light attacks. There is a lock-on feature, but it’s often useless because there are too many enemies at once to lock on correctly.

Battles are fluid and quick, but they feel like a pause in the game’s progression just to get Asura’s Burst meter full to trigger his next quicktime sequence, and eventually lead to the next cutscene. Downed enemies prompt the player to use their heavy attacks, but while this does initiate the cool down period, it also provides a large increase toward Asura’s burst meter, which is really the only way to end the battle or defeat the boss. 

There are several on-rails shooter sections in Asura’s Wrath that really stand out as a way to keep players involved and entertained during larger set pieces without resorting to quicktime events, and these encapsulate some of the most fun parts that the game has to offer. However, the same cannot be said about the controls, as both Asura and his fire are tied to the same reticule –and thus the same stick– making his movement feel slow and bogged down. This makes it really difficult to avoid the incoming barrage of missile fire directed toward Asura during these sequences. 

Asura's Wrath

Next Week On Asura’s Wrath!

Rather than following a traditional story breakdown, Asura’s Wrath is broken up into 18 short episodes –six per act– giving it the pacing of a traditional anime series, down to a promo of coming events at the end of every episode. This format is odd and feels out of place at first, especially as the story ramps up, but it’s easy to adjust to and actually is pretty exciting.

I found myself anticipating the next episode as if it were my favorite TV show, making me want to jump right back in and play even more. The later episodes soon began to fall upon the classic cinema revenge tale formula as Asura exacts his plan of revenge, defeating one of the Seven Deities every other episode. It manages to keep from being predicable by the sheer craziness of the twists that the story takes and the growing intensity helped it continue to feel fresh and rewarding as the eventual climactic final battle grew near.

Developer CyberConnect2 knows full well that Japanese titles don’t always play well in other markets and pokes fun at the things many non-Japanese get annoyed at in Japanese media. One level has Asura and his former trainer Augus bathing at a hot spring with scantily clad women, and the only goal of the level is to not get caught looking at the attendants (even going so far as to offer an achievement for getting caught). In others some bosses have long monologues and a prompt will pop up for player shut them up mid-sentence.. Little nuggets like that are spread out throughout the game.

Asura's Wrath

In The End

Asura’s Wrath is a great game, but it also isn’t much of a game to begin with. In terms of story and presentation, Asura’s tale is one of the best of this console generation. But the majority of the game is out of player control, there isn’t much gameplay involved –roughly six hours worth. If you can manage to sit through the cutscenes and become invested in the story, Asura’s Wrath is a great experience, and one of the most outright fun games this year.

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Editor's Note: Asura's Wrath was reviewed using an Xbox 360 copy of the game. If any differences are noted between the 360 version and the PlayStation 3 version, we will update this review to reflect those differences.