A small time ago, I wrote a brief preview of Asura’s Wrath based on the demo released on Xbox Live. At the time of writing, I believed that the people who came up with the idea may have been on some high-grade meth amphetamine or were victims of some form of brain-based parasite.
It is with great pleasure that I can retract that statement, and say in terrified sincerity that the people who designed Asura’s Wrath were the kind of demonically possessed lunatic who somehow garbles together the plans to a doomsday device that will later be used as a plot point in some shitty ghost film.
In madness comes brilliance.
You play Asura, one of eight Demigods who is out for revenge after your demigod buddies frame you, ‘kill’ you and then banish you to some form of afterlife while they wreak merry havoc on the planet. This revenge is the driving force – not only in the story, but also behind the insane power behind Asura himself. In the process of handing you your arse, your buddies also end up kidnapping your daughter and killing your wife. Asura then proceeds on a twelve millennium long (no lie) revenge bender to get his daughter back and avenge his other half.
At first, Asura is pretty much in the dark, so he is limited to blindly using his basic powers against moderately minor opponents. Such enemies come in the form of the Ghoma, a black-and-red, obviously corrupted version of normal animals. Although the reason for them being there is never really explained, the fight in the intro of the game gives you a good impression of how destructive the creatures can be when one hatches out of the planet like it’s a fucking egg.
So on his rampage of revenge, Asura must combat his former buddies as well as the impossibly large swarm of Ghoma; all the time trying to protect the mortal population. Needless to say it proves to be a bit of a bitch to do, however, as he gets more… wrathy and arm-gifted, Asura’s power increases and he beats back bigger and more deadly enemies with increasing ease. It seems the madder Asura gets, the more arms he grows and that in turn adds to his destructive power. There are times when he is completely without arms, and he resorts to using his head and feet. There is one battle that make me involuntarily spasm with joy when he defeats a twenty-foot tall Buddha with machine guns for arms… with a headbutt.
The levels are set up in the exact way you would watch an anime series. You play the first part of an episode, a screen pops where a commercial would appear, then another screen comes up as if the commercials had ended and you are back into the action; much like when you watch a real anime series on DVD. When you come to the end of the episode, you are given a brief synopsis and preview of the next episode before you progress. It’s pure genius. You are actually playing an interactive Anime and it really shows when the animation style and actions are so incredibly well rendered and smooth that you would swear you are watching a movie.
What really stood out for me was that they managed to cover texture pop-ins by making the pre-rendered texture fuzzy, as if looking through a softened lens. It keeps the immersion and even adds to the atmosphere. I honestly wouldn’t have noticed it if it weren’t for my hawk-like senses.
Oh… and there is a mandatory hot springs bath episode. Just saying.
Ah, yes. The Gameplay.
This is where the game does not make any ground-breaking changes. If you take away all of the immense, immersing story and the blindingly beautiful graphics, you have some very basic forms of combat. In the start, the game is basically a Panzer Dragoon-style rail shooter which progresses into a bit of a button-mashing action game which then diverts into a series of Quick-Time Events (QTEs) in the middle of boss battles; a sequence that is used again and again throughout the course of the game. On top of that, the game is not incredibly challenging. I died once on my first play through on normal, but in the end, it was not enough to stop me playing on.
It’s simple and it’s fun. The use of gauges to change the section of a boss battle or continue in a level has been seen before in the Naruto Ninja Storm games, but lacks depth for the hard-core gamer who wants a challenge or something new. If you are not drawn in by the setting, I can foresee you becoming bored with this game, very quickly.
I marathoned this game in a night. This will probably tell you two things. The first thing is unfortunately a bad thing. This game is short in comparison to games such as say… Skyrim; which, let’s face it, is a time vampire of the worst (best?) kind. Combined with the fact that this game will only take about 6-8 hours to complete (depending on difficulty settings) and a majority of that is cut-scenes and story, you can pretty much count this as sitting through an Anime series in a night while occasionally pressing X to punch a hole into the planet.
The second is this: I couldn’t put the fucking controller down.
For all it’s length and gameplay flaws, this game is an epic. It is a huge story of betrayal, revenge, ass-kicking and punching the floor so you can rocket into orbit (I shit you not). It is beautifully presented and as I stated in my preview, the use of QTE’s made it feel like I was having an impact rather than just plugging away. I wanted to get a spot-on button press so I could punch one of my betrayers into the stratosphere a bit harder, even though the actual result was a negligible increase in my wrath gauge.
I wanted to see more and more until I was satisfied. I wanted to see the world burn around the corpses of my betrayers and indulge in some manly, oiled-up screaming at the sky. Everything is blown well out of proportion and impossible in the realms of any physics, but it didn’t matter. I had so much fun, I have already played it through again on a harder level to unlock the awesome bonus of artwork (which is amazing) as well as some mechanical increases in the form of other gauges; some of which reduce damage or reduce the cool down of your special moves.
Asura’s wrath is amazing. Although the gameplay is nothing new, the stylization, the music and the storyline are innovative, original and involving. Unfortunately, the length and limited replayability of the game makes it hard to justify the price tag $49.99 out here in the US. If I had paid two thirds of that tag, then I believe it would have been a good buy, but I cannot truthfully endorse anyone spending the same amount of money on this game as they would for Skyrim or The Darkness 2.
Whether you buy this game now or later, you are missing out if you pass it by. Although the die-hard, anti-anime crowd will think this is a colossal waste of time, those who are fans of the massive battles and over-the-top characters will simply squeal in delight when you find yourself doing battle on the moon with your former master, or blasting down fleets of spaceships with rage-fueled lasers.
It’s madness, pure and simple… but it is the kind of madness that is infectious… and fun.Have a game you want to review and fancy yourself as a bit of a writer? Find out how to become a guest blogger. Or you could make a suggestion by following us on those new-fangled social media-thingers Facebook and Twitter.