Available on: PS3, Xbox 360
Reviewed on: PS3
Asura’s Wrath was a game I’d little followed since its announcement as generally I hold little interest in games so intensely ‘Japanese’, so when a review copy fell into my lap I ventured into the experience largely blind. This is a rare thing for me and something I’m starting to really appreciate in this age of perpetual hype and teasers upon teasers leading up to release, but I digress.
You are Asura, one of eight generals in the demi-god army of some-such, defending the space Karma Fortress against the impure Gohma who are disliked for their impurity or something.
The universe of this whole thing is kind of indecipherable honestly but at least the visual design of it is neat, if very anime derivative. The core plot is essentially swiped from Gladiator. Asura is blamed for murdering the general dudes’ emperor and his wife is murdered and daughter imprisoned as punishment, with Asura himself being sentenced to 1200 years in a kind of odd purgatory.
Upon his re-emergence Asura embarks upon a vengeance crusade against his former brothers and seeks to save his daughter. The narrative is split into 3 episodes which are divided into short chapters with a credits sequence at the start and end of each. It’s odd but considering the highly fractured nature of the storytelling it kind of works.
When Asura is super angry he sprouts four more arms for some reason and the game also occasionally jumps to sequences where you climb a tower while conversing with a golden spider. I confess that I skipped most of the still-frame exposition scenes that occur between chapters because they frankly bored me to tears. The focus of the game is well and truly on punching things extremely hard anyway so it didn’t seem to matter!
Did I mention the game is Japanese? It’s very Japanese.
The core of the experience tends to be ‘two minute cutscene, 45 seconds of combat against Gohma and god-army minions, 2 minute cutscene, bit more combat, short cutscene where some big guy shows up then a fight against that guy until your ‘burst’ meter is charged by beating on him which when activated starts a quick-time event and another cutscene and then the end of the chapter. Apart from a couple of Starfox-style guided shooter levels of course…
You know what though? Despite the whole game basically being a mash-up of design concepts that I generally dislike and being presented in a style and narrative manner that usually hugely puts me off, I found myself strangely enjoying the whole thing.
Combat is comprised of the usual third person beat ‘em up fare, encouraging a blend of light, fast attacks with heavy hits (that oddly have a brief cool-down period) and ranged rage-bolts until your two separate energy meters charge to allow you to execute finishers.
Despite it’s fairly basic nature and the repetition of the enemies encountered, the brawling and effects and overall look of everything is visually striking and over the top enough that its recycled nature never really bothered me. Boss encounters play out in a manner that’s stylistically like the spawn of Dragonball Z, Fist of the North Star and God of War and are damn awesome in that regard!
As I mentioned before, there’s little real gameplay meat on Asura’s bones but what is there is highly enjoyable for the utterly silly experience that it is. The game is almost like Shadow of the Colossus in its focus being almost solely on boss battles. Sure the ones presented here aren’t nearly as well-crafted as those in SoTC, but they more than make up for it by being stupefyingly epic and over the top.
Over the course of the adventure you’ll fight a giant mammoth, a deity the size of Galactus, have your arms ripped off and engage in a headbutt-and-kick duel with a ninja-god and many more gloriously and unapologetically stupid encounters such as these.
It’s nice and refreshing to find a game that so gleefully indulges in its own silliness and Asura’s Wrath does this in spades. While the extremely heavy anime styling of it all, the minimal amount of actual traditional ‘gameplay’ and a complete lack of any kind of multiplayer make it really tough to widely recommend as a $90 experience, I can’t help but express to everyone my delight at what CyberConnect2 pulled off here.
Being their first original IP release in over a decade, I for one can’t wait to see what the imaginative and talented folks there pull out next.
- Visual style and sheer delightful absurdity
- Bug-free and polished to a shine
- Lack of actual gameplay
- Priced too highly for the experience it provides