by Josh Vollmer
Asura’s Wrath is a genre-defying video game developed by CyberConnect2, and published by Capcom. CC2 is probably best known for their work on the dotHack and the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja franchises. Here they’ve crafted a stylish and over-the-top revenge tale, loosely based in Hindu and Buddhist mythologies but with a sci-fi bent. It’s also one of the most underrated titles of 2012.
That’s not to say that everyone will enjoy Asura’s Wrath. The game’s harsher critics have panned it for being too hands off, calling it more interactive anime than video game, and it’s a difficult point to argue. The game cycles between third-person brawling, on-rails style shooting segments, a whole lot of cutscenes and numerous quick time events. (For those that don’t know, quick time events are those segments in games that play like a cutscene, but involve timed button presses or other controller inputs in correspondence with the on-screen action.) So while at its heart Asura’s Wrath may be a brawler, the combat is almost too sparse to keep some gamers interested. Sometimes you will feel like you’re watching the game instead of playing, and as a result you may get the sense you’re no longer helping shape events, but instead are just along for the ride. At least it’s a pretty good ride.
If you like more diversity than just either first person shooter or third person shooter in the games you play, Asura’s Wrath is worth checking out. The phrase “interactive anime” really does hit the nail on the head here. The game even unfolds in 18 ‘episodes’ instead of levels, complete with some opening credits and, around the midpoint of the level, a couple of splash screens where the commercial break would be. Everything from the graphics style and the way the characters are shaded, to the over-the-top combat smacks of anime come to life. (Now I know I’ve used over-the-top twice now in this review, but what else do you call a game where one man drives his sword all the way through another man, and oh yeah, that WHOLE PLANET BEHIND HIM!?) This anime presentation really does suits the game’s style and gonzo fights. It’s just a shame all those cinematics aren’t telling a better story.
It’s mostly Asura’s fault. He’s not really a likeable guy. Take Akuma from the Street Fighter games, give him Goku’s Super Sayian hair from Dragon Ball Z, and then give that guy all the personality and rage of the Incredible Hulk and you’re not far off from Asura’s baseline. He’s just so angry all the time. Okay, sure, he was betrayed by his seven demigod comrades. Yes, his wife was killed and his daughter kidnapped, and then yes, he was sent to what is essentially hell for 12,000 years to think about it. I’m not saying the guy doesn’t have a right to be angry, I’m just saying that cutscenes filled with monosyllabic grunts and lots of yelling don’t really make for compelling drama.
It’s a good thing you don’t play this game for the story.
You play this game because you want to see a guy who’s so angry that he grows four extra arms. A guy who is so angry that he throws a flying shellfish that’s the size of a blue whale, back into a snapping turtle that’s the size of a small town. You want to see a guy who’s so angry that he punches the ground hard enough to propel himself into space . . . where he proceeds to destroy an entire fleet of warships. You play this game because you want to see a guy kick his way to a planet’s core. You play this game because it’s the craziest, planet stabbing-est, most OVER-THE-TOP (yeah I said it) pile of crazy out there right now.
Like I said, the game isn’t for everyone. It’s one of those polarizing experiences, and you will likely love it or hate it. However, if you like unique gaming experiences or have a penchant for anime, you will find something to enjoy about Asura’s Wrath. Come into Slackers and look for it today.