Asura's Wrath Review
Asura’s Wrath is a whirlwind of mindless repetition. It demands your attention due to the prominence of QTEs, boasts a surprisingly decent story, and features unequivocally the most insane, over-the-top, outlandish boss fights you’ve seen in a long time. If you’re looking for a deep combat mechanic, wait for Ninja Gaiden III or God of War IV. But there’s no denying that CyberConnect2’s production insists upon itself…and in that insistence, the gleeful wanna-beat-on-everything-in-sight kid inside us all will revel.
As is the case with most games with anime roots, the technical elements can be highly subjective. In the case of the graphics, there’s lots of color, great character design, plenty of rewarding special effects, and even some impressive background scenery. There’s really a lot to like in the visual presentation, especially when it comes to the in-your-face encounters with demigods that are the size of a planet. It’s not exquisitely detailed and you sense a certain lack of polish, but this lagging isn’t often obvious. There’s just so much to see.
Provided you can handle obscenely cheesy voice acting – which is apparently par for the course for this particular art style – and the poor audio balancing, your speakers are in for a treat. The balancing really is off, though, so you’ll have to keep adjusting the volume; the game is much louder during cut-scenes, and the music and effects typically drown out the voices during emotional confrontations (and there are a lot of those). But those effects are damn good and the soundtrack works, too. In other words, battle is always well supported by the sound.
Strangely enough, while the gameplay really is brainless and quite repetitive, the story isn’t bad at all. In fact, without giving too much away, it reminded me of “Gladiator;” if you recall the first part of the film and what happened to Maximus, you’ll basically know what happens to Asura. It’s quite similar; the only difference is that his daughter survives…well kinda. And that theme of vengeance and love permeates this overly grandiose plot and in truth, it results in a production that is more interactive cinema than game, which may catch some by surprise.
The good news is that when you are playing, you’re having fun. You’re destroying faceless enemies that fall beneath your incredible might, and with each roar of unbridled aggression and anger, you feel more involved in the on-screen melee. The combat combines standard third-person action controls and a shooting mechanic, which actually works fine even if the lock-on option for unleashing fireballs isn’t perfect. You can control the camera, which keeps up pretty well but again, it isn’t perfect. It’s all a little unrefined and definitely repetitive.
But you know, the flaws actually didn’t matter much to me. I acknowledged their existence (hard to miss) but because you rarely encounter a frustrating situation, you’re usually grinning at the havoc you’re causing. It’s just mind-numbingly nuts. And it’s true that the third-person shooting, especially during long boss fights, doesn’t feel tight, but it’s still functional. And that’s all I ask for. If I have that, and I do, I can unleash and destroy; I can gleefully dispatch at will, and that’s not a bad thing.
I don’t want to make it sound like I’m giving this game a free pass for falling short in various important categories. Like I said, I have to admit the existence of obvious problems. However, there are times when a game like Asura’s Wrath fits beautifully into your day. You spilled your coffee that morning and the stain seems permanent. You got behind every slow driver on earth coming home. You hit 2 minutes on the microwave when you meant 20 seconds. Now, there are healthy ways of venting…and all Asura wants to do is vent.
You will unlock videos and pieces of artwork as you progress, and you’re graded on your performance after each episode. This might give you some minor incentive to replay a given episode but really, it isn’t necessary. You will likely want to keep playing, both for the sake of the main character’s desired vengeance and for the nonstop chaos. The QTEs are relatively easy as you have enough time to view, process, and execute. The basic combat, which includes heavy attacks, dash attacks, and dive attacks, is fast, furious, and absolutely relentless.
The biggest downside may not be the failings of the gameplay mechanic, but the length of the gameplay. If you eliminate all the storytelling, you could probably finish the game in 2-3 hours, which proves two things: firstly, this is certainly a cinematic experience, and secondly, you really have to enjoy everything about the production, from the style to the presentation to the outrageous battle settings. So if this one hooks you, there’s every chance that you’ll see it through to the end, and likely enjoy yourself in the process. If it doesn’t grab you immediately, well…
Asura’s Wrath is an assault on the senses; a parade of endless insanity that drags you along for the ride, whether you like it or not. As a cinematic experience, it isn’t bad, as the story is decent (if you can ignore the horrid acting) and Asura is a bad-ass and sympathetic hero. Mechanically, it’s functional without being rock solid and there’s little in the way of depth. But those boss fights are just ridiculous and I never really got tired of beating on weaklings. It’s not a huge challenge but so what? Makes ya feel good for a while, and we all need that every now and then.
The Good: Great artistry and design. Decent storyline with a likeable, kick-ass hero. Action gameplay accessible to most gamers. General control and QTEs function well. Boss fights are out of this world. Cool atmosphere.
The Bad: Mediocre, often terrible, voice performances. Repetitive to a fault. Cinematic sequences override gameplay. Mechanics aren’t perfectly sound.
The Ugly: “Please just stop talking…it’s painful.”
3/1/2012 Ben Dutka