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Asura’s Wrath Review


See PixlBit's Review Policies

On 02/28/2012 at 12:00 PM by Julian Titus

Is an interactive anime right for you? Please sit down; Doctor Julian will be seeing you shortly.
RECOMMENDATION:

If you belong to the marginal target audience for this game, you'll find some stuff to love. But if you're not part of that group, this game has nothing to offer you.

Every now and again a game will come along that defies classification. Such is the case with Asura’s Wrath, a mysterious game from CyberConnect2 and Capcom. Announced with little fanfare and even less information, Asura’s Wrath has been a difficult game to peg. Is it an action game? Is it a simple beat-'em-up, ala Final Fight? Is it a modern day Dragon’s Lair? Well, before I can answer those questions, I will need to perform a full physical of your gaming and anime tastes; please drop your pants. No? Well, you’ll need to at least fill out this questionnaire.

Question 1: Do you love anime?

If your answer is “no”, deduct one star from the given score.

To be more specific, do you love the in-your-face, over-the-top brand of martial arts anime like Dragon Ball Z, Fist of the North Star, and Rurouni Kenshin? It’s a very important question, because here is the dirty little secret of Asura’s Wrath: it’s more of an interactive anime than a traditional video game.

That may turn a lot of people off, but if you know and love your anime—and I mean really love your anime—Asura’s Wrath will tickle a special part of your heart from the moment you hit the Start button. Split into three acts that span 18 episodes, Asura’s Wrath is structured exactly like a weekly anime serial. Each episode opens with credits, and you’ll notice bumpers for commercial breaks that don’t exist, but would were it airing on TV Tokyo. You can switch from dubbed to subbed depending on your preference, and the lip syncing is slightly off, just as you would find in most animation from Japan. Complete an episode and you’ll even get a nicely narrated “preview” of what’s coming next. The only thing missing is a rockin’ intro theme song by legendary J-rock singer Hironobu Kageyama. As someone who remembers watching anime with no translation like Legend of the Heavenly Sphere: Shurato, and buying bootleg fansubs of DBZ years before it aired in the West, Asura’s Wrath had me grinning from ear to ear for the duration of its 6-7 hour story.

Unfortunately, the character of Asura has zero personality. He has three emotions: seething, pissed off, and enraged. He’s even less defined than God of War’s Kratos, and makes that character look like a calm and level-headed dude by comparison. This is a problem, because while the story of Asura’s Wrath is an interesting tale of betrayal, revenge, and religion, the titular character has no room to grow. Giving him some humor or levity could have gone a long way to developing a memorable character. After all, Son Goku may be able to disintegrate planets with a flick of his wrist, but at the end of the day he’s a pretty affable fellow. Asura, on the other hand, is merely a means to unleash eye-popping attacks with all the bombast and style you would expect from a well-animated anime series.

Question 2: Do you like Quick Time Events (QTEs)?

If your answer is “no”, deduct one star from the given score.

Yes, Asura can and will perform feats of destruction and power on a level you’ve never seen in a video game. But here’s the other little secret about this game, and another cause for divisiveness: most of this game is a big interactive cutscene. This isn’t the type of Japanese game where you passively watch the movies play out between gameplay, though: most of the movies are the gameplay.

QTEs are a sticky subject amongst gamers, and I’m one of the rare people that are seldom bothered by them. I’m not a fan of games that put the player in a fail state for pressing “A” when they should have pressed “X”, nor am I a fan of QTEs that don’t correspond with the on-screen action. I’ll give Asura’s Wrath some praise for doing pretty well on the former and very well on the latter.

Most of the time, messing up a button prompt won’t give you a game over. In fact, many times you’ll see the same video play out regardless of what you did, which is a problem, but not as big as an automatic fail for messing up. There are a few instances where pressing the wrong button will cause you to have to load from a checkpoint, but this never happened to me in my playthrough (since I rule at video games).

The other (real) reason for that is because Asura’s Wrath does a great job of mapping the button prompts to the action being performed. If Asura takes to the air, you’ll always press the jump button. The action button will almost always be the “heavy attack” button, which you’ll be very acquainted with during the real-time fighting. There are loads of nice little QTEs that add just enough “oomph” to the cutscenes that, again, will make anime fans happy. Planting your feet to charge up for a big attack will require you to purposefully pull the right stick down, and then to the left. It feels in a lot of ways like Heavy Rain, and that’s honestly the best comparison I can make to this game. This is not God of War through a Japanese lens.

Question 3: Are you looking for the next God of War?

If your answer is “yes”, deduct one star from the given score.

At first glance, you would be forgiven for thinking that Asura’s Wrath is the next big character action game. You have an uber-tough protagonist on a mission of revenge against a pantheon of gods, epic music, and the aforementioned QTEs. But looking past those similarities, you’ll see a shallow gaming experience wrapped up in an entertaining package.

As you’ve guessed by now, the moments when you have full control over Asura are rare and over in a flash most of the time. These real-time action bits consist of two basic elements: shooting and melee combat. These elements make up a small part of each episode, and it’s telling when you realize that your actual play time for a 30 minute episode was only 7 minutes.

Surprisingly, the shooting takes up most of the actual gameplay. You have rapid fire energy blasts, but the more effective strategy hinges on your lock on “missile” attacks. This gives the game a decidedly Panzer Dragoon feel, albeit a stripped down version. These shooting parts feel very disconnected, as it’s very difficult to tell what exactly is attacking Asura. In addition, many of these on-rails sections seem like they can be coasted through without really attacking. The only reason for shooting down most of the extremely passive enemies is to charge your Burst Gauge, which is used for a QTE-based finishing move. I’d come across situations where I was wondering why my attacks didn’t seem to have any effect, only to realize that it was because the game needed me to do a Burst Attack, and nothing else.

The melee is similarly shallow, but at least has the potential for fun. You really only have one attack that unleashes a multi-hit combo. The “heavy attack” button does a sweeping move for crowd control, but since it can only be used once before a lengthy cooldown, it is best saved for attacking stunned enemies for a big addition to your Burst Gauge. Like the shooting sections, the main goal is to fill that meter and pull off a massive QTE attack.

And that’s about it. The combat never goes much deeper than evading attacks and hitting enemies for combos, waiting for that Burst Attack to end the section. You’re not going to find the well-crafted melee gameplay of God of War, nor does this game resemble other Capcom action games like Devil May Cry, Onimusha, or God Hand. Asura’s Wrath doesn’t have combo counters, or upgrade mechanics, or multiple weapons to find and utilize. You’ll never walk more than a few feet before another cutscene starts, eliminating any exploration. Asura has a dash attack that pops enemies high into the air, where they’ll hang just begging to be juggled, but this game has absolutely no aerial combat. It’s frustrating, because everything else in Asura's Wrath is so damn entertaining (provided you’re the audience for it), but the actual gameplay is merely a framework for something that could be so much greater.

Despite the frustration and disappointment I had with the lack of fundamental game mechanics in Asura’s Wrath, I enjoyed it a great deal. The game looks phenomenal, sporting a decidedly comic book style. It resembles that first teaser trailer for Street Fighter IV; besides the heavy inked look to the graphics, the character designs look ripped right out of Capcom’s fighting game. Asura himself looks related to Akuma, for example.

The designs in general are amazing, featuring a heady blend of high science fiction tech with Hindu and Buddhist aesthetics. All of the main characters are each unique and colorful, popping off the screen and owning every scene they’re in. This doesn’t apply to supporting characters, which not only come in bland varieties of designs, but seem to have a distinct lack of polygons compared to the Eight Guardian Generals. Some low-res environmental textures and occasional screen tearing mar the experience a tad, but overall the game is a spectacle to behold. The same can be said for the soundtrack, blending classical music with bombastic orchestra and choral performances, putting Asura’s Wrath on a grand scale of style over substance.

If you’ve taken my little quiz, you know if Asura’s Wrath is for you. This game is directed at a niche within a niche, and as such will only appeal to those with a certain frame of mind. If you’re one of those people, this is a great game to enjoy for the spectacle of it all, put it on the shelf, and play again later as you would re-watch a favorite anime series.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Michael117

02/28/2012 at 12:39 PM

Great review. You said the format would be different than what you usually do, but I thought it was pretty nice and wasn't the bad version of different lol. I love my Dragon Ball Z and my anime, but I couldn't deal with the gameplay of this game, at least from the sounds of it. The presentation looks quite beautiful, and I'm sure there are some incredible and epic things to see in the game, but the gameplay doesn't seem to be something I want to get into. It's weird too, maybe I'm fooling myself, because I played Indigo Prophecy back on Xbox and I love that game, even though the gameplay is all quick time events and other button prompts. I didn't love the gameplay per se but I was able to deal with it well enough to progress the plot and keep digging into the story which is what I was interested in. Another reason I might be fooling myself is that you said the best comparison you could make is to Heavy Rain, and I really want to play Heavy Rain, so how could I be positive I wouldn't enjoy Azura's Wrath? That last sentence brought up a good point, I still need to play Heavy Rain at some point lol. I'm not worried about Azura's Wrath anymore lol.

Our Take

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

02/28/2012 at 04:57 PM

It almost sounds like your review was more interactive than the game was.  This is a really clever way to score a game.  I like it.

I ended up giving the game 2 1/2 stars, which, according to our review scale, means it's worth a rental to me.  That's about right, so I guess I'm proof of concept.  

Julian Titus Senior Editor

03/03/2012 at 03:10 PM

It's frustrating, because I think if this game was 50% interactive cutscenes and 50% full-on action game ala Devil May Cry or Onimusha this could be a 5 star game for me. I'd love a sequel, but I'll be shocked if this thing sells over 100,000 copies in the U.S.

Joaquim Mira Media Manager

02/28/2012 at 05:54 PM

Wow, I just looked at who's the developer and I think they could have done much better gameplay wise. CyberConnect2 is known for its fighting games, so this is a bit of a dissapoinment in my eyes. I might pick up this game later on when its discounted.

Our Take

Esteban Cuevas Staff Alumnus

02/28/2012 at 06:04 PM

According to the test given here, I'd give this game a half star. One star if you consider the fact that I don't hate QTEs, I just don't like a lot of them. Julian, you and I already had a discussion about this game when the demo came out so I'll just leave it at that.

Patrick Kijek Contributing Writer

02/29/2012 at 12:45 AM

Drama!

Julian Titus Senior Editor

03/03/2012 at 03:11 PM

In the end, we were both right. I said this wasn't a God of War game, and it isn't. You said it seemed like nothing but QTEs and it is. It worked for me, but for the reasons it does I can easily see how you would hate it.

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