I wonder if anyone’s ever done a study linking gaming to carpal tunnel, because I definitely feel like I’ve done some permanent damage to my hand after spending all day Saturday finishing up the second two acts of Asura’s Wrath. Quick-time events are not kind to my hands. But I was being stubborn & just really wanted to finish the game while I actually had a weekend off. So was my likely future disability worth it?
Asura’s Wrath takes place in a sort of parallel world that combines advanced science fiction with Buddhist & Hindu religion. You play as Asura, a demigod who starts as one of the Eight Guardian Generals who are tasked with saving their world, Gaea, from being overrun with demonic creatures called gohma. It’s a never-ending battle due to a massive beast called Vlitra that awakens every few thousand years to try to wipe humanity from the world. The demigods manage to subdue the beast each time, but never destroy it. After having subdued Vlitra, Asura is quickly betrayed by his fellow generals, who frame him for the Emperor’s murder, kill his wife, kidnap his daughter & send him to the afterlife, Naraka. After fighting his way back to the living, Asura learns that the generals have set themselves up as gods & are abusing their powers to “purify,” aka. kill, the humans to turn their souls into mantra — a substance that gives them great power. Asura’s wrath quickly boils over when he also learns that his daughter, Mithra, is imprisoned so they can use her priestess powers to amplify the Mantra, making them even more powerful.
Asura’s Wrath is a hard game to classify. It’s part beat em’ up & part rail shooter with a generous dose of QTE’s to tie it all together. The Wikipedia page calls it an interactive anime, which I think is an accurate description. Cutscenes that require precise button presses are the majority of the make-up. Most of the actual action sequences involve fighting one or groups of enemies either at hand-to-hand or shooting until Asura builds up his Burst Gauge (which you can think of as Asura’s wrath meter) until he can go into Unlimited Mode and trigger a short scene with context sensitive prompts before moving on to the next encounter.
Note: I’ve seen both the normal & “true” endings for the game. And while I do intend to download Act IV soon, I will be reviewing the base game & doing a separate DLC Review for the additional content.
Narrative: I really enjoyed the story & characters in this game. Despite being an angry character, I really liked the way they portrayed Asura’s character. He’s justifiably angry. It’s your classic revenge story, by the developers handle it well by showing that Asura isn’t always angry. There’s real contrast to his character to show that, while wrath is part of who he is (he’s never shown as a happy-go-lucky guy) he’s capable of more than that. In most games a surly character is just always surly & never shows anything else. But here I think they did a good job of making Asura’s a well-rounded character. I particularly like that in the last few episodes Asura seems to be gaining control of his anger. The other characters in the game are equally interesting & all have their own distinctive personalities. I particularly like Yasha, who they play off as the misguided hero, someone who hates what he’s doing but endures it because he thinks it’s for the greater good. He’s a very interesting character to watch & I like the interactions between him & Asura. Even though they’re demigods, they act like typical brother-in-laws. The world the game creates is very unique & intriguing. I really like the mix of sci-fi & Asian mysticism. It all blends surprisingly well together, making a familiar but different type of world. You don’t have to know anything about Buddhism or Hinduism to understand the game, but if you do then it’s kind of cool to see how the game makes those myths & beliefs their own. One interesting aspect that I was surprised worked well is that, after each episode, you get a slide show with text that gives you more information on the story. While some people might not like that they didn’t just make a cutscene, I think it does a good job of telling what’s going on in the background. For instance, it’s through these scenes that we learn about the past & motivations of the little girl who follows Asura around in Act 2. Telling us about her past & what she’s doing while the real action is going on during the game gives her a lot more personality that you’d expect for such a brief character. But I do have to talk a bit about the ending… or rather, endings. The default ending, while providing a decent amount of closure (Asura saves the world & is reunited with his daughter) it definitely has a big “For Now” tag on it. And the “true” ending, which adds a few scenes after the default ending’s fade to black, is a major cliff hanger. And while I know there’s an additional chapter to download, it feels like you’ve played an incomplete game. So overall, while I loved the crazy story & characters, I feel I have to take points away from giving me an incomplete game just for the sake of squeezing more money out of me. Story: 4
Mechanics: I really have mixed feelings about the gameplay in Asura’s Wrath. The term interactive anime is really accurate. The main meat of the game is the cutscenes with QTE’s. On the one hand, it’s nice that the game gets the player involved during the scenes rather than just making you take a backseat. On the other hand, it makes it hard to enjoy the scenes when I’m constantly looking at the center of the screen to watch for prompts. Plus, the QTE’s don’t really add a lot to how the scenes play out. Aside from a few differences during combat, they don’t affect how the story goes. It’s just for a better score in the end, which only helps in getting the “true” ending. The rest of the game works okay. Combat works fine. Asura can punch, roll & shoot, & the controls are responsive. But the problem is that it just feels like busy work. The combat isn’t hard, & most of the time it’s just a matter of waiting to counter enemies enough to build your burst meter to end the encounter. Even the shooter sections, which I thought were a little more fun, work the same way. There’s no real challenge & most of the time you just want to breeze through it to get to the next part of the story. The game tries to change things up by having different types of encounters. Sometimes you’re fighting a group, the next time your chasing after a gohma during a rail section, then you’re fighting a giant turtle. The variety is nice, but it doesn’t change that you’re just doing the same thing. So overall, the mechanics work fine they’re just not that interesting. Score: 3
Aesthetics: I’ve mentioned several times that I didn’t care for the character design, but I have to admit it started to grow on me. The heavy cell-shading & character designs give it an almost carved look, which fits well with the themes. The settings are amazing to look at sometimes. You probably won’t notice it right away, but wait until you’re running through space stations. And that’s another thing; the way they made the sci-fi stuff fit in with the mythology themes is amazingly well-done. I thought it’d be out-of-place, but things like hoverbikes & giant space stations actually fit in. I think it’s because the demigods look almost like they could be robotic themselves (Asura seems to have mechanical arms) it gives all of their things an otherworldly quality that makes things like the Brahmastra seem plausible. The voice acting is really good in the game. Liam O’Brien’s deep, gravely voice suits Asura well & works for both is screaming & non-screaming bits. All the other actors do a fantastic job & fit their characters well. But the music was the best part, for me. The music is amazing. So good I’m actually interested in buying the soundtrack. My personal favorites are the main theme, the song the plays during the previews for the next episode (“In Your Belief” I think) & Yasha’s theme (I think it’s “Orphan Wolf Legend”). Most of the music fits the Asian themes well, but there’s also come classical pieces which work surprisingly well. Overall, great presentation. Score: 5
Replay Value: I’d say the game has short replay value. Because it’s broken up into episodes, it’s easy to go back & replay sections you like. And unless you’re really good, I’d say you’d have to replay some sections a few times to get the “true” ending (you either have to get five S rankings or complete 50 episodes). There’s lots to unlock, some of which actually affect gameplay. But I don’t think the mechanics of the game hold up well enough to coming back months from now. If anything, I think you may replay a few sections that you liked, then be done with it. Unless you’re a completionist who has to make a perfect score on everything. Score: 3
Overall Score: 4
Final Words: Asura’s Wrath isn’t for everyone, & it lacks real lasting power. But I think if you’re a fan of Eastern culture, anime or just want to play something that’s both unique & over-the-top, definitely check it out. It’s fun while it lasts & the story is on par with anything you’ll find in your popular anime series.
Title: Asura’s Wrath Console: 360 & PS3
Release Date: Febuary 21, 2012