An interactive movie in a video game skin...
Written by Super User
Published Tuesday, 13 March 2012 20:00
The latest foray into the action adventure genre from developer CyberConnect2 (by way of Capcom), may not be exactly what gamers are expecting. More of an anime cartoon series with quick time events than anything else, Asura’s Wrath will surprise many expecting a straight forward action/adventure or hack and slash experience. Those familiar with the overt action of anime series’ like Dragon Ball Z or Naruto might love the story and its Asian and mythological influenced aesthetics, while those with more Western tastes may feel deceived and alienated.
Asura’s Wrath delves into Asian (Hindu and Buddhist) mythology head first, and takes gamers (and viewers in some instances) on an anime inspired ride through a story of love, loss, vengeance and over the top action. Asuras in Buddhism and Hinduism are kind of like Gods (sometimes evil) and are often known for their hot tempers. Sometimes they even boast six arms, so our hero in Asura’s Wrath (Asura) is rightly named. Unlike some of the negative connotations in these religions towards the Asuras, our hero is quite benevolent, but still a rage-filled beast in anime form. Speaking of which, CyberConnect2 is right at home in the anime realm, and it shows here. Previous games from the developer such as .hack and the Naruto series have strengthened their anime style, and have clearly assisted in the creation of the original story behind Asura’s Wrath. However, Wrath walks the line between interactive movie and video game like nothing you have ever seen before.
"We are supposed to be here to play a game, and the sections that we do get to play are lacklustre at best, and don’t add much to the experience, which is a shame."
We’ll start with the story. The game gives you control of Asura, one of the “Eight Guardian Generals”, who are God-like warriors (deities, demigods) sent to protect Heaven and Earth from the Gohma, a race of evil critters in the form of apes, giant turtles, gargantuan elephants and planet sized creatures of horror. Framed for the murder of the Emperor, Asura returns home to find his wife dead and his daughter kidnapped in a treacherous plot carried out by the leader of the group of demigods, Deus. Asura is defeated by Deus, and sent back to Naraka (a form of Hell) where he must fight his way through legions of enemies after 12 millennia of being incapacitated. Asura’s Wrath takes our hero through his path of vengeance, battling the forces of Heaven, space battleships, the Gohma, and his god-like enemies. His journey of revenge will see him seek out justice primarily on the newly named “Seven Deities”. Okay, so the story is complex and unfolds with an amazing pace. The first few episodes are kind of slow, but really, once you’ve spent some time with the plot, it becomes engrossing. What you get is an experience that rivals some of the best anime out there. You will anticipate every next step in Asura’s tale, and become more and more engaged by what you see, hear and feel. Again, I have to say, although the story is good, those not familiar with the anime genre, or who dislike it altogether, might not care the over the top action and plot.
Overall, the presentation in Asura’s Wrath is the best part of the core experience. The visuals are simply top-notch. The cut scenes have superior detail that follows through to the hack and slash sections and the flight sequences. CyberConnect2 has made a very visually appealing game. There are still a few drawbacks, however. Sometimes the anime style may not allow for as much detail as one might like, but overall this isn’t going to be a major gripe. The only huge drawback might be in the style of the Gohma. When you do encounter any member of the evil creatures, you will see skin that is all black with red writhing veins throughout their design. Sure they look good, but it seems like a shortcut, and really stands out when compared to the game’s overall graphical beauty.
There are a decent variety of other enemies as well. Mini bosses, like steel Buddhas, and main bosses, like the Seven Deities, are really at the core of the experience. It reminds me of No More Heroes, where basic grunts make up the primary foes, but you play to see the over-the-top boss battles. In terms of visual quality, you can look forward to beautiful vistas, some truly gorgeous boss designs, and even bumpers which separate the action, much like you’d see between commercial breaks during your favorite anime series. The small details really make the experience feel like a true anime epic. Previews for the next episode increase the player’s anticipation, interludes that feel like comic book pages and a complete gallery of artwork, movies and CG models. The visuals are the core of the experience, and how can they not be when you are mostly watching the events unfold?
The sound design is the other area where Asura’s Wrath excels. Seeing as most of the game plays out in cut scenes, what you have here is a full-fledged anime movie experience, with audio quality and a soundtrack that matches the brilliant visuals. The game features music that flows well with the experience. When the action heats up, you’ll have an up-tempo song to drive forward through a flight mission. When you are watching a moving cut scene, you’ll get a beautifully orchestrated piece. The music matches the tone of the story and the gorgeous visuals. The biggest problem I had was getting accustomed to the English voices. They really are a bit overenthusiastic, but this is the norm with all anime. Be prepared for the rage-filled screaming fits from the titular hero. Again, those unfamiliar with the genre are going to hate it. However, CyberConnect2 has included the original Japanese voices for those who can’t take it, or the anime purists out there.
While the audio and visual design stands out, the gameplay is the one downfall of Asura’s Wrath. Those looking for a Devil May Cry, or God of War style game be warned, this is neither an action/adventure or hack and slash game! There are basically three types of gameplay in store during this entirely single player experience. The player is able to interact through quick time events, control short hack and slash sequences, and equally short flight combat sequences. Most of the time in Asura’s Wrath is spent watching. Even the quick time events don’t always need to be executed flawlessly to progress. Instead, a cumulative score is given to your success rate in the quick time events at the end of each episode. Hack and slash gameplay is rather simple and feels like it is put in place to fill your Burst meter just to get to the next cut scene or quick time event. It is fun, but far from the best out there. Flight sections are interesting. They break up the story and cut scenes by engaging you in massive aerial battles that are as frantic as you can imagine. However, they didn’t feel like very much fun. The controls are awkward, as Asura’s movement and aim are handled by one analog stick, which makes it hard to dodge obstacles and shoot a target at the same time.
I really enjoyed Asura’s Wrath, but the gameplay is somewhat of a large disappointment. We are supposed to be here to play a game, and the sections that we do get to play are lacklustre at best, and don’t add much to the experience, which is a shame. The gameplay didn’t match the experience as a whole in terms of production value. The story is good, the visuals and audio are great, but the gameplay is substandard. Wrath will take about 6 hours to complete, and won’t leave much to come back for. The promise of DLC is intriguing, but the price will have to match the length of gameplay we’ll receive. For hardcore anime fans, the experience may be worth the purchase. For everyone else, I’ll say this is at least a good rental. Some will be surprised by the amount of enjoyment you’ll be able to get out of it, as long as your expectations line up with an interactive movie rather than a game. Once you’ve completed Asura’s Wrath, you’ll have seen and done everything that there is to do, but you’ll have enjoyed every step you’ve taken to get there.
Release date : 2012-02-21
Publisher : Capcom
Developer : CyberConnect2
Gameplay : Action
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