Having had a look at Asura’s Wrath when the demo was released, I was left with two very different feelings. My first thought was that despite the game’s promise, it felt like I was actually performing very little in regard to actions. Almost as if the game was playing itself and I was just along for the ride.
The second thought, however, was that there was something about Asura’s Wrath that just caught me a little off guard. There was something here, buried under the quick time events and limited control. Having played through the entire game, I can now tell you that I was right; there is something very special about this game.
Previously on Asura’s Wrath…
Asura is one of the Eight Guardian Generals; a demigod charged with protecting the planet Gaea from the evil Ghoma. One fateful day his world is left in ruin around him, his wife murdered and his daughter kidnapped. To make matters worse he is framed for the murder of the Emperor, a crime for which he is quickly punished for. Asura is sent to the underworld, Karaka, where he lies forgotten by the world for 12,000 years.
When he awakens, he can’t remember anything, but his unbridled anger will soon open the door on all that has passed. He soon comes to understand that the remaining Guardian Generals have assumed a new title, ‘The Seven Deities’, and are now murdering the inhabitants of the planet in order to collect mantra, so they may defeat their ultimate enemy, Ghoma Vlitra.
It is difficult to escape the idea that this game is nothing more than in interactive anime; not that this is a bad thing, just that it maybe isn’t what you would expect from a game. The story is broken up into episodes, which play the credits at the start of each one. There is a glimpse of what each next episode has to offer just before you start up, and the most notable feature of all is that there is literally a screen shown in the middle of each episode where the commercial breaks would be.
During the campaign there are many different styles of gameplay to master. Firstly, there are the quick time events that are littered throughout the cut-scenes. Despite the fact that there isn’t much to do during these sequences, there is something very satisfying about hitting the right timing and watching the actions play out.
However, you first have to fill up your meter to activate these kinds of sequences (for the most part). In order to do this you will typically be thrown into a 3rd person action game-style fight, where you will face multiple enemies of varying strengths until you can fill that meter right up. All of a sudden you are prompted to push “R2″ to burst, and I can tell you this, it is a great feeling when you hit it; a little bit like pushing the metaphorical win button, but still incredibly exhilarating.
Other sequences see you using a reticule with a fixed camera perspective, firing projectiles at enemies in a style that reminds me of the Sega classic Space Harrier. Once again, the aim of these segments of gameplay is to get your metre filled up so you can burst.
Asura’s Wrath truly comes into its own when you are fighting enemies that are not merely big, but enormous. You will face opponents the size of planets and in some cases larger than that, and this is where the mixture of gameplay styles begins to make sense.
In the later portion of the game you change from playing as Asura to playing as his brother-in-law Yasha. He is one of the Seven Deities, but does not entirely agree with the methods being used to gain peace on Gaea. Although he does have slightly different moves from Asura, it is a little disappointing that there isn’t much difference when playing as Yasha. You would have thought that it would have been a chance to introduce further styles of gameplay, but this is not the case.
Completing the game will answer some of your questions about the story, and Asura’s quest to find his daughter. However, in order to find out the real truth behind it all you must achieve a certain number of S ranks during the campaign. This unlocks the alternate last chapter, which isn’t really all that different from the other last chapter, with the exception of the final moments of the last cut scene. I had completed the game before unlocking the true ending and found it rather irritating that I couldn’t just watch the new scene; I had to play through the entire last chapter again. However, for the completionist it is worth going through it again; although, I did feel slightly let down by the true ending. It ultimately leaves you with more questions than answers, and is not too dissimilar to the regular ending.
In an attempt to try and give the game some longevity, they have included a whole host of extras for you to collect. You can unlock videos, artwork, and new bumpers (so you can theme Asura’s wrath to be viewed with the style you want) and even different gauges that give you different abilities. Add in some achievements and you might just have a reason to go through multiple play-throughs of the game. Taking all this into account breathes a little more life into the game.
Do I look angry to you?
The overall look of the game is beautiful. Every scene has an incredible sense of scale and grandeur, which in some cases leaves you a little breathless. Although the models themselves are not graphically superior to the best looking games, they have an individual art style that has great merit and looks fantastic in the world they have designed. You might look at the character design and feel that it is quite similar to a lot of other games developed in the East, or even an anime; however, they still look fantastic.
The thing that Asura’s Wrath does better than most is its ability to think bigger, better and more insanely than anything else out there. You can clearly see that this is reflected in the look of the game.
The sounds of rage
The opening prologue to the game is an incredible scene which sees Asura leading the charge with the other Guardians against the Ghoma. He stands arms-crossed on the hull of a spaceship, with an army of great size behind him, and as the camera sweeps across the jaw-dropping scene the music begins to swell. It was at this moment that I knew I was in for an incredible treat with the soundtrack. The marriage of strings washes over you leaving all the hairs on your body standing to attention. The music manages to convey a wealth of varying emotions, whether it is tugging on your heartstrings, or getting you pumped up with adrenaline.
I have a particular affinity for the choice of soundtrack used when you play as Yasha towards the end of the game. Rather than just using the sombre and grand compositions that have accompanied Asura’s destructive path through out the game, Yasha gets his own theme; and his theme is a little more Rock & Roll. Even though the music varies so frequently and has so many different dynamics, it all fits together in a really unusual way. I would whole-heartedly recommend putting the score for the game on repeat through your headphones, as it is not only a strong pillar of the game; it is an amazing composition in its own right.
Following the anime trappings that the rest of the game adheres to, the use of sound effects and voice acting is incredibly over-the-top. Despite taking you out of the moment sometimes, I think it fits in rather well with the style of the game.
To be continued?
This is one of the most difficult reviews I have ever had to write, as I want so much to just tell everyone to go and buy this game. The story, the music, the art style and the gameplay are all brilliant; but the sad fact remains that the game is very short, clocking in at around seven hours.
Personally I loved this game more than I ever thought I could. It may be more of an interactive anime than a game, but the entertainment value is still there and not in a fleeting capacity. In good conscience I cannot recommend that you go out and pay the full £40 to get your hands on this game, unless of course my review has you intrigued to the point where you couldn’t care less about the cost. Please don’t take this as me not wanting people to play the game, however; on the contrary, I think everyone should experience this game at least once. Whether you rent it, borrow it or take the plunge at retail, I think you would be hard pressed to come out of the game with nothing.
There will always be a place in my heart for Asura’s Wrath, and just like at the end of an anime series I am left with the sad feeling that it is over. I thirst for more, and with DLC in the pipeline it seems like I will get my wish.