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Asura's Wrath

Score: 60%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Cyber Connect2
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:

Asura's Wrath would be almost nothing without graphics and sound, so it's fortunate that it's nearly a first-rate production. Everything is based on Japanese mythology, but there's a barely-concealed cyberpunk aesthetic behind much of the divine stuff; just wait until you see the Brahmastra. The demigods have a bizarre look to them that really makes them stand out from regular humans; their skin is mottled with a strange woodgrain pattern. Gohma, the game's most common enemies, look like oversized animals that pulse with sickly red corruption. The level of absurdity on display is simply unparalleled, and hear you me, I've played my share of weird Japanese games. This is the kind of game in which seeing your character impaled by a sword that is several hundreds of thousands of miles long isn't the most memorable moment. Asura's Wrath is Japanese excess at its most extreme, and because of that, it's often a joy to watch.

Asura's Wrath is pure cacophony by design. The English dub is decent, but the script clearly isn't meant to be heard in the English language. That's okay, though: 95% of our hero's speech is incoherent screaming. Still, you have the option to choose the Japanese dub, which is certainly welcome. The biggest problem with the audio is the lack of balance in the mixing. Explosions and sound effects completely drown out most of the dialogue; this wouldn't be a problem if the player had the option to adjust individual sound levels. The soundtrack is excellent, however; nobody will mistake this game for anything that doesn't deal with Japanese mythology. Vocalizations mix with traditional Japanese musical instruments to deliver something that is truly unique in the game space.


Gameplay:

It's becoming a general rule of thumb that Japanese game developers are capable of offering unique takes on mythology. We saw it last year with the Judeo-Christian-themed El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. This year, we have Asura's Wrath, an over-the-top and science-fictiony take on Hindu mythology.

The world is in chaos due to the presence of the race of planet-corrupting monsters known as Gohma. However, a team of demigods known as the Eight Guardian Generals stand ever vigilant against this world-consuming threat. After an intense opening battle with the impossibly-large tentacle monster known as Vlitra, Asura is summoned to meet with Emperor Strada. However, once Asura reaches his destination, he discovers that the Emperor has been murdered. Asura himself is blamed for the crime and betrayed by the other seven Guardian Generals; his wife Durga is killed and his daughter Mithra is kidnapped. Asura is flung into Naraka, where he remains in exile for twelve millennia. All the while the newly-dubbed Seven Deities conspire to bring about a "Great Rebirth." But you can't keep a good demigod down, and Asura returns with vengeance on his mind.

Asura's Wrath is destined to polarize. 80% of your time with this game's eighteen episodes will be spent watching cutscenes -- and I'm probably being generous with that estimate. It is completely reasonable to question whether or not it can be considered a game. Personally, I would argue that it can, but barely. The real problem with Asura's Wrath is that the gameplay offered simply isn't fun. That is, unless you have a thing for severely simple combat systems and quick time events.


Difficulty:

Asura's Wrath has almost no gameplay, so judging its difficulty level is, in and of itself, a difficult thing to do. The story is often difficult to follow, but the only thing you really have to understand is that Asura is even more volatile, vengeful, and selfish than God of War's Kratos. The final episode (specifically, the final boss) is the most challenging part of the game, even though it's not hard by other games' standards. You'll have to play this episode twice if you want to see the "True" ending, and that's the most frustrating part. There's no logical reason why the player should have to do that; there are no gameplay-related changes whatsoever. It really just seems like the developer wanted to lengthen an experience that was long to begin with.

Game Mechanics:

Asura's Wrath is content to play itself most of the way through. It's quite a spectacle, to be sure, but it's mostly a hands-off kind of spectacle.

The ground combat system is barebones. There are light, heavy, and projectile attacks, but there's no method to using them. You don't have to time any of it; all you need to do is make sure you can get out of the way of your enemies' attacks before closing in again to start another barrage of blows. Heavy attacks feature cooldown periods -- that is, unless you've powered up and activated Unlimited Mode.

The goal of most combat situations is to simply build your Burst Meter (seriously, what is up with the Japanese and that word?) by landing successful attacks. When the meter is full, you can trigger a cutscene featuring a number of very simple quick time events. These quick time events invariably result in something spectacularly insant happening on the screen. Though the actions don't match up well enough to feel like your input is worth anything, they are still worth seeing. Performing well in the quick times results in a better ranking at the end of each episode.

Sometimes, you'll take to the air or start running very quickly. When this happens, the gameplay style shifts to that of an on-rails shooter like Panzer Dragoon. Like the rest of the game, these parts are fun to look at, but not much fun to play. This can be blamed on the fact that the shooting simply lacks impact.

Asura's Wrath is an interesting experiment that ultimately fails as a game. I consider it a must-play and can easily recommend it as a rental, but I can't imagine that anyone would want to pay full price for it. It has zero replay value and simply isn't much fun to play. It sure is fun to watch, though.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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