Games like Metal Gear Solid, Uncharted, Final Fantasy and God of War are all deep set in cinematic storytelling- that’s their main purpose, to tell stories and tell them very well. But, contrary to what a few haters might say, these games also always boast of great gameplay that will engage you and addict you, and won’t just feel like a second thought. Asura’s Wrath, from the very beginning, labels itself as an interactive story, and the story it tells is a very good one. It’s also told very engrossingly. However, what Asura’s Wrath lacks in is what makes those story moments so engrossing. It lacks a foundation, it lacks the beam to support the wall- it lacks good gameplay. In fact, it lacks gameplay, period.
Now, that may sound like a bit of an extreme comment. What is a game without a gameplay? Well, Asura’s Wrath does have a little bit of gameplay, to be honest. But when I played- or watched- it, I considered it to be an anime rather than a video game, because that is what the game feels like. Everything from the story to the characterization to the art style to the direction screams “anime”, and it does a very good job of keeping players interested. The game is split into episodes, each literally ending with a “To be continued” screen, in vein of animes, and each about 25 minutes long.
In these 25 minutes, the time you spend playing is almost negligible. You’ll have played the game for 5-7 minutes and watched cutscenes (sometimes interactive) the other times, and this is what is the most jarring. Because at the end of the day, Asura’s Wrath is a game. You don’t want to be sitting limply, staring at the screen uselessly while playing a game. You want to be pressing buttons and moving analog sticks.
When the game does give you a chance to do all that, it doesn’t do it very well. The combat is a button mashing mess, and all you have to do is, well, mash buttons. There’s no satisfaction to the fisticuffs and the on-rails shooting sections, and they just fee bland and boring. And during these sections, you just want to get it over with and see what happens next. And this creates a bit of a paradox. At the same time, you always want and don’t want the game to have more gameplay. This makes the experience a huge, confused mess.
Then there are the context sensitive situations, when during the cutscenes, you have to press buttons as and when they are prompted on the screen. These are some really good sections, and though your actions off and on screen seem to have a little bit of a disconnect sometimes, most of the times, the QTEs result in some pretty cool actions. From constant punches to dodging godly bullets to beating the crap out of your enemies, these sections are always entertaining and thrilling.
However, the real star of Asura’s Wrath is the storytelling. The game, as I have said before, might as well be called a collection of some episodes from an anime. The cutscenes are wonderfully directed, and you will see the same over-the-top moments you’d expect from an anime or a CyberConnect2 game. Be it a sword as long as the distance between the earth and the moon (literally), or kicking a guy so hard that he’s blasted into the sky, the game will be throwing unexpected, badass, awesome moments like these at you all along, and these will be the moments that keep you coming back for more, despite the other glaring flaws of the game.
The story told here is also pretty good. While it’s nothing new and does resort to a few clichés, it’s still interesting and supplements the storytelling very well (I know, usually it’s the other way round, but that’s just how it is here). The characterization is a bit poor- Asura is just a Kratos with hair; he even sounds- like Kratos- but the characters are not exactly bad. They’re cliché and a bit too conventional, but good nonetheless.
Asura’s Wrath does look very good though. Technically, it’s a game that stands tall, but it’s in the artistic department that it really shines. The animations are superior, the lip syncing is great, the soundtrack is wonderful, and the voice caste is good, except for Asura himself.
The problem is that there isn’t much to do here. The game can be finished in 5-6 hours, and after that, there’s nothing you can do- nothing at all. No collectibles, no different modes, you’re not even encouraged to play the game multiple times. It’s here that Asura’s Wrath falters the most. If it had a little more gameplay and a little more value to it, I would have recommended it to one and all without hesitation. But given the current state of the game, it’s worth a rent at best.
Second Opinion By Bojeeva:
Capcom’s latest epic, Asura’s Wrath, is a game that’s sure to divide opinion. There will be those who adore its anime-style graphics, engrossing storyline and God of War-fighting mechanic… but conversely there will inevitably be others that question whether a full price release should really offer a bit more gameplay, less narrative and forget its heavy emphasis on quick time events all together. I surprisingly found myself falling into the former camp and think that Capcom have developed a game that is both captivating and well worth playing.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of lengthy cut scenes or QTE, and this game has both in abundance. Not only that, but the fighting elements are fairly basic and can get repetitive… but these points aside, I still wanted to keep on playing – and enjoyed the experience wholeheartedly.
We all have bad days but Asura’s having an absolute stinker. Following a triumphant return home after a skirmish with the Gohma, he falls from grace rather abruptly after the Emperor is found murdered. Everyone assumes he is responsible and his pleas of innocence fall on deaf ears. Things go from bad to worse when he finds his wife slaughtered, his daughter kidnapped and he is subsequently banished. Ostracised and pretty darn miserable, 12,000 years pass and we take control of our hero as he embarks on an epic quest to save his daughter and crack some skulls in the name of revenge. He’s an angry guy, but fortunately he can channel his rage to take on allcomers.
The game looks fantastic and is split into a series of bite-sized episodes, much like a TV series. Each part opens with credits and a brief animation or some artwork to progress the story. It works really well and develops the plot nicely, encouraging you to play on. Most episodes involve fighting giant apes, elephants and a multitude of other beasts using various attacks, followed by a confrontation with one of the seven deities thrown in for good measure. The size and scale of some of these bad guys is immense; early on, while seemingly on the verge of defeating a rival called Wyzen, he suddenly grows in size to become bigger than the planet itself. You then see him attacking Asura from outerspace, his giant finger piercing the atmosphere to crush our hero like a flea. Despite the odds being against him, Asura is still able to hold his own, however, thanks largely to the ability to sprout six arms and fill a gauge as he gets angrier that unleashes some devastating attacks.
As mentioned above, QTE dominates the proceedings and it does grate a little after a while, making the gameplay seem a little light. A flick of the sticks, a well-timed twist or all-out button mashing is enough to beat the bad guys. Get it right and you’ll be rewarded with a positive rating at the end of the section; a poor performance and your grades will be marked down – possibly incentivizing you to have another attempt and extend the game’s longevity.
It really does feel more like an interactive movie. The sound effects and background music is superb, really adding to the atmosphere and its big screen feel. When not watching the cutscenes, you get to dabble with in some hand to hand combat, which is reminiscent of the God of War series. Occasionally there are also some basic on-rail shooting sections, where you simply have to aim your reticule and press the rapid fire button or unleash a few homing missiles when locked on to your target. Overall, the controls are easy to grasp – a heavy and light attack button, dive and dash attacks, rapid fire and the trigger button when your rage gauge is full.
It’s really not a tough game and it doesn’t last too long. By the time you’ve “played” the first few episodes you’ll have an idea of what’s to come but I found myself keen to fulfil Asura’s destiny. To summarize, this is a good-looking title that’s full of shouting, grimacing, violence and repetition. At full price, you may feel a little shortchanged but find this discounted and you should snap it up as it’s an enjoyable romp.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Spectacular presentation with a strong anime-like vibe reverberating throughout; Good story; Great art style; Cutscenes are excellent; Good soundtrack
Bland gameplay; Too much show, very little tell; Voice actor for the main character is sub-par; Generic characterization; Too short; Very little replay value; high price tag is highly unjustified