Asura’s Wrath is a story of a father trying to find his child. Unlike most stories that involve picking up a sobbing brat from the security department of a hypermarket, this isn’t that straight forward. Unless well, you tear away the 12,000 year timeline, seven gods to defeat, a world perpetually on the brink of destruction and replace a hypermarket with a giant space fleet. What you have here is a very vibrant universe that’s replete with all the mystic and sci-fi trappings you’d expect from high production value Japanese anime.
And like most things anime, you’re left to fathom a rather predictable plot told in the most insane, nonsensical way possible. So much so that the presentation of the narrative is better than the actual tale itself. The game is broken up into small chapters bookended with sublime art slides and written text that take the story forward. Along with this are credits for each chapter as well as a small sequence foretelling what to expect from the next.
Within each chapter you’re treated to overdramatised cut-scenes and droning monologues, some of which reward you with achievements for skipping them. For in your quest for vengeance you’ll tear a planet sized god asunder, destroy armadas of space ships and teach more than one demon tainted hellspawn what it means to be on the receiving end of one very pissed demigod. Did I mention that all of this is in the very first hour? Needless to say it incorporates some of the most over the top action this side of Bayonetta.
Speaking of other video games, the title character, Asura gives Kratos competition for video game’s most angsty hero.Yes, the similarities to Sony’s iconic protagonist are rife. Both were wronged by their gods, both are constantly and consistently angry and both are complete bad asses. Difference being, Asura has a conscience when it comes to saving innocent bystanders who don’t fit into his grand plans. Oh and a sense of humour too, especially towards the end.
The similarities don’t end with characters. In terms of gameplay, it borrows from Sony Santa Monica’s classic franchise (and every other beat ’em up post-God of War) with Quick Time Events. Unlike God of War, you’re not penalised for not pulling them off successfully except for affecting your overall performance at the end of the game. For all practical purposes, the game plays itself leaving you little to worry about in terms of progression. Reason being, getting to the point where you can activate QTEs is a simple matter of mashing buttons till you fill up your burst gauge.
A combat system exists, in theory and name alone though (more on that in the next paragraph). Pressing B lets you dole out bog standard damage while Y unleashes heavy damage that requires a cool down period between use. Use enough of these and you can enter infinity mode, which allows you to spam heavy attacks wholesale, all of which add to your burst gauge. When it is filled, you’re presented with a prompt to press RT, doing so results in a crazy flurry of attacks, combos and moves that would give Rajnikanth and Chuck Norris severe inferiority complexes.
It’s at this point where you end up realising that beneath that pretty exterior of cel shaded goodness, intricate animations and rousing presentation values, is some very, very shallow gameplay whose basic premise can be summed up as “spam till you’re prompted to press RT”. If you were expecting any combat depth along the lines of contemporaries such as El Shaddai, Bayonetta or Vanquish, you’d be left completely disappointed. You’ll wonder if the combat was outsourced to another studio altogether so that CyberConnect2 could focus on making a great looking game.
And in spite of the combat’s best attempt to sabotage the game, it isn’t a complete disaster. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself half-way through the game and still ploughing forward. It’s a feeling similar to indulging in a marathon of one season of a hotly anticipated TV show that you’ve managed to get your hands on, where you’ve reached saturation point but still want more, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That is, until you reach the game’s end.
Similar to Final Fantasy XIII-2‘s cliff hanger ending, Asura’s Wrath taunts you with a screen that proclaims that you haven’t truly seen the end of this saga until you either obtain an “S” rank in 5 chapters or replay chapters till you finish 50 of them. Couple this with the fact that the game has 18 chapters, each of which last for a maximum of 20 minutes and you have a game that’s six hours at best if you don’t find yourself inclined to seek out the “true ending” which, from a quick Google search, doesn’t seem worth it. Such antics leave you feeling rather hollow and without a sense of closure. Perhaps it’s CyberConnect2’s way of laying the ground work for a sequel perhaps?
Asura’s Wrath is a fun little distraction that clocks in around six hours. What it lacks in replayability and combat, it makes up for in sterling presentation and over the top scenarios resulting in a game that’s just a little more than middling effort.