Genre: Action Developer: Publisher: Classification: MA15+ Release Date: To be advised (future release) Platforms:
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For non-Anime fans delving into Asura’s Wrath many of you will be feeling like that drunk blonde at a suitably hipster hotspot drinking in the surroundings. You’ll be watching the action unfold around you and something inside will be telling you it’s cool, but you wont quite know what the hell is going on. Anime fans, however, will rejoice for Asura’s Wrath is the closest thing you’ll ever get to an interactive weekly serial with all the flashy, nonsensical trimmings.
What sets Asura’s Wrath apart is its amazingly unique artistic style and delivery. Garnering inspiration from classic shows such as Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, elements of Dragonball Z and character influences from Samurai Champloo each of the 18 episodes you play through completely resembles a continuing Anime series. From the bumpers splitting each episode with interchangeable Asura based artworks, to the credit sequences (particularly at the end of each part or ‘season’), to the sneak peek of the next episode it just oozes style and completely pulls off the illusion. There’s even added back story provided at the end of each segment set against a backdrop of gorgeously illustrated sketches by a multitude of different artists.
The plot is the stock-standard brain-exploding insanity. The world or Gaea has a demonic entity at its core named Vlitra manifesting evil creatures known as Gohma, mimicking differing types of animals, and wiping out the human populace. Eight god-generals stand at the ready charged by the Emperor to battle this menace and protect the planet, and do so on a regular basis. Asura is one of those god-general dudes. Returning from a triumphant battle he’s framed for the Emperor’s death, returns to find his wife murdered and his daughter kidnapped thus setting the game’s wheels in motion.
He’s unceremoniously dismissed by his former brothers in arms and cast out from the heavens to the earth down below where he waits for 12,000 odd years to get a little payback and a chance to reclaim his lost daughter. This leads to a slew of epic battles against tiny weaklings and his former comrades - rife with outrageous posturing (which can be interrupted via a knuckle sandwich) and on a ridiculous scale. Blows impact Gaea or crack the Moon, other generals - now self-proclaimed ‘deities’ - dwarf the planet at times. It is all a little nutty and the best course of action is to totally embrace it and hang on for the ride.
Each episode is a mixture of interactive cut-scenes (so you can never keep the controller too far away) and crazy over the top action. You see the angrier Asura gets the more powerful he becomes, much like a certain green skinned comic book entity. It’s not called Asura’s Wrath on a whim. Most fight sequences last between 2-10 minutes depending on your proficiency and are a mixture of smashing foes with light, ranged and heavy attacks, dodging incoming ones and reaching your Burst Limit.
Hitting Burst Limit triggers a Player Driven Event or PDE (exactly like a QTE but sounding cooler) resulting in Asura knocking the taste out of someone’s mouth, ripping them to pieces, destroying a fleet of enemy ships or ending the existence of some monolithic creature. I found the balance between crazy fisticuffs and the ‘breather’ cut-scenes spot on and it made Asura’s Wrath unlike like anything I’ve ever played before.
Asura is a man of many talents… and arms. Burst Limits sometimes trigger Asura’s almost uncontrollable rage spawning him four extra limbs to beat the crap out of enemies. One particularly jawdropping encounter with your former mentor has you battle with no arms at all! Using your legs and head only as primary weapons was something I thought I’d never see and it totally blew me away.
The story flits about back and forth between current events and flashbacks (leaving the door open for easy DLC tie-ins) making for some memorable moments. An interlude at a hot spring with Asura getting pissed and ogling the attendants was completely unexpected, but that’s the charm of Asura’s Wrath. Countless times you’ll be smirking to yourself and shaking your head at the sheer ludicrousness of it all… and loving every minute of it.
At the two-thirds mark, they throw in an interesting twist switching protagonists in a slick manner that L.A. Noire only wishes it could achieve. Initially jarring considering the different play style of the character, it makes perfect sense and leads to many epic tag-team confrontations with just about any surviving entity of power left. They just keep upping the ante and it all gets crazier and crazier until the pseudo ending. I say pseudo because unless you’re particularly adept you’ll need to fight the final boss twice under certain conditions to unlock the “true” ending, which does feel a little cheap before leading on to an inevitable sequel tie-in.
As much as I’d love to bang away at this keyboard singing Asura’s Wrath’s praises it does have some technical issues that need to be addressed. Even with the game installed on my PS3 there were still texture rendering pop-ins and noticeable screen tearing. The lip-syncing was horribly out of whack; particularly after switching over to the Japanese language track (the only way to play) and then switching back to English, several times.
The camera can also be problematic at times, particularly when you’re locking on to lower level enemy types. After quickly defeating them the focus switches to another enemy often away from the pack leaving you ripe for a cheap shot. Countering can be a little imprecise as well. A little more refinement could have greatly elevated the combat depth adding extra appeal to hardcore action junkies. I found most of these minor annoyances as I waited to see what insanity would unfold next. Since I am known on this site as the “wapanese otaku fruit” I am confident many likeminded brethren will feel the same way (Limimi, I’m looking at you).
Much like Catherine, which I reviewed earlier this month (the review can be found here), Asura’s Wrath brings with it a decidedly Japanese flavour that wont be to all tastes. Anime and action fans will be completely in their element though finding the unique graphics, quirky cut scenes, epic battles, cheeky voyeurism and laugh out load moments a refreshing escape from the norm.
At a time when Japanese developers seem to moving to more readily embrace “Westernised” gaming values, kudos to CyberConnect2 for sticking to its guns and providing a gaming experience quite unlike anything I’ve ever played before and one I look forward to revisiting in twenty minute blocks time and time again.