My, my, my. Now THIS is an interesting game! Asura's Wrath is a game unlike any I've ever played before, and it left me with mixed feelings. Described by many as "Dragon Ball Z meets Heavy Rain," I actually a better description would be "Dragon Ball Z meets Dragon's Lair," because while much of the game is "played" by reacting to quick time events during movie length cutscenes, reacting is the only thing you do. Unlike Heavy Rain, you have no ability to change the story. You're just along for the ride.
Fortunately, Asura's Wrath is one heck of a ride.
Set in a world that seems like a combination of ancient Japan and ancient Greece, Asura is a demigod and one of the eight guardian generals that protects Gaea from Vlitra and its army of Gohma. The day after their great victory over the corrupting monster, the other seven generals kill their emperor and blame Asura for it, killing his wife, enslaving his daughter, and banishing him from Heaven. Over a hundred thousand years later, Asura is brought back from the dead by a mysterious voice, and finds that Gaea has been taken over by the other seven generals, now calling themselves the Guardian Deities, who are sacrificing the human race to harvest their souls in order to become powerful enough to destroy Vlitra once and for all. Asura's daughter is still enslaved by the deities and so, consumed by rage, the demigod sets out to free her and avenge his wife-- by KILLING EVERYTHING THAT MOVES!!!
Does that sound cheesy as all heck? Well, it is. That kind of thing is normal Japanese animes, though, so if you're already interested in this game you're probably more than prepared for it.
Asura's Wrath is composed of three different types of gameplay: quicktime events, hand-to-hand combat, and on-rails shooting. The majority of the game consists of the first type, where you're watching an extremely long cutscene and reacting to on screen prompts to press buttons and move the joysticks. Your input mimics what happens on the screen, such as moving the joysticks to make Asura dodge and mashing the buttons to make him pummel his opponent with his fists. This is the most divisive part of the game, because what the player does has very little effect on the game itself. Even if you ignore the prompts, the game will usually just keep going. At the worst, you might lose a little health and have to repeat that specific part of the scene. You're doing little more than watching a movie, and if you're not someone who appreciates a good narrative in a video game you'll likely hate this part.
The second part, the hand-to-hand combat, is your standard button mashing, beat em up fair. You have two attack buttons, for light punches and heavy area attacks, that change to long reaching energy blasts when you move out of punching range, and you're tasked with beating the living crap out of waves of identical looking weirdos. If you've played Devil May Cry or any other fast paced action game, you know exactly how Asura's Wrath goes. The problem is, it's just too easy. Hardly any of the enemies, or even the bosses, put up much of a fight. They may get a lucky hit now and then, but the damage they deal is so insignificant it won't even slow you down.
The third part is arguably the best looking, when Asura becomes self-guided and you focus on aiming a reticule around the screen and shooting enemies with energy shots. You can either unleash your firepower in machine gun bursts, or lock onto individual targets by moving the reticule over them and blast all of them at once. These have a kind of Starfox vibe to them, but just like every other part of the game, it's way too easy. The enemies shoot all over the screen, making it all but impossible to dodge everything, but you'll so little health from it that it doesn't even matter.
There's one key part to the game that's responsible for making everything so easy: the burst meter. The entire game revolves around the burst meter. It works like a power meter in any other action gauge, filling up with every punch you successfully land. When you fill it up, Asura will receive a massive surge of power and do something awesome,.usually launching the game into the next quicktime event cutscene. The reason this is what makes the game too easy is because nothing else matters. The enemies will continue to swarm you, and the bosses will refuse to die, unless you fill up the burst meter, which turns every fight into a race to fill the meter as quickly as you can. The faster it goes up, the less you have to fight, which, as I've already mentioned, isn't dangerous enough to be a threat anyway. A lot of times I actually found myself annoyed by the fights because I just wanted to get them over with so I could see the next part of the story. The game is so easy that I beat the whole thing without dying a single time.
Fortunately for Asura's Wrath, this is acceptable because the story is the main focus of the game.
When I said this game is presented like an anime, I meant it literally. Each level is like an episode, beginning with "Last time on Asura's Wrath," complete with the developers' credits scrolling past. There's a cut in the middle to signify a commercial break, and every level ends with a freeze frame and "To Be Continued!". The story is pretty strong, at least by video game standards, and features several interesting characters-- unfortunately, Asura is NOT one of them. While his allies and enemies all have unique personalities, Asura is just... mad. Really, really mad. 70% of his dialogue is some variation of "AAAAAAAARGH! RAAAAAAUGH! UGH, AAAAH, RAAAAAAAAAAUGH!!!", and when he's not yelling he's growling how much he hates everyone else. I mean, I know his rage is the source of his power, but come on! Fortunately, the rest of the cast and the pretty fight scenes make this ignoramus tolerable.
The one big issue I had with the story was the "secret ending." The game gives you a happy, if not somewhat abrupt, ending to the story, but then tells you it's not over yet. There are still five more levels for you to beat, but you have to either play the normal levels five times or achieve a perfect S rank on five of them. Seeing how each of these levels take at least thirty minutes to beat, and I might have to replay them multiple times to get an S rank, I forwent that and instead looked them up on YouTube. They were cool, but I didn't regret for a second not unlocking them myself.
Asura's Wrath is a rare case of a game being style over substance, and that being perfectly okay. I enjoyed the game for the crazy, over the top story, and the substandard combat couldn't COMPLETELY tarnish that experience. It's a game that I'm glad I played, but I'm probably never going to play it again.
I give Asura's Wrath a 6.5/10!
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