STAFF REVIEW of Asura's Wrath (Xbox 360)

Monday, March 19, 2012.
by Adam Dileva

Asura's Wrath Box art I found Asura?s Wrath very difficult to put into a specific genre of game. This is because the heavily anime influenced title feels more like an interactive movie than a game most of the time. When you are actually playing, you?re either mashing the buttons (usually ?B?) like any good beat?em up, or playing like an on-rails shooter that we don?t see many of these days. Most of the time though you?ll be gripping the controller, waiting for the button prompt to appear so that you can progress in the cutscene. I hope you like Quick Time Events (QTEs) and have a strong arm to mash the ?B? button as fast as you can, you?re about to experience Asura?s Wrath.

You play as the role of Asura, a demigod who?s a mixture of The Hulk (for his pure brute strength and anger), Jax from Mortal Kombat (metal arms are the way to go), and Akuma from Street Fighter (similar body and hair styles). Asura is known for his temper and used to be one of the Eight Guardian Generals that led the Shinkoku Army who protect the planet from a force called the Gohma. The game begins with Asura battling against the Ghoma leader, Vlitra, in space no less. Vlitra happens to be buried deep beneath the planet?s crust and has now been unleashed. The visuals of this are amazing, as you?ll see this monster appear from within the planet, about half its size.

As Asura returns home from a successful battle, subduing Vlitra, he returns to find the Emperor has been murdered. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Asura us blamed and branded a traitor by the seven other demigods, but only after his wife Durga is murdered and his daughter Mithra kidnapped. The new demigod leader, Deus, banishes Asura to the underworld, Naraka, where Asura will stay dormant for twelve thousand years before returning.

During these twelve millennia, the ?Seven Deities? have been using Mithra to obtain power to further enhance their powers. Asura vows vengeance upon his former comrades and he will get that revenge against those who betrayed him. The revenge story may have been told countless times before, but the lengths that Asura goes to is quite entertaining and done in such a way that it keeps you wanting to press on.

As I mentioned before, you?re B button is going to get quite a workout playing Asura?s Wrath. B is your normal attack, which you can spam for combos, and holding it will do a dash attack to your locked on enemy and launch them upwards (you can even dash while midair as well). The Y button is your heavy attack, though you can only use this sparingly, as Asura will ?overheat? between each use. Using ?Y? at a down enemy will cause him to do a special attack for massive damage and a boost to your Burst meter. ?Y? is also how you counter moves about to hit you as well. The X button is how you shoot your arm like a machine gun while you aim at the enemies (on the ground or in the air).

Interestingly, enemies don?t really have health bars. Sure, the little guys will die quickly, but for the bigger ones and bosses, each battle will have you fighting until you can fill your Burst meter (unleashed with Right Trigger). Once unleashed, this is when you will defeat your enemy, though not before a lengthy series of QTE?s and cutscenes. Rinse and repeat, as every chapter has almost the same pacing and layout. There?s the odd level here and there that?s an on-rails shooter segment, where you hold X to shoot your machine gun arm, and as you pass over enemies with your reticule, they become auto locked and can be taken down with your homing missiles, the Y button. I quite liked the shooter segments, as it broke up the pace of fight, QTE, and then cutscene a little bit, though you?re still trying to fill up your Burst meter in these levels also, which then gets you put into another QTE. Granted, the QTE?s are done better than most games, as you feel incredibly powerful with your devastating final blow against the enemy, but in the end you?re still just watching a movie and waiting to push the right button, rather than skill.

As I mentioned at the beginning, Asura?s Wrath is very heavily influenced by anime, and this is apparent in even how the game is set up. The three main acts are broken into smaller episodes, and these play out just as if you are watching an anime or TV show. Credits and a banner roll at the beginning, and the end of an Act even makes you think you?ve beaten the game, with final credits rolling to a black screen. Starting a new episode, you?ll see a ?what?s coming up this time? introduction that shows small clips of what you?re about to do and see without giving away any spoilers. I actually really enjoyed this presentation, as it felt much more bite sized and that I was progressing through a season of my favorite show in a way. There are even ?bumpers? included where commercials would be, and finishing an episode finishes with a ?to be continued?. The story is broken up appropriately in this way, as it always set up the next ?episode? with just enough to tease you along to keep playing.

There are some amazing set pieces that will leave you in awe, like being in space and seeing a Ghoma come out of the Earth that?s literally about half the size of the whole planet, or being crushed by a finger that?s bigger than a whole continent, or even dueling your previous master on the moon while classic music is blaring in the background. The soundtrack is absolutely fantastic and suits each setting and set piece wonderfully; even the old western inspired music seems to fit somehow wonderfully.

As I said, there?s quite a lot of anime influence here, as many of Asura?s lines are simply screaming ?AAAAHHhhhh? louder and louder as he gets ready to unleash a devastating blow. This might seem familiar if you?re a Dragonball fan, as many of the moves appear to do little right away, and then all of a sudden they?ll go soaring through a mountain.

Two things I will warn you about though when you?re getting ready to play Asura?s Wrath. Firstly, your B button will never be the same after this game. Secondly, you?ll finish it in a weekend without any problems, maybe even a single sitting if you?re dedicated, as it?s only about six hours long on your first time through. There is justification for a second playthrough if you?re looking for achievements, but there?s nothing else afterwards unless you really want to work on getting S ranks for each stage. Apparently DLC is in the works to add more new episodes, but I?m grading it for what?s on the disc.

With three quarters of the game easily being WTE?s and watching cutscenes, Asura?s Wrath really does feel more like an interactive movie rather than a game at times. Its visual art style is unique and inspired, but it?s very simple and lacks almost any replay value at all.

Normally I?m not one for QTE heavy games, but for whatever reason, I didn?t seem to mind it as much as I maybe should have while playing Asura?s Wrath. With it being so short and having no reason to pick it up and play again, it makes it hard to recommend at its current asking price. It was memorable, and if they make a sequel, I would be quite interested in playing it. I think many people may not enjoy it for what it is, and rather wish it was something else. If you can take it for face value, knowing it?s a QTE heavy experience and you like the Japan and anime style, you?ll without a doubt enjoy your time with Asura. For everyone else though, it has charm, amazing visuals and sound, and a certain uniqueness that?s a spectacle to be soon, albeit a short one.

Overall: 7.3 / 10
Gameplay: 4.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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