When I played the demo for Asura’s Wrath, I instantly fell in love with the game. The demo showcased two incredible boss fights with awesome action along with music that got me pumped up to whoop some ass. Needless to say, I was stoked to get my hands on the game. When I popped the disc in and booted it up, my excitement soon turned to astonishment.
The story has you, Asura, and seven other demi-gods in a war with the Ghoma, which are impure monsters that attack Earth and its inhabitants on a daily basis. When the Eight Guardian Generals stop the attack, Asura is rewarded with betrayal. He was charged with the death of their leader, his wife was murdered, his daughter kidnapped and he was cast out and left for dead only to awake 12,000 years later with no memory of the events that transpired. With the help of a golden spider, Asura slowly starts to remember what happened to him and begins filling with rage that will help him in his quest for revenge.
The story is divided into three different parts, each with six episodes that last roughly about 20 minutes. If my math is correct, that means the game is about six hours long, which is about normal for a game these days. But there’s a kicker: actual gameplay time is about 90 minutes. That is what turned my excitement to astonishment. The game is heavily story based. The average time it took me to complete each episode was about 5 minutes, with the rest of the time filled with narrative. When I first thought about this, I was angry. I thought this game was going to be balls-to-the-wall action with over-the-top gameplay. While those things are in there, there just wasn’t enough to satisfy my appetite.
As I continued to play, I soon realized that there was probably no better way to convey Asura’s anger than through the story. I mean, the game could have just been a beat ’em up, but then there would be no emotion whatsoever. From the parts of the game I actually did get to play, I was kind of relieved that it didn’t take so long to beat. The gameplay would have gotten stale if it went on for a longer period of time.
Since this is a story of revenge, Asura gets to face off against both the more-interesting Ghoma forces and the Deities’ troops. The grunts of the Ghomas are apes who are fairly easy to beat and don’t pose much of a threat. Their bosses are pretty cool. They are huge creatures that take a few minutes to defeat and come in a variety of forms. I encountered an elephant, turtle, fish and a rhino. Beating them isn’t hard, but does usually take a few minutes.
Since the game is story based, the gameplay takes a huge hit. It’s simplistic and monotonous. A typical fight takes place on the ground in an enclosed (typically small) area. At any one time, there are a maximum of six or seven enemies on the screen at once. To beat them, you have three different attacks at your disposal. You have a continuous/combo attack, a heavy attack and a shooting attack. The heavy attack, once used, needs some time to cool down before it can be used again. However, there is an “unlimited meter” that, when filled, can fuel the heavy attack for as long as there is juice left in the meter. There is also a “burst meter” that fills as you hit enemies. When this is filled, a contextual button pops up on the screen and, when pressed, vents some of Asura’s wrath. Any enemy that was left standing will be put down hard.
The heavy attack button is also used to inflict more damage to bigger enemies. When you knock them down, there will be an icon over them to indicate that you can use the heavy attack. I found myself fighting with the bigger enemies and leaving the grunts alone, because I figured they would be harder to beat and cause more damage. They also filled the burst meter quicker. So, for me, a typical fight consisted of me running to the bigger enemy, mashing the continuous/combo button until I knocked him down, running back over to him to use my heavy attack, lather, rinse repeat and then unleash my full blast meter and rage kill the rest of the enemies. That’s the majority of the gameplay, including boss fights. There are a few times when the combat is taken to the air, and there are even a couple of times where you’ll be running automatically with a moveable aiming reticule (think rail shooters).
The biggest fault of this game, besides the stagnant gameplay, is the camera. Most times, it is pulled too far in and can get you hit from unseen enemies. It can also mess up the contextual button presses. When you get knocked in the air by an enemy, you can recover from it by hitting a button that flashes above your head. Since the camera closely follows Asura, it is hard to see sometimes.
Keeping with Capcom tradition, after you beat an episode, you get ranked. The higher your rank (an “S” is the highest), the better your score and rewards. While the typical unlocks are there (artwork and cinematics), you can also unlock battle gauges. These gauges offer up different powers to help vary gameplay. For instance, one allows you take more hits with less damage, while another has your health meter constantly depleting. I thought the addition of these were a nice touch, but not nice enough to get me to go back and “play” through the game again.
Asura’s Wrath is an interesting game. It was hard for me to review it because I was conflicted. While I love a good story in a video game, this one never really sucked me in. Asura’s Wrath shouldn’t even be called a game. It should be called an interactive anime. 3/4ths of the game is story, not to mention one that lacks emotion. The game was meant to make you feel for Asura, but I never did. I found myself wanting to skip the cinematics and just get the game over with. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the story, I just didn’t like the lack of emotion that this game evoked. \ With a name like Asura’s Wrath, and being heavily story driven, its disappointing to not feel Asura’s pain.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.