Sometimes, someone decide do to things in a different way. That's how stuff is invented, improved and discovered. Video games are no different. Every now and then there's a guy trying to make something unique. Just go ahead and think of those genre defining games. Or just the ones that are really like nothing else. Asura's Wrath is on the latter, without a single shred of doubt. In this world where everything gets compared to everything, this game is a really unique experience.
Fuel your rage
spartan. It's time to kick some ass!
This game was developed by the guys at CyberConnect2. If you're an anime fan, the name should strike you immediately (preferably with a nice Ki-Blast). These are the guys involved in a lot of anime games, including (lots of) the more famous Naruto ones. Needless to say, those guys are experts in anime, real otakus. So, can you imagine what happens when said otakus decide that they want to tell an epic tale, inspired by the Buddhism, with a kickass soundtrack? Wait, i just described the entire package. Oh well. Now you know what to expect.
With that kind of philosophy design, you can imagine that this game appeals to a very specific target. Kinda of does, actually. As i said, fans of over-the-top action animes will find themselves at home, but honestly, all that takes for you to enjoy Asura's Wrath is love for a good plot. And man, does this game has it. CC2 took some really big risks with this, but i'm glad they did.
The majority of people would describe Asura's Wrath this way. Rightfully so, since this game has lots of cutscenes, all done with the game engine. Which is a huge plus, since something like going from full rendered CGI to in game graphics would kill the immersion.
As for the interactive part, it goes in the form of... QTEs. No, no, don't run away! It's not something terrible, i promise! It actually is pretty intuitive and consistent with what's happening on the screen. If Asura is going to punch someone, is a button related to attacks. If he is going to move in a direction, you move the analog stick in that direction. But sometimes it can get in the way of the action, in the sense that you don't really pay that much of attention to the scene per se, because you are paying attention on the next prompt. It's a rare occasion, thankfully. For the most part, your eyes will be focused on whatever crazy over-the-top action is happening in that moment.
And that is a major element here, the scale of things. They get ridiculously epic the more the plot unfolds. I don't wanna spoil it, but those who played know what i'm talking about. Seriously, Goku would be a tiny insect next to Asura (Or not, i know that you should never, ever, compare anime powers on the internet).
You'll be doing this a lot. It gets more epic every time.
But don't worry. When you're not imputing commands on cutscenes, you will be on a more traditional Hack 'N Slash gameplay. Asura is really easy to control. One stick moves Asura, other moves the camera. You got a button do regular combos, a heavy attack that requires some cooldown after, a ranged projectile attack, jump, dodge, lock-on to targets and burst. Oh yeah, almost forgot that one.
Asura is driven by it's wrath. It says on the title. Making justice to that name, your objective in battle is to fill the Burst Gauge, and perform a very angry move. Usually someone gets punched really bad, and then the games proceeds to the next arena. I agree, it's not very traditional, but it fits the game so well, i can honestly say that it would't work any other way.
Although, i will tell you this, there's not much variety in gameplay. There's not an evolution on the gameplay part, no itens to increase health, new moves to buy, nothing of that sort. Combos never really change in function, only in visual sometimes, and the other sections of gameplay are a on rail shooter. Those expecting a little more of "game" will be disappointed, but if you let that past you, you're in for a treat my friend!
Truth to be told, start to finish, the plot will hook you. Thanks to all the expertise the guys at CC2 have in anime, they know how to set the tone properly (Greatly reinforced by the OST, more on that later). The whole thing begins with a space battle. Lots of ships fighting against monsters, lasers everywhere. The title appears, and the game asks you to press start.
Thanks to their intention on telling an freaking epic tale, things are really built to reinforce narrative. And that is always a plus in my book (Why do you think i love RPGs so much?). The gameplay, while some insist that is something that the game lacks, is here to serve the plot, not the other way around. That is why we got those interactive moments with QTE. Truth to be told, you will spend most of the time on cutscenes, but if there's something that Metal Gear, Heavy Rain, To The Moon and Telltale's TWD games proved, is that there's room for this kind of experience. One concerned in telling you a tale, nothing else.
I'll admit, i really wished that you could influence the outcome of the plot in some way, but Asura's Wrath has such an amazing story that it doens't bother me that much. But what is this plot so great, you might be asking yourself, since i'm been talking about it a lot and so far didn't showed you a thing. Well, here's what you need to know.
Asura is a Demigod, part of the Eight Guardians. The world is in a battle against creatures coming from the will of the planet (Gaea) itself, the Gohma. The game opens with what seems to be the final battle (of course it ins't, otherwise there would be no game) against the Gohma, with it's climax being a battle against the source of this evil, Vitra. They win, Asura goes home, only to find out the next day that the Emperor was killed, he was framed for that, someone killed his wife, and his daughter was taken. Well, shit. No wonder this guy is so angry.
No true plot-driven experience is full without great music to set the mood and supporting characters that are likable. And hell, what do you know? This game OST got a place in my heart from the very start. The main theme, In You Belief, sets the tone so goddamn well that you will be hearing some variation of it a lot throughout the game. Just give it a listen now, while you read the rest.
There's a very interesting mix of music on this game. CC2 wanted to set the perfect tone for every moment. The main theme is this sad ballad (Strangely, almost every boss figth plays it in some way usually it's just a leitmotiv), Yasha theme is this techno western rock, heck, the fight against Augus is the 4th movement of Symphony No. 9 in E Minor "From the New World", by Antonin Dvorak And it works so 'effing well!!
Since Asura is on a quest to get revenge, you can expect to face all of the former Generals. And things get on a increasing level of epicness on every encounter. I mean, the very first boss can get bigger than the planet. Jaws will be dropped, so be warned. Since we're talking anime here, of course the game is divided is divided in episodes, and you're ranked based on your performance in the end. There's also those little bits of exposition between episodes, with illustrated images from various artists, that flesh out the story. There's even a "Next time on Asura's Wrath!". Oh God, please, someone let Madhouse make an anime out of this!!
Lots of talented artists there...
And what can i say about the visuals? To quote Jon Tron: "Iz Byoutiful!". The game has a art direction that matches the universe so well. Everything is a pleasure to look (granted, is not a next-gen visual, but it doesn't have to), all thanks to cell shading. And the design of everything is out of this world. Just take a look at the ships, the Generals, Asura himself. Is a pleasure to unlock the art gallery and browse through the game's conceptual art. Speaking of extras, there's a ton of then!
Arts, new gauges that give different bonuses, interlude bits, characters bios, there's a lot of things to unlock here. And DLC! Because Capcom! But this time, something really was fucked up here. I don't wanna go in details because of spoilers, but, there's a secret ending. It's an extra episode, identical to the last one, but with the true ending. Now, here's the problem. This was supposed to be the hook for a possible sequel. No doubt about it. But instead, Capcom released the final Part, Nirvana, by DLC! I say, fuck you! I paid the full price, and now i have to give you extra bucks to see the ending? Rumors says that they ran out of space in disk. Bullshit! If that was the case, you should have released it for free!
Fortunately for me, the final chapter is worth every penny if you're into the plot. Everything gets Up to Eleven here, and the final episode, holy balls! But there's also some other stuff, like little episodes that take place between episodes. Those are animated in anime style and expand a little bit more of the plot. One of them was made by a key animator that worked in FLCL. So you know you can expect some really crazy visuals.
Told ya it was crazy...
The most over the top of them all, gotta be the fights against Ryu and Akuma. They begin in a 2D fighting game, SF style. Fill the rage gauge, and prepare for the over the topness, while those guys punch each other. In the freaking SPACE! Man, what were those guys at CC2 smoking? I want some of that.
I can talk for ages here, but really, i just wanted to give this game/anime/experience some love. It's a beautiful piece of work, one of the my favorite stories in any medium. Heck, i still put the game on my console just to replay some of those sweet scenes, so, something must be very right with this game. Regardless, you can always download the demo, borrow from a friend, rent it, your choice. But i guarantee it, if you want an epic tale, you'll not be disappointed.
Thanks a lot for reading, really hoping that i convinced you to play the game, and if you like it, don't forget to share with your friends. Maybe this post can convince them too! Ok, i'll see you guys later! Stay Gentle!
Author's note here: God dammit! It took longer than expected, but i finally managed to find time to write again! I'm back, baby!!