Preview: Fighting gods in Asura’s Wrath

Developed by CyberConnect 2 and published by Capcom, Asura’s Wrath has some serious action game pedigree behind it, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that it’s not your typical action title. I got to see two new episodes that explored the game’s story a bit more and showed some battles that weren’t enormous boss fights, displaying some of the more familiar third person action mechanics.

Asura’s Wrath (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: CyberConnect 2
Release date: February 21, 2012

A cinematic, a flashback taking place 1200 years in the past, opened the demo, briefly showing Asura when he still had pupils and irises, as opposed to blinding white eyes of anger. Living among his fellow demigods with his wife and daughter, Asura’s idyllic life, expectedly, doesn’t last long, as he walks in on the dead body of their ruler and he quickly finds himself pegged a traitor, his wife slain, and his daughter kidnapped. The head conspirator, the demigod Deus, looks like a wintry, silver and white Ganondorf. When Asura fights his way to Deus, he is bested, and sent careening down to Earth from the heavens.

The first episode we were shown, occurring around the middle of the game, comes 500 years after the E3 trailer in which Asura is, literally, cut in half by a fellow demigod. Asura is encased in stone, in the side of a cliff, and the humans have erected a shrine for him. When a young, human girl who looks coincidentally similar to Asura’s daughter approaches the shrine, prior to being attacked by ape-like “goma,” Asura’s wrath is awakened once again and he managed to free himself from the stone.

The game’s “standard” enemies are goma which all resemble animals for some yet to be explained reason that are black and covered in red veins. The bigger the goma, the more powerful and these ape-like goma weren’t too big, but when one nabs the little girl, the action transitions to a chase sequence. Asura can fire a Dragon Ball Z-esque energy beam from his hands, so the chase revolved around shooting the goma enough to temporarily catch up with it and deliver a few hits until the game’s Burst Meter filled up, at which point a press of the right trigger ended the chase.

A big focus in the game is the fluid transition between scenes, while the Burst Meter seems to be the driving force behind progressing the narrative. A lot of sequences have Asura battling long enough to build up the burst meter, at which point Asura will do something super insane looking to move the conflict forward.

Also interesting is that the “synchronic impacts,” the majority of the QTEs that occur in the game (save for things like flicking the left and right sticks to open Asura’s arms wide), don’t directly affect whether you fail or pass; that is, not hitting one accurately doesn’t actually change what Asura does in the context of the story. Rather, you’re graded on them based on when you hit them — the “Perfect” result coming when both circles are the same size — and the accumulated grades will have some yet to be explained purpose. While a bit puzzling still, I’m also somewhat relieved that I won’t have to redo segments of the game simply for missing a QTE, given how prevalent they are.

The game story is driven, with a focus on action, immersion, and fluidity, which is why you can’t “fail” these synchronic events, though the team made a point to keep players invested in them with the rating system with the hope of perpetuating immersion, and that you would “feel every punch.” Similarly, there are no “gamey” elements, like collectibles or health orbs or things of that nature. Each episode seems to end in a sort of cliff-hanger fashion, encouraging players to want to find out what happens next, much like a TV show might be paced.

The second episode we were shown comes after Asura’s fight on the moon with Augus (which was shown at Gamescon and which I got to play). Asura awakes, completely armless and distraught, to a group of humans praying to him, which he abhors. The human girl from the previous episode is still with him as well. One of the things I found most interesting in Asura’s Wrath is the dichotomy between the demigods and humans, as the humans speak a wholly made up language and the player is not afforded subtitles, so neither the player nor Asura himself can actually understand the humans (or Asura’s young, human companion).

As I hadn’t seen the Gamescon trailer, my hands-on time fighting Augus on the moon was rather exciting, and it proved a balanced blend of full, third-person action and the QTEs that are so pervasive in the game. To say the game is over the top is putting it lightly. It’s a totally balls to the wall action extravaganza that doesn’t seem to know the meaning of scale. Which is pretty rad. However, I have niggling concerns about the game as well.

The other episode I could play was one that many people might be familiar with after the E3 footage, the one with the gigantic, “blueberry” demigod who, after growing larger than the Earth itself, rains down his gigantic, burning finger from the heavens right onto Asura. As I had seen the majority of that episode before, it was a bit less exciting to play than I might have hoped. Anyone interested in the game might want to consider going on a bit of a media blackout until the game comes out, just to avoid spoiling some of the bigger, insane moments.

The other concern that slightly tepid fight raised for me is the game’s replay value. In an interview with CyberConnect 2 CEO Hiroshi Matsuyama and Capcom producer Kazuhiro Tsuchiya, I raised this concern, and was told that, while they couldn’t offer any specifics at this point, they do have something that will address it and ensure the game is still entertaining on multiple playthroughs.

During their presentation and later during my interview with them, Tsuchiya and Matsuyama’s enthusiasm for the game was so infectious, with occasional over the top poses and battle cries in the middle of the demo. Asura’s Wrath definitely feels like something you have to be in the right mindset for. If you go in expecting a bizarre bonanza of insanity, you’re probably going to have a better time with the game. I’m still not sure on how the whole package will come together, but I love watching footage from Asura’s Wrath, and the bits I played were fun, so I can only hope the end product comes together nicely.

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Steven Hansen
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