Asura's Wrath is part action game, part anime adventure
Cyberconnect2 and Capcom's Asura's Wrath is an attempt to take anime-inspired gaming to the West. Europe and America are home to a pretty big audience that enjoys manga and Japanese animated television shows along with their cups of coffee in the morning, so in theory, this would seem a most novel idea that could potentially rake in several million dollars/euros for Capcom. The product itself is interesting; Asura's Wrath is part action game, part episodic anime adventure, all packaged together gloriously on one blu ray disc or dual-layer DVD. But do the parts come together creating the anime action/adventure we have all been craving? Or are we left with something that is wildly beyond our comprehension?
We learn that Asura, one of eight demi-gods who fought to liberate Heaven and Earth from the evil Gohma was betrayed by his fellow demi-gods and subsequently stripped of all his powers. Having been banished to a world that has since been consumed by the Gohma, all he has left is his vengeance, which he discovers he can use to his advantage against his enemies. Asura's Wrath's narrative is told through various episodes that draw heavy inspiration from Japanese anime, with well-paced interactive fighting sections and epic boss battles in between. Calling some of these battles ‘epic' is quite the understatement — their scale and scope is unparalleled. Asura unleashes his wrath to take down entire fleets of enemies and fights near-endless waves of foes who are, to put it mildly, rather large. But what could potentially get in the way of immersion is the story itself (despite some delightfully despicable villains), which is perhaps too fantastical and anime-inspired, and is unlikely to appeal to someone who has not watched several hundred hours of something similar.
You would expect Asura's Wrath to play out like a typical brawler or hack-and-slash action game, but while it is exactly one of those at heart, the narrative structure and overall approach to the combat set is slightly apart. The fighting itself is simple enough, with light and heavy attacks, but Asura also has a rapid-fire shooting attack. You'll need to use both fists as well as this attack to fill up the ‘burst' metre, which then allows you to unleash a ‘kill-all' move that pretty much lays waste to anything or anyone and lets you progress through the game's story. A contextual quick time event system is also present — mashing the right buttons at the prompt will see you faring much better in combat. Overall, the combat is a button mash-heavy affair that might not feel fresh or innovative, but watching Asura dispatching foes with ruthless efficiency is satisfying to say the least. Having said that, combat can get repetitive quickly and if you felt it tiresome initially, things will not get much better later on.
The visual style, surprisingly, doesn't feel anime-inspired, taking cues instead from games like Bayonetta and Devil May Cry 4. The characters, on the other hand could feature on any anime television series. The visual theme, like the story itself, is a mishmash of science fiction and Asian mythology. There are times when there's simply too much going on on-screen that it's difficult to tell one thing apart from the other, and the visual style doesn't really help. The ‘vengeance' theme of the game results in the game tending to overuse the colour red, resulting in a displeasing visual moment or two. It's not the worst looking game out there, but it most definitely isn't the best.
Asura's Wrath is an oddity. It's a unique sort of game you haven't played before, but there's probably a reason for that. Somewhere in the middle of its solid action sections and anime-inspired episodic narrative, there's something missing. Forget about the fact that it's going way over the heads of anime virgins — it's the seasoned veterans who might be left questioning whether the entertainment offered by Asura's Wrath justifies its asking price. Asura's Wrath is available on PS3 and Xbox 360.