If you’ve heard of this title before but have yet to play it, I’m going to assume that the first thing that springs to mind is “Oh, wasn’t Asura’s Wrath that one game where the gameplay is just all QTEs?”. Well, you’re halfway correct. I’ve just recently finished it for the second time and I’ll likely be doing a third run through for 100% completion just because of how much I really enjoy the title. “But how! The ending was released as DLC!”, I hear you exclaim and yes, that did indeed happen but it’s not as bad as you probably think. We’ll get into all that shortly but until then, onwards to the premise of the game.
When I first looked at the cover of Asura’s Wrath, I didn’t really understand what Asura was exactly. He sort of looks like he is made of clay but beyond that, he doesn’t have any features that point to him being from any specific point in time. You’ll soon discover, if you read the manual anyway which I didn’t, that Asura is a demigod in a world that mixes science fiction with religion and spiritualism, in particular the Hindu and Buddhist religions. Asura is one of the eight guardian generals who fights to protect the planet Gaia from an army of creatures known as the Gohma and in particular, a large being known as the Gohma Vlitra who appears every few thousand years to try and destroy all things in its path. No, like, I don’t think you get it. When I say large, this thing takes up around 1/10 of the planet when it emerges. It is ridiculously huge.
The only effective way that has been discovered so far to combat such a large enemy is by collecting mantra, essentially just the souls of humans who inhabit the planet Gaia, which leads to some interesting bits of story as you have humans who worship the demigods, yet the demigods only see the humans as a source of energy to be harvested. You end up with some people who see it as a blessing to be harvested by their gods which becomes a point of conflict for Asura. Beyond that, very early in the story, Asura is betrayed by his fellow Guardian Generals putting the game on track following the well known structure of fighting your way up to the head honcho. You encounter both rival demigods and hordes of Gohma along your way which lend themselves to some of the most interesting and exciting battles I’ve played in a game thus far I have to say. Oh and trust me, things get crazy in both action and the sheer scale of some of the foes that you’ll face.
Now then, I bet you’re itching to know what the fuss is about regarding gameplay? For that to make sense, it’s important to understand just how Asura’s Wrath is presented. Calling it an interactive anime isn’t a stretch at all. There are 18 chapters in total, each a segment of the story about the length of your average anime episode if not a bit shorter depending on what difficulty you play on. Each episode is also followed by some really nice art, about 3 unique pieces, each by a different artist which usually serve to explain side elements of the story such as what drove X character to be like this or what is Y character doing while this event happened. It’s all extra stuff that didn’t need to be included but CyberConnect2 just decided to add it all in anyway. Oh, did I mention the bumpers? The middle of each episode contains two custom bumpers unique to that episode which are also a nice addition.
So, now that we’ve got that out of the way, the gameplay consists primarily of two sequences. The cutscenes utilise QTEs for gameplay using the analog sticks and face buttons with Triangle / Y being your heavy attack. The game, and story, is very much like a shōnen anime with large action set pieces so while having to do QTEs sounds boring, it kind of adds to the feeling that you’re still controlling Asura in the cutscenes. The most obvious example of this would be his heavy attacks. Whenever Asura goes in for a big hit, a circle encloses the heavy attack button and the closer your timing, the higher your sync rate. If you manage to hit it perfectly, it feels like you’re adding a lot of “Ooomph” that you can feel through the controller vibration to the scenes playing out on screen. It’s kind of hard to explain but if you get a chance to play it, that’s really the best way to understand it. It’s not all QTEs though, just during cutscenes. There are also the actual battles which are your average action brawler affair. The aim of the battles is to fill your Burst Meter by countering attacks and landing big attacks of your own. Once that’s full, triggering the Burst Meter will, in most cases, lead into a cutscene with the mechanics I just mentioned before resulting in large hits that just wouldn’t feel as weighty if they were done through button mashing.
As for the DLC I brought up earlier, yes, this was indeed an ending to the game released for buckaroos in a time when Capcom were in the spotlight for their shady practices of selling DLC which was just content already on disc but locked off to the paying customer. For the longest time, I thought that Asura’s Wrath was the same. It seems however, that CyberConnect2 actually cared too much and ran out of disc space! Yes, they actually packed that much content on the disc that they actually ran out of room for the entirety of the 4th act. I want to make it clear however that the game wraps up alright if decide not to purchase the optional DLC. There is the normal ending and then the “true” ending which is the only ending of the two that hints at there being more to the story. I have to admit the true ending was disappointing in that it’s exactly the same battle as Episode 18 but the end cutscene continues on. You just end up redoing the normal end episode, battle and all for not much more content and even then, it just ends with a lead up to “But that’s a story for another time” being the DLC. There are also two “lost” episodes which I did feel a bit uneasy about but much to my surprise, they weren’t just short levels or another interlude but actual anime that CyberConnect2 must have commissioned that has the normal cutscene QTEs overlaid. I enjoyed the first of the two more myself. The second looks much nicer visually than the first but only due to the fact that the first consists of Asura fighting tens of thousands of enemies so I can’t blame the animation for being a bit sketchy in places.
I can’t really say I blame CyberConnect2 for releasing Act 4 as DLC. This entire project was very much experimental and the sales reflect that. In the 2 years since release, it only just barely passed 500K units moved which really makes me sad. I’m guessing the IP will just be thrown back in the vault while Capcom pumps out more Street Fighter or whatever it is they’re doing nowdays. I think that if I were ever asked to compile a list of my top 10 favourite anime, I’d genuinely consider having Asura’s Wrath on that list despite the fact that it’s marketed and sold as a videogame first. It has everything I didn’t realise I wanted, from the gigantic enemies to the intriguing mix of religious imagery with science fiction right up to the insane levels of action that just kept me hooked for the entire playthrough. It’s definitely a game that a lot of people likely just won’t enjoy due to the gameplay but gosh darnit Capcom, all I want for Christmas is Asura’s Wrath 2 or at least a PC port
P.S. Check the download store for the platform of your choice, whether PS3 or Xbox 360 for a downloadable demo. Both fights give a good sense of the action in the game but also should be a good decider as to whether or not you like the gameplay.
Released in 2012
Platforms: Playstation 3 and Xbox 360