Asura’s Wrath: Sit back, hit buttons, enjoy the ride

March 16, 2012

Asura’s Wrath is a game unlike any other. Ever since it was first revealed, it has been compared to games like Dragon’s Lair and Heavy Rain, offering an experience full of cutscenes and quick time events. You might be surprised to learn that there is more of a traditional action game here, but a lot of what makes it entertaining is not entirely present in the gameplay itself.

To get the obvious out of the way first: Asura’s Wrath is a gorgeous game. It looks just like an anime come to life. The team at CyberConnect2 clearly took everything they’ve learned from working on the Naruto series and amplified it tenfold. So much happens on screen at once, and it’s all done in an intelligent manner. At times you’ll be scratching your head or attempting to pick your jaw up off of the floor, but the focus remains clear.

The focus of the game is on the title character, Asura, one of the eight God-like generals that project the planet, Gaea, from an enemy known as the Gohma. After holding back another massive invasion, Asura is thrown right into a conspiracy involving his daughter and the other seven generals. He is banished and his daughter kidnapped, and, as you might expect, Asura isn’t too happy about this. The story reaches some ridiculous heights pretty early on and almost never scales it back. While not everyone will be into this tale of revenge, it weaves a rather intriguing plot and is surprisingly effective.

The game is divided into three components: The interactive cutscenes (which are entirely made up of quick-time events), the combat sections and the on-rails shooting sections. All three blend together rather seamlessly sometimes, but they are distinct enough to focus on individually. The on-rails segments are far from bad, but they feel relatively tame compared to the rest of the game. Thankfully, they aren’t a major focus, and they break up the game nicely enough so the other segments never get too tiring.

The interactive scenes are really the meat of this game. These involve you pressing (or mashing) buttons at the right time in order to pull off some of the craziest things you’ll ever see in a video game. I quickly became entranced in these over-the-top moments, and with every QTE I found myself enjoying it more and more. Although you are never in direct control, the button presses are timed perfectly with the action and expertly chosen to match the tone of the current event. This is what will make and break Asura’s Wrath for you, and it only helped to immerse me into this preposterous story even more.

Then there’s the combat, which is easily the weakest part of Asura’s Wrath. Throughout the game, you will encounter large groups of generic enemies to fight. Some require slightly different strategies than others, but they are mostly defeated with relative ease and only held back the game from the next boss encounter or set piece moment. It doesn’t help that the majority of the combat is done with a single button, with a second button used only occasionally. You feel disconnected from everything happening on screen during these moments and it only adds to the tedium. There are no real combos, there is no strategy; it all devolves into boring button-mashing that breaks the flow of the game completely.

The boss encounters aren’t huge steps up, but they are interesting and varied enough to keep you on your toes. These fights usually require actual strategy (although some can become just as tedious as the regular fights) and flow together nicely with the interactive cutscenes. As a whole, the combat never feels like it was fully developed; you never learn any new moves or feel your skills growing as a player. It’s a nice attempt to add variety, but it rarely works to the game’s advantage.

It’s safe to say that Asura’s Wrath is well worth experiencing if you’re willing to embrace the ridiculous nature of it. The best moments are the ones in which you’re not in direct control, and it suffers when those moments end. With a sharper, less repetitive combat system and more focus on the boss encounters, Asura’s Wrath would have been a real winner. As it stands, the actual gameplay sections fall flat and you’re left with an experience that feels decidedly uneven as a result.

Pros: Dazzling visuals, ridiculous but entertaining story, incredible cutscenes and QTEs
Cons: Tedious combat mechanics, lots of technical problems and frame rate issues, not much replayability

Score: 3/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.