Asura's Wrath review
I'd be angry too if my game was lackluster
One game that my original Xbox and eventually my Xbox 360 saw inside their disk trays was Indigo Prophecy. Despite not exactly feeling like a "game", it was one of my favorites... until it went down south in the third act and made very little sense, but even then, I still enjoyed it, if only for the fact that it made no sense. Guess I'm weird like that. But anyway, the developers of Indigo Prophecy moved onto a PS3 exclusive known as Heavy Rain, which felt largely similar, but its problem simply lied in a huge plothole. Beyond that, it was quite an experience... that significantly weakened upon a second playthrough, but either way, it was a good experience nonetheless.
How does this relate to Asura's Wrath? Simple - it has the same basic formula. The differences are that it includes some shoehorned gameplay segments, and that it's not all that it's cracked up to be. It isn't terrible, but it feels haphazardly designed. It's one of those games that tries to be like Indigo Prophecy/Heavy Rain in that it has a hell of a story to tell with sequences only possible to pull off through quick time events, but it wants to feel like a video game so that kids and cynics will be pleased. It's an experience akin to the likes of LA Noire, in that it wants so desperately to be a game, but every attempt at such is mediocre at best.
It's a shame, because the story isn't too bad. After calming down the impure monster race Gohma's most powerful monster, Asura heads back home and expects a happy reunion with his wife and daughter, only to witness his wife dying and his daughter getting kidnapped by one of the gods. He confronts them, only to get killed. 12,000 years later, he's back, witnessing the rule of the gods over the planet Gaia. The Gohma are still around, and when they attack, everybody prays for the gods to send their souls to Heaven, and the gods are more than willing to oblige, hoping to use their energy to save the world.
It does a competent job of telling the story with adequate enough explanations, though all that keeps your interest is how the gods will go about saving the world, and what Asura will do next. The meat of the story is that Asura loses his temper on many occasions and will either destroy entire fleets of ships, or defeat adversaries the size of planets. It gets rather silly at points, but a lot of anime does as well, and it's this silliness that at least gives it a hook. The story itself is a vehicle for Asura to pull off stuff that Goku from the Dragon Ball franchise wishes he could. Speaking of which, at least it doesn't take Asura three episodes to power up... only maybe 3 minutes. But yeah, an adequate story, this is, but one that you'll remember for the ages? Eh, maybe not.
Asura's Wrath has a decent enough style – one lifted from old school anime, with a bit of cel shading and some rough shading lines every now and again. However, that's where any semblance of positivity stops, because in all honesty, the game doesn't look very good. The textures are fairly flat and a bit blurry like an early sixth generation game, and that's at its best, because sometimes, they take time load... like a couple of seconds, and for those couple of seconds, it looks like a Nintendo 64 game, with jagged edges and very blurry textures. Not to mention that it lags. Whenever there's a bit too much going on, it'll slow down and ruin the flow. Hell, there are bits that just don't move smoothly... It's obvious that Asura's Wrath lacks polish.
The best part about Asura's Wrath is the sound design. The voice acting may feel a bit too anime-y – what, with some overacting here and there, but that's to be expected, and to its credit, it works out well enough, accentuating their personality traits. It's not as if everybody overacts, anyway, as some are more modest about their acting, but either way, it does sound good and whatever amount of conviction is delivered works well enough. As for the soundtrack, it's brilliant! The ambiance brought on by the music enhances each situation quite well, always giving each scene the right mood. Nothing too memorable, but when you listened to it, it sounded excellent.
Here's where it starts to become problematic. It's a three course meal that just doesn't sit too well into your stomach once it's all processed - one part brawler, one part shoot em up, and one big part consisting of a sequence quick time events. Let's start with the shoot em up segments - these happen whenever Asura's either falling from a high place or whenever he's chasing something. Either way, you have to aim the cursor and either hold down square for rapid fire or press triangle for homing missiles. These segments have the potential to be intense, but instead of living up to every good shoot em up ever made, these are instead fairly boring as there's hardly a moment in which you're in real danger unless you fly completely still. Not to mention the controls... why must the left analog stick control both the cursor and Asura? Does the PS3 not have two analog sticks to make it so that you can move the cursor without moving Asura? Well, excuse me if I've moved on past the Nintendo 64 controller, but I would assume that a developer would make use of a controller's capabilities. Quite the rookie mistake.
Sometimes, you'll be put into a brawling segment where you must beat up gangs of enemies, whether they're Gohma or soldiers for the gods. Combat is little more than hammering on the circle button, and sometimes dodging, jumping and using the heavy attack. Said heavy attack has to cool down, so you cannot spam it... unless you're in Unlimited mode, which is charged up by dealing damage, but even then, you can only use it a few times, so it's best to use it wisely, such as when you're surrounded, or when an enemy is down. At times, the enemy will use attacks that you can counter by pressing either triangle or circle at the right time, which will either send their attack back at them or initiate an attack of your own. Without the counterattack system, combat would be more of a joke than Kingdom Heart's – hey, at least that has enemy variety. This? Oh boy, 3 types of enemies – so much variety! But with the counterattack system, there's some semblance of depth. Not enough, mind you, but at least it's there in some way, shape or form.
Both segments end once you fill up the rage bar and hit R2 - at that point, you'll be required to pay attention to the onscreen action as prompts will appear. It usually involves pushing a direction on the left (and sometimes, right) analog stick or pressing triangle, and the closer the shrinking outer circle gets to the inner circle before you press it, the better the grade (ie. good, great, excellent). Missing these prompts will either damage you, kill you or restart that portion of the battle. But either way, you'll want to get all of them, as they are rather advantageous to the next battle... oh yeah, I nearly forgot to mention that these can occur before battle, usually to get it started.
Sadly, these quick time events are rather mediocre, as more often than not, they seem more like a vehicle to push the scenes along, rather than as an actual test of your reflexes. Most prompts are generous with how long you have to press it, and you'd have to either be a sloth or be easily distracted by what's going on in the battle to miss these most of the time. Not to mention that these prompts have little to no variety – I hate to burst your bubbles, but if I can predict which button to press before the event happens and I get it right far more often than not, then it's clear that you cannot design good quick time events. Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain switched up the buttons and the timing, which allowed their quick time events to enhance the experience of the game; Asura's Wrath are all the same for different events, which is just lazy and makes the game boring.
Story: As much as I enjoy some silly, over the top actions, I'd rather there be an actual story to go along with it... and honestly? It's competent, but that's it. 2.5/5
Graphics: It's laggy and fidgety while being unsure of whether to look like a Nintendo 64 game or a Gamecube game. The art style is decent enough, though. 2/5
Sound: The music is fantastic and really goes well with each given situation. The voice acting is pretty darn good, too, managing to emote correctly and keep interest. 5/5
Gameplay: Boring and easy shoot em up segments on top of shallow combat on top of lazy quick time events don't exactly make for good gameplay. It's playable, but big deal, plenty of games nowadays are playable – you need pizzazz to survive in this environment! 4/10
Too often are things too good to be true. Asura's Wrath looked like it could've went the distance, but instead, it just slogged along with mediocrity, expecting us to like it because hey, it has over the top scenes! Sadly, the only fun to be found in this game is in the scenes, because actually playing the game is a chore. It's boring, it's half assed, and it's sometimes poorly done, but mostly just competently done. Perhaps I was expecting somebody to try and top Quantic Dream's one-two punch of Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain, but I found myself becoming more and more disappointed with this game the further along I got, as if it was just a phoned in effort to promote some shitty fighting game that rides on the coattails of Capcom's past while filling it up with DLC. Nevertheless, Asura's Wrath isn't a game you should waste your time with. Wait for the inevitable anime series – maybe it'll turn out good, or at least worth your time, unlike this game.