Capcom is sometimes accused of relying too heavily on sequels rather than new properties. Indeed they do produce a great many Resident Evil games and lately, fighters. But no wise person can say that Capcom doesn’t also take risks on original titles. Asura’s Wrath is proof enough of that. Developed by CyberConnect2 (makers of the .Hack series) and published by Capcom, Asura’s Wrath is like nothing you’ve played before.
Asura’s Wrath takes place in a unique setting based on Buddhist mythology. The earth (here called Gaea) is constantly under siege by the Gohma, an evil force that corrupts wildlife and threatens to overrun civilization. Today we would call them political conservatives – I kid! Protecting the simple humans is a group of demigods known as the Eight Guardian Generals. One fateful day, our protagonist Asura (pronounced AH-sir-uh) is betrayed and killed by his seven comrades. He awakens in limbo and embarks on an epic quest to stop his betrayers (now known as the Seven Deities) and rescue the last person tying him to the world of the living.
Spanning over 12,000 years, the story partly resembles other mythological epics like The Odyssey. Yet the folklore driving this tale is likely unfamiliar to western audiences. It feels at once foreign and intriguing. Even more fascinating, CyberConnect2 has fused the mythological elements with a healthy dose of science fiction. While the human civilization is shown as somewhat primitive, the demigods who rule them represent an incredibly advanced civilization. They both protect and rain judgment down on their worshippers from spaceships orbiting the earth. Each of the demigods resembles a living statue, their skin creaking as they move and tarnishing as they take damage. The marriage of story, setting, and visuals simply enthralls.
It’s a good thing Asura’s tale is so fun to watch, because the story-to-gameplay ratio leans heavily towards narrative. Others have compared it to an interactive anime – an apt description. The game’s 18 chapters can last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes apiece. Many feature introductory and closing credits, and all have ‘bumpers’ (as you’d see before and after a commercial break on TV) and a preview of the next episode.
While you’ll often be watching the story play out for minutes on end, that doesn’t mean you won’t need to keep the controller at hand. Story sequences are interspersed with Quick Time Events, requiring you to move the analog sticks or press buttons to perform various actions. Whenever Asura initiates his ‘Burst’ form, you’ll need to carefully time presses of the Y/ Triangle button as the hero delivers massive blows to his opponents. Well-timed inputs contribute to your ‘Sync’ rating at the end of the chapter.
It’s not all QTEs though! You’ll often control Asura directly, beating up hordes of Buddha-esque robotic minions or even taking on the Seven Deities themselves. The combat system isn’t terribly complex, but it’s fast and exciting. These segments are usually capped with Asura Bursting and causing some massive destruction.
A first playthrough of Asura’s Wrath will take 7 or 8 hours, which might sound a bit short to some. But as you play through and beat the game, you’ll unlock several Gauges that impact the game in various ways – hiding the Burst gauge, reducing damage taken, etc. You’ll need to play through the game two more times with specific gauges activated in order to unlock everything and get all of the Achievements. Thankfully the story sequences are skippable, so replaying levels for better ranks or going back through the game won’t take nearly as long as the first time through.
It’s unusual for a non-RPG to focus so strongly on cinematics and narrative, but that’s exactly what Asura’s Wrath does. The scale of the story (as well as the demigod battles) is incredibly epic and well-worth experiencing. Asura himself is extremely memorable – how many other heroes do you know who keep fighting even after losing both arms, gripping a sword with only their teeth? Yet he’s far more sympathetic than God of War’s Kratos, exhibiting kindness and humanity whenever the action dies down. If you enjoy the action of anime, the wonder of mythology, or just want to play something different, Capcom and CyberConnect2’s Asura’s Wrath will not disappoint.
Editor's Note: The Co-Optimus Co-Op Review of Asura's Wrath was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game. The review copy was provided by the publisher.