Those headed to AM2 and Anime Expo in Los Angeles in couple of months have a new sci-fi adventure game from Capcom and .dot hack creators, Cyber Connect2 to help pass the time. Asura’s Wrath — while loosely based on Hindu mythology — borrows plenty from popular anime series like Full Metal Alchemist, Dragon Ball Z and Fist of the Northstar, and presents it in a unique hand drawn manga style. Though, like the genre bending Heavy Rain, Asura’s Wrath is not your typical game.
Asura’s Wrath opens like an anime episode and each chapter of the game continues this theme with credits and recaps. Players take control of Asura, one of the Eight Guardian Generals, fighting an evil force known as the Gohma. Make no mistake, Asura is an angry guy and is known for having a short temper and nearly unstoppable rage made even more deadly by his ability to sprout extra monstrous arms. As his enemies quickly figure out, Asura’s not someone to mess with.
The game immediately throws you in the middle of the action, cutting back forth between the narrative video with quick time events and a Starfox-type shooter, though the majority of the action is much more a God of War type affair. Asura can move on a dual axis as he plummets down and has both a normal and heavy attack in this introductory battle. Though Asura is the hero of the fight, it’s obvious something is amiss with his fellow demigods.
It wouldn’t be a story without something going wrong and for Asura, everything goes wrong. His wife is murdered, daughter kidnapped and exploited, and he is framed for the murder of the emperor. The kicker is that it’s his fellow generals that orchestrated the whole thing. Asura discovers this just in time to be kicked off the boat and left for dead as he falls to earth. Twelve millennia later he awakes in a Hell of sorts known as Naraka with no memory of his betrayal and this is where the story really starts.
The first issue that may discourage some gamers is the heavily stylized art that might put some anime fans off with its preference for heavy cross hatched textures over the more elegant style of many popular series. Other than that, the majority of the time spent playing Asura’s Wrath, and it’s a pretty short game, features more full motion videos and quick time events than anything else and the standard hack and slash gameplay isn’t terribly deep.
Where it really succeeds though, is in the storytelling and variety of gameplay. The blending of sci-fi and mythology isn’t unique but Asura’s Wrath does a great job of creating something compelling, endearing and funny in a way only anime can be. The majority of the action is God of War style hack and slash combat complete with jumping, light and heavy attacks, a dash attack and counters and these areas are each finished with a QTE. Luckily there is a variety of other gameplay types interspersed throughout the tale.
In sum, Asura’s Wrath is less a game than an interactive 18 episode anime series and a pretty good one at that. The execution of this pseudo-game is flawless but, the six hour length and almost mini game-like action will certainly infuriate many that pay full price. This is not a game for everyone. If you’re not a fan of anime, you should probably just move along and if you’re looking for some action over a well told story, Asura’s Wrath isn’t for you either. It really is a piece of art in its own right but the replay value is minimal and the dollar per hour of entertainment ratio is too poor to recommend as a full price purchase.
Asura’s Wrath is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood, Language, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence. This game can also be found on Xbox 360.