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Tuesday
Apr172012

Asura's Wrath Review

I think it's fair to say that Neverdead and Asura's Wrath for carrying very similar torches for me going into the start of the year. Both had interesting sounding gameplay, cool ideas, original concepts and, above all, both looked like they were going to be absolutely flipping mental! Neverdead came out a few months ago, looked my expectations dead in the eye... And then shat all over my carpet. The game was not good at all. Neverdead's lack of payoff on a promising concept and cool gameplay premise had me, by association, concerned about Asura's Wrath. Would it also be terrible? Would it too fall into regular, boring gameplay tropes and abandon exactly what made it unique in the first place? Would I get bored half way through and not even give a shit about what might happen in rest of the game? No. No to all of it. I am very happy to report that Asura's Wrath succeeds where Neverdead failed, that is to say, in every single aspect.

He's not a happy guy, Asura.Asura's Wrath follows the story of Asura, one of 8 demi-god generals helping to protect the world from a race of demon animal things called the Gohma. Asura's wife and daughter are human, but his daughter is a priestess and apparently pretty powerful.  After a particularly massive battle, a plan is hatched by Asura's fellow generals to wipe out the Gohma once and for all, but it's success depends on the generals seizing control of the empire and taking Asura's daughter, therefore Asura has to go. Asura is framed for the human emperor's assassination, killed and his daughter is kidnapped by the other generals. You can see why he might be a pit peeved. The game follows Asura's path of unstoppable, uncontrollable anger as he looks to get his revenge.

The premise, atleast on the surface, may remind you alot of God Of War, but the game definitely breaks you away away from that feeling pretty quickly. The majority of the action in the game takes place in cutscenes, with ergonomic button prompts mid-custscene bringing you into the action. At first it feels like just a simple Quick Time Event that you've seen a hundred times, but when I describe them as ergonomic I really mean it. You push the right stick to the right to make Asura push his right arm out to the side, you shove the left stick upwards when you're prompted and he raises his left arm, it almost makes you feel like you're still in control despite the fact that all you're essentially doing is watching a cutscene, and it's actually pretty clever.

When you're not watching cutscenes, you'll be taking part in either arena fights, or Panzer Dragoon/Space Harrier-style shooting sections. In the arena battles Asura has access to some quick 1-button combos, a rapid-fire shooting attack and a heavy attack that will knock enemies back (but has a cooldown). In the shooting sections you either use your rapid-fire attack, or 'tag' targets and attack them all at once with a powerful lock-on move. The I mean sure, he's huge, but Asura's got 6 arms... soooo... call it even?shooting sections are entertaining enough, and the arena combat, while not having the depth in combat of a God Of War or a Bayonetta, is still good at what it sets out to do. The way you win fights is very simple: You build up "Burst" power by fighting, so do enough damage to whatever you're fighting against to fill up your "Burst Gauge" and unleash it one battle-endign super move. The concept of Bursting is fantastic, especially when you're forced to Burst multiple times during boss battles. When Asura Bursts, he BURSTS man. Like. Dude. Yeah. Bursting is awesome.

If you're a bit iffy on the idea of most of the game being cutscenes, it'll relieve you to know that the game looks great. Character models are superb, particularly on the 8 demigods, who look like a cross between being carved out of stone and metal being bolted together. You never get sick of Asura's face, his craggy, rocky skin or his massive robot arms, and each of the other main characters in the game are equally as joyous to behold. The action always looks good, You've never had a boss fight like this. TRUST me.with punches landing hard and energy beams flying all over the place. When Asura punches a guy the earth shakes and shockwaves eminate from the guy's face, it all looks very anime and suitably epic, making every fight feel amazing.

The game is presented in a very unique and weird way. The game is broken up into various episodes and chapters, with each chapter (level) having it's own opening credits, brief commercial break and "to be continued..." at the end. There's no real need for it to be set out this way, other than to make the game feel sort of like a television series. With all the awesome cutscenes you'll be watching an onlooker might be fooled into thinking you're watching a new computer animated tv show anyway, but just add this to the ever-growing list of things that make Asura's Wrath exactly the right kind of weird. What's even better though, is that at the end of every chapter you get a screen showing you how many of the game's various art pieces and movies you've unlocked, often having you unlocking 10 things at a time in a joyous orgy of stuff-getting. You're overly rewarded for seeing the mental shit Asura's Wrath has to offer, but once you've Somehow, the word "scale" doesn't quite seem large enough...looked at all the stuff (and you pretty much unlock it all after 1 playthrough) I don't see what appeal a 2nd play through the game could possibly yield, other than to see some crazy shit again ofcourse.

When (not if) you finally play Asura's Wrath for yourself you'll be constantly amazed. Whether you find yourself unexpectedly in first-person for a while, or you're facing down a boss larger than the Earth (you heard me) you wont be bored with the game, it will continue to keep you on the edge of your seat and fist pumping, completely unable to contain your excitement, right up until the end. The game is absolutely mental, good fun and "doesn't take itself too seriously" feels like it would be an understatement akin to calling Bill Gates "ever-so-slightly well off". Asura's Wrath may not be sophisticated, or a good candidate for "video games as art", but it's tremendous entertainment in a style we just don't see in games. If you want to punch a man the size of a planet with your 6 robot arms, then you're in the right place with Asura's Wrath, and if you don't? Then it's only because you haven't done it yet. To try it is to love it, and to love it, is to BURST!!!!!

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Asura's Wrath is out now for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, at the usual prices you find games for nowadays.

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