You hear the complaint all the time: gamers want better stories in their games. Richer, more realistic graphics and visuals can only take a title so far. So the next generation of improved gaming will come from pushing stories to a new high (not motion control). The theory worked in Mass Effect. It doesn’t work in Capcom’s Asura’s Wrath.
Asura’s Wrath gives gamers a story that would have been amazing had it been solely released as an Anime movie. However, on Xbox 360 and PS3, this game strings lackluster gameplay around a story that didn’t need a control pad to be told. Asura’s Wrath relies on Quicktime Events (or cinematic actions if you want to be fancy) to drive gameplay. If you find yourself throwing a punch or kick, it’s just filler before the only actions that matter. Character voicing by Naruto Shippuden voice talent Liam O’Brien helps this game to stay interesting when you’re not dozing off between waiting to press B or to flick your thumbsticks up or to the side.
The game begins with the introduction of Asura as one of the eight guardian generals who lead the demigod legions against an evil power known as Gohma. Asura’s daughter is a priestess who has the power to help the guardians finally win in the battle against this mysterious evil. Unfortunately, treachery invades the guardian ranks. Asura is framed for killing emperor Strada.
It’s an interesting setup, however it will take you about a half hour to get there. Most of the time, you’re just pressing a button when prompted or flicking your thumbsticks – again when prompted. The opening sequence is especially laborious. Asura is flying through space, partially on rails, and getting angry like Vegita in Dragon Ball Z. He has no reason to be angry; he’s just that type of demigod.
Thousands of centuries later, you’ll find out why Asura is so angry. Oddly, this happens by flashing back to thousands of centuries prior. The game jumps back and forth through the centuries without warning. Often, it’s difficult to tell whether you’re in the present or the past. The game is presented in chapters, which always look like the start of an anime episode – complete with creative team credits. This constant pat on the back would be fine if it were an anime series and not a game. But, as it stands, players are simply waiting around to press a button to activate the next scene in this “should-have-been-an-anime-movie” game.
In the case of the original Alan Wake, gamers got a bold new IP, which put story ahead of gameplay. However, good gameplay with unique and strong third person action kept you constantly active in the unfolding story. In Asura’s Wrath, you’ll want to grab a tub of popcorn and watch. But just when you are reaching for your third kernel, you’ll have to tap a button or get penalized. It’s an annoying mechanic. Asura basically has the power to unleash quicktime events. You button mash for a few minutes, then he gets angry, then you unleash your cinematic triggers.
Truthfully, Asura’s Wrath is simply a string of several boss battles broken up by story. They would have been impressive in a different game, but breaking up one boss fight into three chapters is utterly painful. When “minions” and Gohma are introduced to add in some button mashing action, you’ll feel irritated because it takes you away from the purpose of this wannabe game – to watch a movie in peace without the need of a control pad.
O’Brien brings the fire and internal anger of Gaara to his role as Asura. He sells Asura’s rage. Unfortunately, the gameplay just drags out a story that didn’t need gameplay at all to muddle it up.
Asura’s Wrath should have been a downloadable game for PSN or Xbox Live Arcade. Or, it could have just been an anime movie. Calling this a game is a misnomer.