Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Asura’s Wrath

Every once in a while a game comes along and attempts to showcase the likes of something no gamer has really seen before. These moments define the industry and provide a breath of fresh air from the predictability in most title releases. Asura’s Wrath is collaboration between CyberConnect2 and Capcom, who together have tried to produce an innovative and intuitive video game experience resembling the likes of Heavy Rain and Metal Gear Solid 4’s interactive segments. If you’re looking for a hands-on adventure, this is not for you because Asura’s Wrath is defined by quick time events and occasional linear battles. However, if participating in a anime-inspired story sounds like something that you would enjoy, then it’s worth giving Asura’s Wrath your time, if you’re willing to accept a few shortcomings.

Asura’s Wrath tells the tale of an ancient guardian general seeking revenge after being betrayed. Asura embarks on a quest to find his captured daughter Mithra while at the same time attempts to thwart the Seven Deities’ evil plans for a ‘Great Rebirth’. This is a game heavily inspired by traditional anime and manga and this can clearly be seen with the game split into chapters resembling episodic content, the beautiful graphics and the incredibly over-the-top action.

So you may be wondering how Asura’s Wrath actually works and how the gamer fits into this experience – not really well is unfortunately the answer to that question. Above all else, Asura’s Wrath is a story filled with quick-time events where players will be required to push an assortment of buttons to continue the action on screen. There are action sections when you are required to battle against enemies or particular bosses, but the gameplay is shallow and repetitive. You also get involved in Child of Eden-like rail shooting sections, but again there is no real distinct challenge present. Asura’s Wrath has a serious case of mistaken identity in that it tries very hard to incorporate lots of different gameplay elements instead of simply admitting that this is an interactive video game experience and leaving it at that.

It becomes apparent that the first step you must make is accept the fact you won’t really be needing your controller that much for Asura’s Wrath, but once you overcome this supposed woe, you can enjoy what is a spectacular story. Asura’s Wrath doesn’t bring anything particular new to the traditional anime story structure but brilliant design from CyberConnect2 ensures lots of dramatic battles and plenty of opportunity for Asura to save the world and those around him. What is unfortunate is the quick time events present could actually have been rather engaging if it were not for their seemingly un-intuitive placement throughout the story. What I mean by this is the simple button presses required do not convey the magnitude of events present on the screen. Going back to Heavy Rain, Sony’s exclusive title showed precisely how quick time events should be used in an interactive experience to bring about tension and a sense of urgency in an event. When Asura is fighting to save the world and all that is required is a slight push of both the analogue sticks, one can’t help but not feel the same tension that our protagonist is going through.

When the game strays away from these quick time events, things don’t really get much better. Hand-to-hand combat in the adventure sections bring nothing but basic shallow gameplay to the table while the rail shooting provides nothing but an excuse to button mash for fifteen minutes. It’s really a great shame because there are titles out there that have proven genres can be mixed successfully to provide satisfaction in all areas the game is trying to cover but Asura’s Wrath simply does not fall into this list.

Fortunately as you’d expect, Asura’s Wrath presentation is outstanding. The mix between futuristic robots and Japanese mythology resembles scenes from Suckerpunch and provides for an engaging setting for Asura’s tale of revenge. There are some seriously breathtaking moments visually, but it’s just such a shame that participating in them doesn’t feel as immense. The audio is also worth praising, as a great soundtrack tends to outshine the mediocre voice-cast.

Asura’s Wrath continues to stumble out of the blocks with a serious issue of longevity. For a fully priced game that doesn’t really let you do much, you’ll be shocked to find out it’s actually only roughly 4 – 6 hours long. It’s pretty much like paying over the price for an anime box set and if you’re looking for value, it’s difficult to justify an immediate purchase, rather better wait for the game to inevitably go down in price.

Ultimately Asura’s Wrath has way too many shortcomings to warrant any significant praise. If this was the industries first attempt at a proper interactive video game experience, then reservations could be made but the idea could be commended. However, with games like Heavy Rain clearly showing off how this should be done, one can’t help but feel let down that two highly rated video game developers couldn’t have done a better job with this. Asura’s Wrath boasts a terrific story and from a presentation stand point it’s absolutely brilliant. However, it simply doesn’t hold up in any other department, which is a real shame.

4.0 | Gameplay | 
The quick time event sections are terrific thanks to the brilliant story and visual design, not how they are placed into the game. There is no real emotional connection with the buttons you press and the action on screen. When Asura’s Wrath changes genre to on-rail and hand-to-hand combat, things don’t get any better. Shallow and repetitive action over-shadows a beautiful and engaging story. 

9.5 | Presentation | 
To be fair, it doesn’t get much better. Asura’s Wrath is absolutely gorgeous all the way through. Lots of intense action and dramatic events make key moments a real blast to watch, it’s a shame participating isn’t as exciting. I would have liked CyberConnect2 to go that little bit further and perhaps thought of a more unique story as opposed to sticking to a safe and traditional anime-inspired tale. 

1.0 | Replay Value | 
There is no replay value here; once you’re done it’s all over. You could go through it again but I don’t see any reason why you’d bother to be honest other than perhaps to show a mate a particular chapter or event you really enjoyed. Multiple endings, a more intertwined story? Something guys, seriously anything would have helped!

5.0 | Final Thoughts | 
Disappointment through and through. Asura’s Wrath had so much potential and all the right ingredients to blow many gamers’ socks off. It just couldn’t pull of anything it tried to do. Furthermore, pricing this at full RRP when no more than six hours of gameplay and zero replay value is incredibly cheeky, shame on you Capcom. I keep going back to Heavy Rain in part because I loved it so much, but Quantic Dream nailed this genre of game and I refuse to believe CyberConnect2 didn’t sit down and play through their adventure to see how emotion and tension can be created successfully using quick time events as this is simply a failed attempt.

Igor Kharin.

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