Asura’s Wrath Impressions

Asura’s Wrath (PS3, Xbox 360)
Developer: CyberConnect2
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: February 21, 2012

No idea is too grandiose for Asura’s Wrath. Between the two levels available in the demo (found on both the Playstation Network and Xbox Live), I squared off against a demigod approximately three times larger than Earth, took down an airship, and dueled an adversary with an infinitely extending katana…on the moon. The scope of this demo alone is grander than any game I’ve played, but the underlying mechanics are too bare-boned, and often times non-existent, that even calling Asura’s Wrath a video game seems inaccurate. It’s more like an interactive anime.

Both of the episodes feature a foe you must defeat. The first one pits you against a monolithic fatass, which offers a glimpse into Asura’s long-ranged prowess. You can shoot with one button, and as you move the crosshair around the foe, certain parts will be locked on. Pressing triangle shoots a flurry of missiles to those locked on spots, so you’re essentially just alternating between the two attack types, while occasionally dodging projectiles. Movement and aiming are tied to the same stick, offering less control and thus simplifying the gameplay further. Button prompts will also appear, often times allowing you to throw enemy projectiles back at them.

The second episode has you dueling a samurai in close quarters. His attacks come out fast, offering little notice to evade. There is no block button, so evasion is necessary. Mashing circle initiates a combo string while triangle performs a strong area attack. While fighting him, I had no idea what I was trying to do. He’d attack me, and a button prompt would appear for a split second. Because that window was so brief, I rarely timed it, and even when I did, he’d attack again, with another too-quick-to-react-to button prompt appearing. Too much emphasis was button on these prompts, and not enough attention seems to be put into the actual combat mechanics, resulting in a battle that was neither engaging nor fun. Instead I was left feeling bewildered, forcing me to wonder what the ‘right’ approach was.

The real emphasis of Asura’s Wrath is its cinematics. On the top of the screen there are two bars – one’s your health while the other is your Burst Meter. As you do land successful hits, the burst meter increases, and once full, pressing R2 progresses the battle through heavy use of quick time events. You’ll burst several times during fights, meaning that half, if not more, of the time battling is done through cinematics. As much as I loathe quick time events, the one’s provided in the demo were epic, practically to the point of self-parody, but also occasionally nuanced that it successfully engaged me. Sometimes you’re mashing a button to repeatedly pummel your foe, but other times you’re moving an analogue stick to adjust you’re footing. Such minor stylistic flourishes help Asura’s Wrath set itself apart from the games that utilize quick time events in the more obvious ways. But the game as a whole needs better gameplay to back up its audacious style.

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