Asura's Wrath is epic, a poetic ode to rage that is a mix of God of War, World War Hulk, and Berserk. Anime fans will find much to relish with its episodic nature that feels like you're playing a TV series. Some gamers may hesitate at the prospect of a game that relies so much on quicktime events. But this is one of those titles that's blisteringly unique in the experiences it hurtles your way, bolstered by visuals that are gritty in their colored panache. I'd intentionally avoided reading too much about Asura's Wrath when I first heard about it, though I knew it was a mix of crazy combat and Eastern gods that I couldn't wait to try. But it's one thing to hear about fighting a pantheon of gods, and another to experience it directly. Here are 7 moments and reasons why Asura's Wrath is ridiculously awesome.
NASA just discovered a black hole devouring a star. Asura is like that black hole of destruction; only he's taking on a demigod called Wyzen. Wyzen isn't too wise in choosing to be the first target of Asura's Wrath. The battle takes place over three tiers. Hand-to-hand combat, then gigantic mode with projectiles racing against each other in a mad dash, and finally, a planetary assault that makes Kratos's gargantuan battles seem tiny in comparison. Why do the other demigods have to go and piss off the craziest of the Eight Guardian Generals?
One thing Asura's Wrath does extremely well is it makes you feel more powerful than anyone in the universe and then a moment later, as weak and helpless as an ant against a hurricane. Both Asura's arms get seared off in his battle with the continent-sized finger of Wyzen, and then he has to duel against another demigod, Yasha, who makes mostly mincemeat out of his foe. Asura can only fight with his legs and his mouth. Predictably, he should stand no chance. But his headbutt to Yasha's mask is one of the most satisfying acts of defiance before he gets sent back to Hell AKA Naraka via painful slash that ends his life for another five-hundred years.
I love honorable villains. Augus, Asura's old master, helps you heal because he wants a fair fight. During the battle, Asura gets impaled by a moon-length sword called Wailing Dark and exchanges a storm of fists that are so fast, it's like an unending blur of blows. Adding to the surreal scene is that just moments before, you were reminiscing about the past with your master while being served alcohol by waitresses in bikinis.
I've taken part in numerous digital star fights, but I've never single-handedly destroyed a whole fleet of battleships like they were Legos. In one of the most tragic, and poignantly melodramatic moments in the games, someone dear to Asura is killed by Olga. Asura is furious and begins to dismantle the fleet, one fiery explosion at a time. Olga, infuriated, orders more bombardment. She should have known better.
One of the surprising twists in the game is that you play for parts as one of your enemies, Yasha. Yasha is agile, more sleek in his combat. Whereas Asura relies on his brute strength, Yasha elegantly slashes his foes to pieces. This sleek race across the Karma Fortress while destroying Olga's futile attempt to stop you from preventing her using Brahmastra is a wicked rail fight that leaves you with conflicted loyalties to the man who killed the hero just a few episodes ago.
Every villain in every movie and game talks too much, explaining their overwrought plans while laughing deviously. Asura's Wrath gives you the option of shutting them up with your fists and punching their pompous pontifications straight down their throat. It feels great.
I loved the episodic-styled opening of the game, the middle bumper, even the "to be continued" sign with a preview at the end. The only thing missing was a J-pop song to tide me over (I still can hum Tobira no Mukou e from Fullmetal Alchemist). I was worried the chapter format might disrupt the flow of the game, but instead, it had me hooked, wanting to know what happened next. Asura's Wrath took me back to the feelings I had watching my favorite anime, only immersing me even more with the controls. I do wish the controls had more impact than merely changing the score- many parts felt more like I was an observer. Still, not just any observer, but one in the throes of the action, feeling every blow, grunt, and supernova-like blast. Asura's Wrath is a ride fueled by the amazing developers at Capcom, a mythology mixing science fiction, guns, and Buddhism, and a whole lot of rage.
Peter Tieryas blogs about eastern myths and science fiction at tieryas.wordpress.com.