FutureFive NZ - Game review: Asura's Wrath

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Game review: Asura's Wrath

You have to hand it to developers; despite an industry that seems to revolve around new IPs wrapped in an FPS skin, sequels to FPSs and remakes of games now in FPS form – with the occasional 3rd person shooter thrown in for good measure – it’s so refreshing to see unique games surface. It’s not that they’re non-existent, they’re just not overly common, and when something new does show its head it quite often doesn’t reach the expectations that have preceded it.

CyberConnect2 have become a little more known thanks to their Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm series, and it’s thanks to that fame (and the subsequent money they’ve made from that series) that they’ve been able to put their skills to the test by creating a brand new IP. Instead of just following a well established genre, they’ve taken everything they learnt from the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm series and created something altogether unique: an interactive anime.

Asura’s Wrath follows Asura, one of the eight Guardian Generals who fight to protect Heaven and Earth from a destructive force called the Gohma. Upon returning from a victorious battle, Asura is summoned to the Emperor's throne, only to find him murdered. Asura is promptly accused of the crime and narrowly escapes capture. Without giving too much away, Asura is then betrayed further by his comrades, and it becomes Asura’s goal to take down the remaining seven Guardian Generals 12,000 years later.

While the story is your typical anime fare, it will keep you glued to your screen and will more than likely tempt you to push past the one episode a night you should be sticking to. Asura’s Wrath is all about extremes, whether it’s the fury building inside Asura himself, a planet-sized boss trying to stop him, or a sword that reaches almost to the moon. In contrast, there’s a nice moment in the middle of the game that helps ground the drama and will get a smile out of you. It’ll be one of the many moments you will remember weeks, if not months later.

Something I need to mention right off the bat is that this game was clearly not intended to be played in one long burst, or in the rush of a typical review setting. For a person to still rate Asura's Wrath highly despite playing it that way is a testament to how well the game presents itself. Asura’s Wrath is an episodic game that should be played as such, and I’ll forever wish I had played it that way.

Every episode starts with some minimal overlaid credits, offers the typical anime-style bumpers (titles with fancy graphics) mid-episode and ends (after showing your stats) with a little snippet of what to expect in the next episode. Each episode lasts approximately 15 – 20 minutes, and they’ve even included Japanese voices for the true Otaku among you. With Asura’s Wrath, CyberConnect2 showed me exactly what I never knew I wanted in a genre, and also how I might want this new genre to evolve in time. I want the game to know I’ve already played an episode or two and to forego the company splash screens that litter the ‘loading’ page of every single game in existence. I want each episode (if loading fresh and not just flowing onto the next chapter) to have a full musical intro like an anime episode. I’m hoping CyberConnect2 continue to push this genre into something that completely blurs the line between anime and videogame – they’re already painfully close, and that excites me to no end.

As for gameplay, the majority of it comes in the form of Quick Time Events. While this might turn a lot of readers off, it’s done in a way that, while perhaps not fresh, is at least exciting. Almost no punches from Asura’s fists are made without you pushing a button, and should you miss it the game continues on as if you did, except your ‘Synchronisation’ stat will not be as high. The reason for this is that the majority of the game comes in the form of storytelling and cinematic experience. You’ll still get to fight waves of enemies using light and heavy attacks, and take on boss fights akin to the ones seen in Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 1. There are also Rez style sections that see Asura targeting and destroying Gohma and other enemies in his path. However, they all serve purely to raise your ‘Burst’ meter so you can trigger the next cinematic.

Since presentation is the name of the game here, Asura’s Wrath would truly be nothing without the amazing graphical skills that seem to ooze from every pore of the CyberConnect2 art team. Loading is something you only ever see when you start the game up, and everything from skin shaders and particle effects to music and voiceovers are of the utmost quality. There are only two small gripes I have and both possibly stem from knowledge of the Unreal Engine: the lip sync seems a bit off no matter which language you’ve chosen, and the majority of camera cuts show black for a fraction of a second. I assume the latter is to do with loading of assets, but it’s noticeable and something that I hope is remedied in a sequel.

Quite frankly, Asura’s Wrath is like nothing you’ve ever played before. CyberConnect2 could have easily gone the way of God of War and simply created a 3rd person action title where the player button-mashes their way to the final boss, but instead they went down a much different path. If you jump in expecting what you’ve come to know as a game you’re going to be sorely disappointed, or at least a little confused, for the first 30 – 40 minutes.

I was asked recently if I believed Asura’s Wrath was worthy of paying full price and I can say with utmost honesty that yes, this game is worth every cent. Anime fans will love what they see here and game enthusiasts will be able to appreciate the love and passion CyberConnect2 have put into something brand new. There’s also plenty to unlock (including a hidden episode) that will surely tempt the majority of gamers to replay and go for the easy-to-obtain achievements. 

This is the first game in a long time which has made me start a new playthrough the second I finished my first one – this time I’ll be playing one episode a night.

Graphics: 9

Sound: 9

Gameplay: 9

Lasting Appeal: 7

Overall: 9.9

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