E3 2011: Asura's Wrath
QUICKTAKE: Kratos will need to step aside. Asura is now officially the angriest demi-god of gaming. Asura's Wrath is one of the most over-the-top games ever imagined. And while its gameplay may be lacking, its unparalleled scope, sense of destruction, and unique style makes it one of the most memorable experiences at E3 this year.
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THE DEMO: Like Alan Wake, and the numerous anime series that undoubtedly inspired it, Asura's Wrath is presented in an episodic format, always ending with some kind of cliffhanger. The E3 demo goes through two episodes on Asura's journey to get revenge. From what we we puzzled together, Asura was once a god. Somehow, he was banished, and now he's really pissed off.
In the first episode we played, Asura fought with a god and some of his goons. The brawling wasn't particularly noteworthy, with a standard layout of heavy, light, and ranged attacks. The second episode is what really showcases the game's over-the-top set-pieces, culminating in Asura's confrontation with a god larger than the Earth. He thrusts his index finger at Asura, and some rapid button-mashing and skilled QTE reflexes will have Asura punching back, causing the god to explode into a supernova. Seriously.
DETAILS: Developer CyberConnect 2 is probably best known for its work on the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm series. It's easy to see how Asura's Wrath is an extension of the design set by the Naruto series. Like the licensed anime series, the battles are big, and there are a lot of QTE-based challenges that drive the bigger sequences. The main characters also scream a lot.
Asura's Wrath is an original IP, which means that CyberConnect is free to put anything in the game it pleases. Its blend of Southeast Asian pseudo-Buddhist imagery with a sci-fi twist certainly makes it unlike any other game out there. It is stunning, but I can't help but think the developers are a bit too focused on creating memorable set-pieces. What about characterization? Considering this is a serialized drama, it couldn't hurt to actually care about these characters as well. Right now, Asura is a purely two dimensional character, defined simply by how angry he is. Even Kratos managed a bit more depth than this guy.
The QTEs are a bit on the easy side for now, making me wonder if the developer plans on adding multiple difficulty levels. But if you've grown tired of having random buttons quickly appear on the screen, make no mistake: this is not an action game enhanced by QTEs. It is a QTE game that happens to have a few action sequences. And from what I can garner, the combat is nowhere as deep as the fighting system created for CyberConnect's Naruto games.
Were it not for how absurd many of the sequences played out, Asura's Wrath wouldn't warrant a mention on this site. Its overly simplified gameplay will likely tire out fast, so the game's success will rely entirely on CyberConnect's ability to make even crazier scenarios. It's hard to imagine how they can, but if they succeed, it will certainly be a marvel.
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