Asura’s Wrath suffers from a problem that exists outside of the game itself. It’s a problem that has divided the critics. A problem that factored into the game’s poor sales. A problem that Capcom probably could have addressed with better marketing. Granted, this was never expected to sell like Call of Duty, but I feel like Capcom did this game a disservice by not emphasizing the game’s biggest strength…which is also its biggest weakness.
Here’s the thing. This game, at first glance, looks like a God of War game. Assuming the role of Asura, who is an angry god out for revenge (stop me if you heard this one before), it’s not hard to set the expectation for yourself that this is another one of those games.
Instead, Asura’s Wrath strives to be an interactive anime rather than a traditional video game. This conceit alone is going to rub a lot of people the wrong way. Worse, it’s going to really rub certain people the wrong way, who came into this thinking it was something else. While I have no problem with people disliking this game based on its merits, I don’t think its fair to knock it for being a weak God of War-style of game when it never aimed to be that.
As an interactive anime though, it’s really entertaining. Most of your time with this game will be spent watching slickly produced cutscenes, which do a tremendous job of bringing the story to life through excellent characters, and an engaging story that doesn’t let go until the final credits roll. The game’s biggest triumph comes in the form of Burst: a meter that triggers a bombastic Quick Time Event when fully charged. Though the moment-to-moment fighting was rudimentary, and repetitive, having that button-mashing pay off in the form of a Burst made it all worthwhile. In the first boss fight alone, the final Burst sequence involves our hero shattering his planet-sized foe into a million pieces by unleashing one final haymaker to his index finger. As the game progresses, these Burst moments grow even more outlandish.
Regardless of what the title was going for, the overall package still has some glaring holes. The aforementioned Quick Time Events do not change in outcome even if you screw up your inputs, which almost renders your actions inconsequential. The moment-to-moment combat could have used some more depth, even if it was never meant to be the focus of the experience. Most damning, even for those who like what it has to offer, will be bummed out by the fact that this experience is really short with little replay value. Without skipping cutscenes, you can finish this one in about six hours. If you plan on skipping the cutscenes, you could probably fly through this game in less than half that time.
Asura’s Wrath is as divisive as they come. Even when you take God of War out of the picture, and judge it on its own merits, you will either love it or hate it. The story it tells is really awesome, and rarely executed with this level of finesse in a video game. However, there isn’t really much of a video game here to play, and the few bits that are present are half-baked. I really enjoyed it in spite of its flaws, but this is clearly not a game for everyone. If it ever gets a sequel – which I hope happens someday – I’m hoping that Capcom can better refine the game, and its marketing, so that this franchise has a better shot at success.