There was a time when obscure Japanese gaming was so restricted that Western gamers had no choice but to resort to importing. It still happens but these days publishers tend to take bigger risks by releasing Japanese oriented video-games in the Western world.
The latest gamble from Capcom is the peculiar Asura’s Wrath that is bursting with everything that makes Japanese culture so fascinating. But will it all prove to be too much for Western gamers to handle or will it finally bridge the gap between Western and Japanese gaming?
Describing Asura’s Wrath is a difficult task in that it’s not a typical video-game but it also can’t be described as an artistic indie project. It’s ironic that Asura’s Wrath has so many fighting moments but yet most of them come down to quick time events.
Japanese developers have long struggled to find the perfect balance when it comes to cut-scenes. It’s hard to forget the increasingly longer periods of time spent looking at cut-scenes with each new Metal Gear Solid iteration. Asura’s Wrath suffers from the same issue but it attempts to keep the player busy by adding a lot of quick time events.
The cut-scenes in Asura’s Wrath have some of the best animation work in a video-game. Anyone would be forgiven to think that Asura’s Wrath was based on an actual anime (Japanese cartoon) or even be an anime itself. It’s difficult not to be awestruck when the main character is fending off an index finger the size of a planet with just his fists. It’s images like this that makes it worth sticking with the hours of cut-scenes that Asura’s Wrath has to offer.
It’s possible to do actual fighting when not being amazed by the visuals and insane cinematic fights. In fact it’s the fighting that triggers most of the cut-scenes. Defeating enemies will increase the burst bar which activates Asura’s titular wrath. Combat consists of weak and strong attacks which can be used in conjunction to create powerful combos.
It’s a solid combat system which is why it is a shame to not see it being used for longer periods of time. Other aspects of combat come in the form of on rail sequences. These tend to involve Asura running while being able to fire rapid attacks at enemies. One of Asura’s best move though is a rage meter that makes him invincible when it is filled up.
Perhaps one of the reasons why the combat sequences are so enjoyable is the enemies that Asura has to defeat. These range from weak foes to a giant turtle that will spin and kick its way around until being put to rest by Asura’s fists. Some of the later boss fights are also inspiring and do a superb job of integrating quick time events with combat sequences.
Ultimately Asura’s Achilles’ knee is that it is just too short when compared to similar video-games. Those few hours it offers are great but the ending is bound to leave players asking for me. Maybe it’s the fact that the game is filled with so many cut-scenes.
It could have benefited from having more combat sequences or just stretching the length of the ones already in the video-game. The problem with criticising the length of Asura’s Wrath is that the short time spent on it is fairly enjoyable. The saving grace is the ability to unlock extras such as different burst gauges, which will change how it is played.
Unfortunately looking back at the story for Asura’s Wrath is akin to having spent an hour watching a Japanese talk show. It focuses so heavily on the stylish over the top key scenes, that it forgets basic rules of story telling, such as natural progression. Asura’s journey eventually comes to a an end of sorts but it’s never too clear how he got there.
It’s like being told a story about a special trip to Japan without actually sharing any details about what happened in Japan. This doesn’t mean that Asura’s Wrath story isn’t enjoyable but just that the development team doesn’t seem to care much for smaller details. In all honest, it’s not surprising as anyone that watches anime will know that it often makes very little sense.
Asura’s Wrath is a strange video-game in that it tries to stray away from familiar features. It works best when it’s in the middle of a major fight with all the insane fighting moves that the characters like pulling off.
However, the pleasant but short time spent playing will leave players wondering why it couldn’t last longer. Anyone that is into anime will benefit from playing it but others will probably find themselves utterly baffled.
Unfortunately Asura’s Wrath is not the video-game that will bridge that gap between Western and Japanese gaming, but at least it’s an enjoyable experience while it lasts.