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The Gods Are Angry

Capcom's newest title is a revenge tale that I thought was destined to succumb to commonplace elements so many video games are known for. The hero is wronged, he sets out on a quest to destroy his enemies, and the rest is history. I was pleasantly surprised in this respect, however, for Asura's Wrath is every bit the deviation I have come to expect from the developer.

The gameplay of Asura's Wrath lies somewhere on a spectrum between that of fast-paced action title and interactive movie. In fact, the game leans more heavily towards the latter. Only about a quarter of the story is spent fighting, while the rest is comprised of button-press quick-time-events that take place during breathtaking cutscenes. In fact, the cutscenes are so engaging that having on screen instructions is little more than a hindrance to a great element of this title. This is all the more evident seeing as how most of these QTE's occur during the many epic boss fights, which pit demigod against demigod in battles of will.

Cutscenes are reinforced with gorgeous visuals, while the game as a whole boasts a spine-tingling score that blends traditional Japanese music with futuristic sci-fi elements. From the space battles rivaling those of Star Wars to the duels taking place on the ground, Asura's Wrath has struck the sweet spot between preposterous and low key. I constantly felt myself torn between laughing and staring raptly as my enemies plummeted to the ground or performed an outrageous combat maneuver. The characterization also amplifies the entire experience.  Their models and dialogue serve to flesh out each personality perfectly, which is saying something, considering the eccentric cast put on display in this adventure.

Asura is one of eight demigods ruling over the people of Gaea, the planet being contested in a war against the evil Gohma. These monsters constitute the majority of disposable enemies the player dispatches, but the demigods themselves pose the biggest threats once they betray Asura. Similar to Kratos from God of War, Asura seeks revenge on a titanic array of enemies. Their archetypical vices, such as greed and violence, are portrayed well in their mannerisms and actions, ranging from absurd to fairly believable. The relationships between Asura and his former allies provide the basis for a compelling plot as the tale unfolds. Between all of the yelling and threatening, the dynamics between Asura and his former allies demonstrate an ambiguous web of motive and deceit.

Capcom's new protagonist is a bit of an anomaly. While at one moment Asura may emulate the masculine ideals of a Marcus Fenix, other subtle characteristics suggest a timid soul, bloodied by the death of its wife and counterpart. Unsure of what has become of the life he once knew, Asura's quest is one for answers as much as it is for revenge. As he rises from the ashes of his former life, his disorientation is so great that he barely knows where to begin.

The fighting that takes place in between the ubiquitous cutscenes is surprisingly easy. Admittedly, this is understandable in the context of Asura being a much more powerful being than most of those he faces. However, the lack of difficulty does little to make up for the monotonous button press minigames, especially since his arsenal of attacks in real-time fighting consists of only a handful of maneuvers.

The aforementioned boss fights are a constant reminder of how great the game could be. Whether it is the earth-shattering force of Wyzen, or the unbelievable agility of Yasha, every encounter with one of the deities presents a varied fight. The finishing bursts that show off Asura's power are satisfying ends to the events. These can range anywhere from acrobatic attacks to beat downs from any one of his six arms.

The main problem I have with the game is that it is more about watching than playing. I constantly felt robbed as new cutscenes began, wanting more in the way of real-time skirmishes and melees. The cutscenes are gorgeous, and provide a solid backbone to a larger story, but the button-press events did little more than mitigate the excitement of the action occurring. Heck, who wouldn't want to watch Asura punch a planet in the face, or see a sword so colossal it can pierce a planet's core?

Titles like Heavy Rain have proved that the video game industry is capable of providing an immersive film experience, and I absolutely adore games that can do this. Asura's Wrath attempted to blend action game with interactive movie, but it fell a little short when trying to find its balance. With more action and less interaction during the epic cutscenes, Capcom could have crafted something with the balance of a Metal Gear Solid title.

With that being said, the rich cast and intriguing story set Asura's Wrath apart from other games in recent memory and it did not disappoint me in this respect. It may be more about watching than playing, but it is quite an intriguing tale to watch. 

 

 

 

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