Asura's Wrath Review
A decidedly different foray into action game conventions with a pretension to cinematic gameplay and an extremely inventive style
Asura is an angry guy. Anyone who’s seen the box art or heard the title can tell you that. Being so angry, the story becomes less and less about Asura as a character and rather a study on the difference between righteous anger and bloodlust. As a character meant to flesh out and carry an entire game, Asura eventually becomes little more than a proxy for the concept of idealized wrath and determination, proving repeatedly to be a demigod that simply will not stay down. Due to a well rounded balancing act of pure anger and good intention, Asura eventually becomes a sympathetic character due to the fact that the game will often heap very real, very heavy consequences on a man with a million enemies and allow the audience to watch him struggle and squirm as he paints a perfect picture of a bloodied corpse on its feet. Bruised, beaten, and breaking under his own weight, but still standing.
What makes the story most interesting, however, is everything that seems to be going on around Asura. Revolving around themes of sacrifice, brutality and righteousness, there seems to be real weight behind the decisions made by the numerous antagonists. They’re brutal, selfish and mean-spirited, but at the same time arguably in the right and highly justified in their actions. With morally ambiguous villains and heroes, the game will legitimately keep you guessing who may be right or wrong and these white knuckle moments persist right up until the final boss.
It should be stated, however, that after a satisfying end fight and an ending moment that passes fairly well as a conclusion, Asura’s Wrath drops the ball pretty hard, introducing a “True Ending” feature, which basically means playing the highly taxing end sequence over again just in time to see an unsatisfying cliffhanger. This sort of thing could be tolerated in a video game with less emphasis on story or a game not trying to carry any sort of emotional weight, but as it stands, the true ending is a black mark on the experience as a whole and will leave more invested players yearning for some true closure. Asura is a likable enough character, but an ending that informs us that Asura has no reason to stop being angry isn’t a tasty morsel of what’s yet to come. It’s a slap in the face to anyone invested in Asura as a character.
Asura’s Wrath is neither the lowest-common denominator explosion-fest made to play on mankind’s most relateable emotions for a quick cash grab, nor is it an astounding piece of art slated to set the medium of video game storytelling ablaze. It is, rather, a combination of two of gaming’s most relevant conventions with a tight and linear framework. It uses Heavy Rain’s plot-first sensibilities to emotionally invest the players in the already blood-pumping adrenaline rush of Devil May Cry’s extreme, controller gripping madness. What’s left is a game carried by presentation and well-told, pulpy fantasy adventure. For your money, you won’t be picking up a well-balanced, competition worthy fighting system or a massive 50+ hour epic, but rather a compelling and unique sci-fi thrill ride with enough twists and turns to make it well worth the money.
Our ratings for Asura's Wrath on Xbox 360 out of 100 (Ratings FAQ)
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