Grizzly Gaming

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Asura's Wrath demo: Cranking the insanity to 11

While most of the games I play usually land within the realms of science fiction or fantasy, they still have some kind of anchoring in reality. For example, even though you can fight dragons in Skyrim, the setting and the characters in Skyrim are still bound by the laws of reality (at least somewhat). A demo I played on Xbox Live the other day totally eschews any semblance of reality and normalcy, instead opting for complete and utter insanity. And you know what? It’s actually pretty cool.

“Asura’s Wrath,” an upcoming game by Capcom and CyberConnect2, I’m convinced, was conceived by crazy people. Heavily cinematic, “AW” is bold, grandiose, sweeping, bodacious, and a little gaudy with equal parts epic added to each of those adjectives. Relying heavily on quick-time events (QTEs), “AW” offers an unbelievably wild, colorful and amazingly violent (though not overly gory) experience. While some may love the feeling of playing an over-the-top cinematic manga, others may be turned off by the relatively small amount of input players have on the course of the events in the game (at least, from what I could tell from playing the demo).

The story of “AW,” allegedly, is a blend of elements of Asian mythology and science fiction to create a wild reimagining of that mythology. I had to do some extra reading to figure out just what the hell is going on in “AW,” too, because if all I went on was the info I could glean from the demo, “AW” is about the following – an extremely pissed off guy named Asura (who also may or may not be made out of some kind of reddish stone) fights everyone in the universe, including vaguely angelic figures, other pissed off guys who may or may not also be made out of stone, and supernatural giants who can grow so large that they dwarf planets. There’s something about his daughter being kidnapped and he often, randomly, remembers something awful about his daughter (or maybe his wife?) which only aids his enragement. Oh yeah, and Asura can grow six arms (well, four more for a total of six). Maybe he’s some kind of heaven robot? I don’t know.

Though I couldn’t gather any story-related info from the demo, I read up on its Wikipedia page that Asura was, at one time, a revered general in Heaven’s army. After defeating some enemy, Asura returned to Heaven only to find the Emperor (God?) dead with Asura being framed for the murder. Asura is pursued by all the forces of Heaven, his wife killed and his daughter kidnapped. After being forcibly exiled from Heaven, Asura spends numerous millennia on earth until he is awoken one day by the prayers of a little girl who is being attacked by some strange creatures. After his reawakening, Asura travels the world and the heavens to avenge himself and his family.

Asura's default emotion - intense rage.

Get used to seeing this look a lot.

So despite what seemed like the demo’s best attempt to keep the story a secret, there is a story somewhere in there, buried deep under layers of anime/manga nonsense. A very generic video game story, but it is there.

The biggest draw of “AW” is the spectacle of the battles Asura finds himself involved in. Each battle is mainly compromised of various QTEs (like mashing a button, timed button presses and patterns of button presses) where successfully completing QTEs builds Asura’s “burst” meter. As battles wear on, Asura becomes more and more enraged, like a white-haired, Japanese Incredible Hulk. Once enough rage is built up, Asura can activate a burst attack, which progresses the battle to its next stage.

But battles aren’t entirely made up of QTEs. “AW” is also part on-rails shooter as well as a simplistic brawler. It seems that as the game progresses, battles begin to combine these elements together to create faster paced, more intense fight sequences. For example, the “AW” demo contains two episodes – one on earth where Asura fights a giant named Wyzen and one where Asura fights a man named Augus on the moon (yes, that moon). The fight with Wyzen is fairly straight forward, with each battle sequence (separated by bursts) usually only requiring the completion of one QTE. The battle with Augus, however, blends brawling, QTEs and shooting (Asura can fire energy blasts from his arms. Are you really still questioning this game?) into the same fight.

See that little thing in the bottom left? That's Earth.

While the fight with Augus was more intense, it wasn’t exactly difficult, which makes me concerned with how difficult the full version of “AW” might be and whether “AW” would be worth a full price purchase. Some might be keen on playing what is essentially a cinematic, anime video game while others would be turned off by its linearity and how the game essentially decides the course of events, with the player along for the ride.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with a game that has a heavy emphasis on QTEs – if they’re used well. Since this is just a demo, I wouldn’t be surprised if these “Episodes” only constituted boss fights in “AW” and the full game featured more expansive, thought out levels in between.

It wouldn’t be the first time a demo for a game turned out to be completely different from the full retail release. “Brutal Legend’s” demo, for example, was the game’s intro – Eddie Riggs being transported into metal-land (that place didn’t have a name, did it?), finding his axe and fighting through a linear level capped off by a boss fight. You know how often Eddie fought through a confined, linear level in the full game, besides the intro? Never is how often. “BR” was an open-world game with tons of sidequests to complete – something not even alluded to in the demo.

The voice-overs in “AW” are exactly what you’d expect from the English translation of an anime/manga – just awful. The delivery of nearly every line is terrible, not to mention the writing and the lines themselves often make little to no sense. I don’t know if it’s due to the writing or just by virtue of it being made in Japan (a country that seems like it’s on a perpetual acid trip) but whatever it is, basically all the dialogue in “AW” is laughable. The majority of Asura’s lines are enraged screaming while Augus’ lines almost made me feel embarrassed for the voice actor who had to put his name to this game. The voice-overs are bad, is what I’m getting at.

Still, excellent delivery of lines isn’t why you’d play “AW” – you play it to watch Asura grow six arms, punch a planet sized giant into dust, fight a guy with a sword that cuts through the moon and get impaled from the moon to the planet earth by that same sword (Augus impales Asura, leaps off the moon, toward earth, with Asura on his blade, pinning him to earth, while the blade comes out the other side of the planet. Seriously). And that stuff is in the demo – what the hell could Capcom be keeping for the full version that tops all that nonsense?

And you know what? For all its ridiculous, utter lunacy, I think I love it. It’s simple, it’s over-the-top but the best part is it knows all of that and it plays off the knowledge that it should be absolutely bonkers. “AW” is supported by its stunning, eye-catching visuals that, obviously, draw a heavy influence from anime and manga. Thanks to the simplicity of its gameplay, its art style and its willingness to turn the insanity up to 11, “AW” will definitely be a game I’m keeping my eye on. “AW” is set for a North American release on Feb. 21. If the reviews of “AW” are generally positive and there’s an indication that it offers a little bit more depth than what was featured in the demo, “AW” could easily find a spot in my collection come spring.


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An avid gamer and long-time pro wrestling fan, stay tuned to Grizzly Gaming and the Delco Elbow Drop for game reviews and pro wrestling news.

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