Not that weird: Asura’s Wrath is the best kind of stupid fun

By Brenna Hillier
9 March 2012 08:17 GMT

Weeks behind the rest of the world, Asura’s Wrath finally launches in the UK today. You don’t know what you’ve been missing out on.

Asura’s Wrath: A Good Time

The product of between CyberConnect2’s Seiji Shimoda and Capcom’s Kazuhiro Tsuchiya.

Inspired by episodic Japanese dramas, the gameplay is broken into short segments and will be extended by DLC.

Contains short rail shooter sections in addition to structured brawling.

Now available absolutely everywhere – well, not GAME.

I’m not an anime weaboo. I don’t get suspiciously excited when someone says “baka”. But I do appreciate that many forms of Japanese media espouse aesthetics different to what we get on the telly back home, and that this is a good thing. But hey, I’m adventurous. It’s very rare for me to encounter something unusual and not respond with “brilliant, a change”.

This may not describe you. If you’ve ever watched an anime, Japanese drama or movie and thought to yourself “this is strange – and I don’t like that,” then Asura’s Wrath is not for you. I wish you all the best in the future. Goodbye.

Anybody still here has earned a promotion on my buddy list, and should definitely check out Asura’s Wrath. The words :weird”, “kooky” and “strange” have been thrown around too much in relation to the neat little brawler, which taps right into cultural seams likely to be familiar to anybody who ever browses outside their cable provider’s reality TV section.

Capcom and CyberConnect 2 have been quite clear on what Asura’s Wrath is – a love letter to the tropes of Japanese media. Just about the only cliche it skips is the one where someone gets dumped in the rain while a train goes past. There’s the on-again-off-again rival; the mentor turned antagonist; the darkly mysterious villain and his inevitable rogue’s gallery of sidekicks – the fat one, the fey one, the old one, and the one with enormous boobs. Every single event is a dramatic, occasionally literally earth shattering encounter; every piece of dialogue is overwrought and silly.

That’s okay, because it’s supposed to be that way. You’re not supposed to come away from Asura’s Wrath thinking “ah yes, I have learned something significant about the human condition during my Marxist deconstruction of the themes and overarching structure”. You’re supposed to have a bit of a laugh, go “phwoar”, and forget all about it – until the next episode. I don’t watch much telly anymore so the closest example I can think of is pretty ancient: It’s a bit like Xena, or Hercules. Just a bit of fun with popcorn, and never mind the flaws.

A lot of people have accused Asura’s Wreath of being a bit too much like television, in fact. This is a little untrue. The game is very strongly narrative driven, and player choice is limited to deciding whether to shut the loquacious villains up every now and then. It’s entirely linear. But then again, so’s the single-player portion of Call of Duty.

Is this mindless spectacle valuable? This is the kind of question academic types like to get excited about just before they start asking “are games art”, “what is art”, “what is the nature of a game”, “are graphics detracting from the core experience” and “I wonder if I can get another grant about how perma-death is my favourite thing and thereby avoid any teaching work this semester”.

I had a good time. A man fatter than the whole planet squashed me with a finger and I beat him up. A man hit me with a sword so long it stretched from the moon the to the Earth and out the other side, and I beat him up.

My answer to the mindless spectacle question is another question – am I having a good time? In Asura’s Wrath, I had a good time. A man fatter than the whole planet squashed me with a finger and I beat him up. A man hit me with a sword so long it stretched from the moon the to the Earth and out the other side, and I beat him up.

If you don’t mind a bit – well, a lot – of linearity than Asura’s Wrath really is fun. The much criticised “quick time battles” aren’t actually reliant on quick times events. Quick time events are a good shortcut, and as they’re all tied to the animations – you have to hit the button just as Asura’s fist connects – they’re not as frustrating.

Here’s how combat works: You have a ranged attack, a light attack, dash and jump moves, and a heavy attack which can only be set off a cooldown period. You can counter, which results in a critical hit, but must otherwise dodge and jump to evade, as you don’t have endless health. As you damage enemies, two gauges fill. One small one allows you to do endless heavy attacks for a short period of a time, and another triggers a “Burst” – a special attack which, if landed successfully, advances you to the next section of the game.

It’s very simple, yes, but it’s actually quite satisfying learning the different enemy’s attack patterns and finding the openings. Sometimes it can be frustrating, like solving a puzzle, if you miss the game’s cues, but getting it right is viscerally rewarding, as CyberConnect2’s gorgeous animations respond with a ridiculous show.

The story is stupid fun. The combat is stupid fun. The Buddhist-inspired sci-fi design is gorgeous, and on many occasions, stupidly fun. Lots of games are, when you boil it down, stupid fun, but Asura’s Wrath makes no bones about it, and that is both refreshing and engaging.

Asura’s Wrath is out now on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

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