Capcom and CyberConnect2 bring us Asura's Wrath, a new third person anime-inspired action title. Take control of Asura (and his wrath!), one of the eight guardian generals (demigods actually) who fight to protect Shinkoku on the planet Gaea from ever-present scourge of the Gohma, a dark species that has plagued Gaea and its inhabitants for millennia.
The story begins with the Shinkoku people and the generals assaulting the Gohma in hopes to permanently destroy them. Vlitra is the ultimate source of the Gohma and it is incredibly powerful. In fact, it cannot be destroyed, just contained until it awakens again, with renewed strength. The opening mission sees Asura using his ranged attacks to fight back Vlitra into submission.
Apocalypse averted for the time being, the Generals rest, but Deus schemes against Asura and his daughter, a powerful priestess who has control over a mystical force known as Mantra. Without trying to say too much, Asura's daughter is kidnapped and he is targeted by everyone as a traitor. Killed, Asura is dead to the world for some 12,000 years. Meanwhile, Deus and his cohorts have been ruling the world with deception and death, and the once beautiful Gaea is a shell of its former self. When he awakens and begins to remember everything, Asura is enraged and who is hell-bent on rescuing his daughter and exacting his revenge on his former comrades.
Asura's Wrath is a beautiful thing to behold, and control. The game has a distinct anime inspired look and feel to it, and it works. CyberConnect2 has a lot of experience in this arena and it's put to good use. Gameplay is mostly familiar to anyone who plays third person action-adventure games, although Asura's is definitely more on-rails that most third person action games. There are no alternate paths or collectibles, no NPCs to talk to, nor side quests or puzzles, or XP system. No new weapons or combos are unlocked either; frankly there are practically no tangents of any kind. It's all forward progress, meant to get you to the next phase of the story. Checkpoints are similarly placed so that should you die (likely to be pretty rare), you aren't going to be set far back at all.
The story and characters of Asura's Wrath definitely take center stage; at times I felt disconnected from the experience due to the amount of quick-time events, cutscenes, and on-railsness there was. Playable segments allow for a modest amount of free-form combat, but your ultimate goal is to just fill up a meter and Burst. As you fight, a meter below your health bar fills up, and when it's full, you know you have completed this battle because you just have to press RT that sets up the cutscene ending for the battle or boss fight. Up to that point, you are using a range attack (X), strong attack (Y, with cool-down mechanic), and standard attack (B). Asura can't block, but you can (and should) recover while in air, which keeps you from losing the full amount of health. Asura is able to lock-on with LT, useful for airborne foes and also to keep tabs on certain enemies in the area, as you are often put up against a few tough enemies and lots of weaker ones.
Within the free-flowing combat are parry-style QTE that pop up now and again that allows Asura to catch and throw back large objects and to counter incoming attacks. These QTE are more sensitive, both in terms of time and what you press, than the story-driven QTE which are much more common. This is the type of game where you don't have to hit all of the QTEs to succeed, you're able to miss a few. The only ones you're likely to miss however are those that pop up in the middle of a cutscene, if say you set your controller down while watching. These and others are very forgiving though, in terms of the allotted time you are given to perform them.
Several areas put you in a rails shooting situation as well. Asura will either be diving from space, on a vehicle, or holding his ground against airborne threats. These shooting sequences are welcomed, even though they too are limited in terms of what the player can really do here.
Together, a lot of these gameplay elements made me feel like I was playing through a movie rather than partaking a whole lot, or at least as much as I normally do. I also wasn't used to this "narrow" level design too, where you literally just can't explore the area at all and the design is exclusively "forward-facing" to keep you moving. Despite all that, most of my eight or so hours playing through Asura's Wrath felt very much involved and fun. CyberConnect2 did a great job of presenting Asura's rage -- and his other emotions, but yes, mostly rage -- via excellent art and sound. I felt connected with Asura within the first hour and mostly the whole way through.
I played through with Japanese audio enabled which made it all the more authentic and powerful to me. This is some of the best voice acting I have heard in a long time. The sheer scale of what Asura encounters -- from pushing back Wyzen's moon-sized finger as we saw in the demo -- to the massive Star Wars scale battles -- are a real treat to experience. I haven't witnessed, much less controlled, this much angst since Kratos. Asura is actually far more PO'ed than Kratos. It's possible his ever-increasing rage might wear you out if you play this game in just one or two sittings, and CyberConnect2 was conscious of that. The scale and "epicness" of the story and battles continually gets larger and larger too, even after starting off on such a grand scale, that it almost gets repetitive as well. But, just when you think you have had too much, CyberConnect2 changes things up in a very cool way.
To the summary...