It all looks absolutely stunning thanks to the mash-up of sci-fi and Asian mythology that informs the blindingly colorful world and bad ass character designs, and also because of the incredible animation work. If nothing else, CyberConnect2's Ultimate Ninja games are known for their visual fidelity and animation quality, and Asura's Wrath's is undoubtedly the studio's best effort to date.
This impeccable level of presentation comes at the cost of serious gameplay sacrifices. Calling Asura's Wrath a game in the traditional sense is a stretch. You'll be watching more often than playing, and when you're given agency it's mostly in quick-time events. Even then failure to match the on-screen prompts never impacts progression, so you're only doing it to avoid poor grading at the end of each episode, or because you might find it satisfying.
Asura's Wrath's reliance on cut-scenes is a shame because tucked away in between these lavishly produced cinematics is a very competent third-person brawler. It might not be as deep as contemporaries such as God of War 3, Bayonetta or Devil May Cry 4, but what it lacks in depth it makes up for in style and fluidity.
During these arena-based segments Asura has light and heavy attacks as well as projectiles. Hammering light attacks dishes out a flurry of attacks usually ending in launching the enemy across the battlefield. Holding the light attack button down sends Asura chasing after to deliver follow up attacks. It's a simple mechanic but it looks cool and feels good thanks to punchy sound effects and plenty of feral grunting from Asura.
Heavy attacks are used sparingly, usually only for crowd control due to a cool down period. Its primary use is to deliver cinematic attacks on downed enemies to finish them off, so being overzealous with it can needlessly draw out battles and run the risk of getting killed.
All of this is in service of filling up a bar which represents Asura's rage, once completely filled the Japanese Hulk flips out and activates the Burst ability, kicking off the next cut scene. In effect this means that battles only last as long as it takes for you to fill the bar, and if you're good enough to quickly exploit patterns, avoid damage, and land counters regularly that can be not long at all.
Asura's Wrath also has plenty of Panzer Dragoon-esque on rails segments peppered in, they add a little more variety to the experience and introduce a few amusing scenarios of their own. Our favourite is chasing down a demon gorilla that's nabbed a damsel; an unintentional homage to Donkey Kong perhaps.
CyberConnect2 has clearly taken a gamble and consciously opted to shove gameplay aside to tell a story with no expense spared in its presentation. This is most apparent in the way it's structured; Asura's Wrath is comprised of 19 episodes, each lasting around 20 minutes with mid-episode breaks complete with bumpers on both sides, a preview of the next episode and gorgeous artwork accompanied by text to provide context or alternative perspectives for the episode's events.
While we can confidently say each episode of Asura's Wrath offers an unparalleled cinematic experience, its gameplay is too transient and insubstantial, which makes it a hard sell at £40. Were it not for the steep asking price we'd recommend this unequivocally, especially to fans of manga, anime or anyone interested in seeing what true masters of Japanese animation can do.
More interactive anime than video game, Asura's Wrath is a glory to behold but lacks substance.
- Unmatched visual splendor
- Stellar Japanese and English voice acting
- A story that's 'epic', in every sense of the word
- Very little gameplay
- Over in a few hours