Bring it Back | Asura’s Wrath
Happy Easter everyone! While Easter always hits on a Sunday, Sunday also means another Bring it Back feature! Since we unfortunately didn’t have our weekly feature last weekend, we’re making up for it with a double dose of Capcom IPs. After Power Stone, we figured we would kill two more Capcom birds with one (power) stone. We’ll give you a break after these ones Capcom, we promise. First up, we take a look back at 2012’s quick-time event action game, Asura’s Wrath! Developed in collaboration with CyberConnect2, this was a very experimental game that truly showcased what games could do with their presentation. If you haven’t played the game, be aware that there will be spoilers.
First announced at the 2010 Tokyo Game Show, Asura’s Wrath was presented with a somewhat violent, yet action-packed first impression. We were quickly introduced to an angry character named Asura, a demigod with a design inspired by Buddhist and Hindu mythology. A lot happens in the trailer, with Asura taking several spears to his body, fighting against several minions, and even a gigantic planet sized deity that attacks the planet with a single finger. While the trailer was very cinematic, it did make it a point to show that quick time events would be a big part of the game. During a couple moments, button prompts were displayed on screen, which at the time, QTEs were incredibly commonplace. Viewers wouldn’t know until much later, but QTEs would be a big part of the game as a whole.
Over time, quick time events have earned a bad reputation. What once started as a cool interactive feature in games during pivotal moments soon became a repetitive gameplay feature. While they haven’t completely gone away, it’s become clearer that many developers have become less reliant on them. Of course, we still have games like Detroit: Become Human or The Dark Pictures titles, but those are basically interactive movies. You also still have games like God of War, which uses them sparingly through it’s otherwise excellent combat. Asura’s Wrath tried to bridge the gap between action game and interactive movie. While some might say it wasn’t very successful, it would be difficult to argue that the game didn’t have a fantastic style and presentation.
Part of the reason the presentation was so excellent was due to CyberConnect2’s fantastic animation. The game may have been a 3D action game, but in a lot of ways, it really felt like an anime brought to life. While it didn’t use cel-shading, the animation techniques, set pieces and overall art direction made it larger than life. A boss fight on the moon set to Antonin Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 is just as epic as it sounds. Fighting an entire fleet of airships using only your fists (which shoot fist-shaped projectiles) is such an absurd image, but it worked. All of this happened while the game kept each part in an episodic style. Presentation took center stage for Asura’s Wrath, and we haven’t really seen anything quite like it since.
The unusual mix of science fiction and mythology was rather intriguing, and it gave the game a unique look and feel. Running on Unreal Engine 3, the team used a lot of their animation experience with the Naruto Ultimate Ninja games. The engine helped to make development an easier process for the developers, allowing them to review things in real time. It was meant to be a depiction of wrath and how it feels, but it has several other moments too. Feelings of love, loss, and even of lust (albeit briefly). The game was also a loose spiritual successor to Clover Studios’ God Hand. The various action stage segments and boss battles provided small distractions from the QTE cinematics. It would basically be a fight just to earn the right to use the “burst” ability. Once activated, only then would the story move forward.
As for the story, Asura’s Wrath tells a tale of betrayal, vengeance, and redemption. The plot takes place over the span of thousands of years (millions thanks to the epilogue), starting out simple enough. Asura is one of eight cybernetic demigod generals in an army formed to protect the planet of Gaea. When the demonic force known as Gohma starts to plague the planet, the generals fight to save humanity. Despite gaining a small victory, the celebration is short-lived as Asura is suddenly framed for the murder of their Emperor. Asura then finds his wife close to death and his daughter Mithra kidnapped. As it turns out, the other generals are to blame, as they seek power for themselves to rule over Gaea. Guess being an immortal demigod wasn’t enough?
One of the generals actually turns out to be Asura’s brother-in-law, Yasha. As the generals, now the Seven Deities, slaughter humans to collect mantra, it takes a toll on the planet. Yasha eventually sees the error of his ways and has a change of heart, joining Asura in his cause. This also makes him another playable character, giving Yasha his own time to shine. The story involves a lot of fighting, a lot of rage, and even several resurrections, but it’s actually quite good. It’s also pretty short, taking only a few hours to finish.
The game had very mixed reception, ranging from mediocre to masterful levels. Some critics found the game to be wildly entertaining and full of action, praising the game’s presentation. Others criticized the length and the balance between cutscene and actual gameplay. Some consumers were also upset about the way the true ending was sold as DLC (which we’ll get to in a moment). As for myself, I loved the game, even obtaining the Platinum trophy on my PlayStation 3. I even purchased the DLC and got all the trophies for those as well.
For the DLC, the game had a handful of offerings. One was a final chapter, featuring a handful of extra episodes to deliver the true ending to the game. This included revealing the true mastermind that was pulling the strings from the very start, resulting in an epic climax. There were also two episodes that expanded upon other episodes in the story. Using anime cutscenes, these special episodes let players utilize QTEs over the anime visuals. While you could technically fail, it was a strange choice to go this direction. The animation is cool and worth watching, but a lot of people didn’t find them worth paying for.
Finally, there were two lost episodes that fans could purchase. This was actually a crossover with the Street Fighter series, particularly Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition. The first episode features a fight with Ryu, utilizing the Asura’s Wrath gameplay on a 2D plane. Featuring Japanese voice acting and a fun nod to Sagat’s classic Street Fighter II stage, this was a fun little endeavor. After taking the fight to the moon, Ryu unleashes the Satsui no Hado and becomes Evil Ryu. This fight takes players out of the 2D plane and calls back to a boss fight in the main game. The battle ends in a mutual resolution after an exchange of button prompts, but it’s not over yet.
Lost Episode 2 continues the crossover, now featuring a fight with Akuma. Just like the battle with Ryu, this fight starts on a 2D plane before Akuma transforms into Oni. Evil Ryu and Oni being new characters in Street Fighter IV, this was their way of cross promoting both games. The fights don’t represent canon, but the game interestingly shares a coupld Street Fighter connections. Chun-Li makes a cameo appearance in the epilogue of the game, taking place in the modern day. Asura would even become available as a costume for Kage in Street Fighter V many years later. Whether this counts as canon or not is yet to be seen, but it does make for some interesting theories. Asura even has a fan following, requesting him to appear in crossover titles like Marvel vs. Capcom and Puzzle Fighter.
Many fans hoped that there would’ve been an Asura’s Wrath: Complete Edition, containing all the DLC. Unfortunately, that never came to be, which is why we think it’s time to Bring it Back! It’ll soon be ten years since the release of the original game, and a remaster would be a very welcome option. Getting the game in a higher resolution with boosted frame rates and all the DLC included would be great. The game is backwards compatible on Xbox One while also available on PlayStation Now, so it’s not completely inaccessible. Even so, an HD remaster would be a good option that Capcom could produce at a low cost.
Now as for a sequel, Asura’s Wrath’s story was an open and shut case. While the game isn’t the kind to really work with a traditional sequel, that doesn’t mean one couldn’t make one. This would mostly come down to telling a new story with new characters, representing a spiritual successor. Maybe using a different mythology, or even different eras could make the game feel different enough. It can still embody the feeling of wrath, and even keep that in the title. It would simply become the Wrath franchise. The main goal is to have games that continue using this style, QTEs and all. Of course, it would be ideal to maintain CyberConnect2’s involvement as well.
Perhaps it will happen one day. Until then, I will continue to hope that this franchise somehow survives. What do you think? Is Asura’s Wrath due for a comeback? Let us know in the comments below! Stay tuned later today for another Bring it Back feature with a Capcom IP. We’ll also be back next week with another surprise entry.