Capcom's two chapter demo of their latest action adventure title has the feel of wandering into the fifth episode of a TV show you've never seen before.
I actually went into the demo of Asura's Wrath a bit blind. I knew that it was a character action game from Capcom, but up until this point hadn't been following its coverage. If I had, I would know that developer CyberConnect2 (responsible for the last few years' worth of console Naruto games, and now it all makes sense) intended for the game to have the feel of episodic TV. Typically, when developers say this, they mean using a conceit like an announcer saying "Last time, on Asura's Wrath..." but at least based on this demo, what the Japanese developer actually intends here is a dialog and exposition-heavy experience with numerous button prompts.
That's right, the Asura's Wrath demo shows off the game's QTEs.
Asura's Wrath is a tale of revenge, as the title character sets out to avenge himself upon the gods who killed his wife and kidnap his daughter, but you would be hard-pressed to know much of that from this demo which presents gameplay from the title's fifth and eleventh chapters.
WHAT'S GOOD SO FAR
Have you seen CyberConnect2's Naruto games? This is a developer that knows how to make attractive, anime-inspired titles and Asura's Wrath is no different. While I have some minor quibbles about the way the textures on some of the characters' bodies are handled (they can look a little craggy here and there) on balance the handful of enemies you encounter, the effects, and Asura himself animate beautifully.
Spectacularly-scripted action sequences
Both encounters are pretty different in terms of how they handle and show off the game's action, and my overall feelings on how it's handled tends towards both the "good" and the "bad." The points of interaction are fewer and more spread out in the first fight while the second in Chapter 11 is a more traditional boss battle that seques into a a few QTEs. In both cases, the context of the QTEs is very interesting (even if the story is somewhat impenetrable), and you'll be squaring off against spaceships and planet-sized gods in no time.
Massive Scope and Scale
This is really kind of repeating the last point, but even from these weirdly isolated chapters, you get the sense of epic cosmic drama going on in and around Asura's Wrath, and that's something sorely lacking in our big, sci-fi action games.
WHAT'S BAD SO FAR
Yeah, the QTE thing
To the demo's credit, this is unabashedly its hook. With their very strictly controlled, very guided action, CyberConnect2 wants to guide your Asura's Wrath experience in a very specific way. I've made my complaints about QTEs as the tool of the lazy or unimaginative designer in the past, but it almost seems that complaint is beside the point here since it seems like Asura's Wrath is about providing you with some limited points of crazy violent interactions as they tell their story. I'm putting it down as a "bad" thing right now, but if I'm being completely honest, the way it's presented here, it's more of a question mark than anything else and I'm way more intrigued than anything else about how the rest of the game looks and plays.
I say, if you have any an ounce of curiosity about Asura's Wrath, to go ahead and download the demo (all it will cost you is some HDD space and a little time, anyway). I'm ambivalent about the game based on my time with it, but I'm also very curious and want to see more of the whacked-out cosmic god opera that's been written here.
Asura's Wrath's demo is available now on PSN and XBLA. The full retail game will be available February 21st.