The last time we checked in on the six-armed antihero Asura, star of the upcoming Asura’s Wrath, he was clearly in a foul mood. The game’s reveal trailer, first shown off at Capcom’s press event in Tokyo last year, was big on pummeling, harpooning, teeth-gnashing, and yelling, as well as a large finger from outer space. At Capcom’s recent press event, the publisher shed some light on just what Asura is, courtesy of a new trailer and an over-the-top demo of the game that left us hungry for more on the promising title.
Capcom producer Kazuhiro Tsuchiya and Hiroshi Matsuyama from Cyberconnect 2 are developing the title in conjunction with Capcom. The two kicked off their presentation with some background on the title character. The game’s story revolves around Asura, a demigod who’s kicked out of the demigod club by his peers and cast down to Earth. While we’re still not clear on the specifics of how this all goes down, the end result has Asura on Earth, and he’s seething (like we reckon anyone voted off of Survivor would be). To add insult to injury, his daughter has been kidnapped and used to power up his former peers. It also appears that just about anyone Asura encounters is hell-bent on murdering him, so it’s not a great day for him. Tsuchiya didn’t offer much more on the story beyond emphasizing that it blends science fiction with mythology and will make use of a broad canvas to tell its unique story of action and drama.
Following a brief introduction, Tsuchiya moved on to the latest trailer that picked up where the last one left off, with Asura running and jumping around, kicking butt and taking names regardless of a foe's general size. Besides stomping foes who were about his height, the little hate-dynamo-that-could took on a massive Godzilla-sized enemy, even going so far as to run up his arm and clock him in the face. The trailer wrapped with another nod to the dramatic "finger from space" scene in the last trailer and showed more of the aftermath.
Once the trailer finished up, Tsuchiya and company dove into showing off what the game looks like in motion via a short gameplay clip and an actual live demo. The clip showed a mix of more conventional third-person action gameplay that highlighted the game’s mix of science fiction and mythology more clearly. Tech-looking airships and troop pods were on display, along with assorted enemies. Asura stomped his enemies with his bare hands and used whatever was lying around. We also caught that besides beating foes with his bare hands, air jumps, and grabs, Asura was also able to use ranged gunfirelike shots from one of his arms to shoot enemies from a distance. Following the clip, which Tsuchiya noted was to give those in attendance an idea of the range of action being implemented into the game, we were treated to a live demo. It focused on fighting the large enemy seen in the trailer, which showcased the game’s impressive sense of scale. The demo focused on the fight we saw between Asura and the massive foe that towered over him, offering us a chance to see how the action will shift to different perspectives. The other bonus was the dialogue--mostly coming from Asura’s foe named Wyzen--during gameplay and cutscenes. The techno demigod clearly knew Asura and spent most of the demo time talking smack and generally taunting him. While pointing out Asura’s fall from his demigod state, Wyzen’s hot topic was Asura’s kidnapped daughter who it seems was used to power Wyzen and possibly more of his buddies. An interesting plot point that came up had Wyzen noting that Asura’s daughter was suffering for his sins.
Wyzen also called Asura a traitor, which set our hero off on a rage-fueled pummeling session. During this battle Asura sprouted an extra four arms, which was handy when a nearby battleship fired missiles at him as he chased Wyzen. Apparently Asura’s additional arms are capable of party tricks, like catching incoming missiles and flinging them at their point of origin. An interesting detail we picked up during the sequence was the dynamic camera movement and input prompts that came up as the action played out. It’s hard to tell how much control a player will have during these sequences, but they appeared to be more than just glorified quick-time events. At one point during the chase, Asura was prompted to trigger "burst mode," which changed the action to a more dynamic sequence where he caught Wyzen and then gave him a toss (yes, we understand Wyzen is a lot bigger than Asura, but that’s just how it went). Wyzen shifted in the air to angle his fall at the angry hero, which called up a more typical QTE button sequence that had Asura not only gut-punching him but also tossing Wyzen through banks of clouds and out into space.
Unfortunately, tossing a demigod out into space won’t finish him off. As Wyzen finally stopped zipping through the air, he fired off some more smack talk and engaged a mantra reactor that powered him up to an absurd degree. The influx of power supercharged the beefy god to such a degree that he expanded to a size much bigger than the Earth itself. In fact, he got so big that the Earth looked to be on par with the size of one of his moobs, which was more than a little unsettling to see. Once Wyzen was full size, he got off a few more cracks at Asura and noted that Wyzen is one of the seven deities who are supposed to protect Earth and mortals. However, Wyzen also noted that Asura is the destructor who doesn’t belong and should die. Following the ballsy statement, Wyzen busted out his finger of doom and sent it down to the atmosphere at Asura, presumably to help him die. As the massive finger came barreling down at him, Asura braced himself and prepped his six arms for the incoming digit and actually brought the thing to a standstill. But, given that it was a celestial finger from space, all Asura could do was briefly hold it before five of his six arms shattered. After a flashback and another QTE, the antihero used his one good arm to throw a mighty punch at the incoming finger that sent a shockwave up through the finger that was so big it shattered Wyzen who went up in a Death-Star-at-the-end-of-original-Star-Wars conflagration. The demo closed with Asura lying in a heap of his body parts and burnt earth, with his one good arm broken off but still clenched in a fist and pointing upward. The camera angle changed and it appeared that the narrator that was heard in the trailers might be someone watching everything go down. Once the live demo ended, Tsuchiya noted that this battle was actually one of the early boss fights in the game, Asura’s Wrath would be playable at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, and the team is anxious to see how people react to the game’s unique gameplay.
Before the session ended, the team fielded questions that yielded a few more bits of info on the upcoming game. The scripted battle sequences we were shown will be balanced with the more traditional third-person action at the start of the demo. The team’s focus is to ensure that players will have something interesting to do at all times--even during what appeared to be scripted cinematics. The boss fight with Wyzen was one of several spaced out through the game and was actually one of the more low-key battles as things get bigger and crazier later in the game. When asked about the mechanic for building energy seen during the demo sequence (which amounted to button prompts), Tsuchiya explained that there will be different mechanics to charge up Asura. Once you’ve built a charge, you’ll be able to trigger the burst mode sequences that led into greater attacks that made use of cinematics. Finally, in terms of gameplay pacing, Tsuchiya noted that the game will feature a variety of gameplay experiences that ebb and flow to move the action along.
After seeing the presentation, we have to say Asura’s Wrath makes a flashy impression that left us wanting more. We’re curious about the story as, to date, Asura’s been a man of few words (and those have usually been “ARGH” and “RARRGH”), so it’s hard to figure out just what’s going on with him. In addition, we have to say that Asura may well be the angriest hero we’ve seen since Kratos from God of War, although we’d have to say Asura is currently coming across as a front-runner in the Rage Olympics. Kratos would at least stop and glower for a conversation or two in the GOW games, but Asura is more about sign language--painful, brutal sign language.
The visuals in the game are a stunning blend of smart tech and unique art direction that make a head-turning impression. The demo we saw featured a maniacal camera that zoomed and twisted between gameplay and cinematics, which featured a gargantuan scale. Wyzen’s exponential growth during the course of the demo and the fluid pacing of the action was an impressive testament to the tech skills Cyberconnect 2 has honed on the most recent Ultimate Ninja Storm Naruto games but taken to a massive scale.
We’re hoping Capcom and Cyberconnect 2 can deliver on their goal of making the experience a unique blend of action and drama because it certainly looks like an over-the-top blast. Asura’s Wrath is slated to ship next year for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Look for more on the game in the months to come and from this year’s E3 in June.