Asuras Wrath preview evil gorillas, giant turtles and a few too many quick-time events

Based on the trailers, you may have assumed Asura’s Wrath was nothing more than a series of quick-time events with ridiculously big bosses kicking each other in and out of earth’s atmosphere – the E3 demo, in particular, highlighted a spiky-haired hero catching the thousand mile-wide finger of a planet-sized demigod and super punching it into submission.

Thankfully, that’s not (entirely) the case. Capcom recently showed us more of Asura’s Wrath, and though quick-time events still featured prominently, we also learned new story details, witnessed new gameplay elements and encountered a lot more normal-sized enemies.

But first, why is Asura so wrathful? After watching a short cinematic in which the protagonist is betrayed and banished by his fellow demigods, his wife killed and his daughter kidnapped, we could understand why the guy is so pissed. Asura is out for vengeance, and standing in his way are seven of his former otherworldly colleagues and former protectors of the human race – who have now set out to destroy all mankind.

Aiding in this evil quest are evil spirits known as Gohma. No, not the one-eyed spiders from Zelda – in Asura’s Wrath, the Gohma take on the form of many animals, always with red, veiny growth surrounding their black bodies. These are the creatures that Asura will be kicking the crap out of in Asura’s Wrath. In our demo, the Gohma took the shape of apes and captured a young human girl, forcing Asura to give chase, then deliver a smack down with his fists, feet and rage.

The combat works in a style similar to Bayonetta or Devil May Cry with plenty of super moves thrown in. Asura performs combos with his standard attacks, ramming himself into enemies and launching them into the air, or with strong attacks that release a devastating area-of-effect damage, knocking enemies to the ground. Both fill his Burst meter, which can be used on stunned or down enemies to perform special super attacks, called “synchronic events” in the game, but more commonly recognizable as the aforementioned quick-time events. We saw one performed on a giant tortoise in which Asura dashed towards the enemy’s face, grabbed it by the upper lip and pulled the head over the back of the shell, then socked it in the face.

After Asura wiped the floor with the Gohma apes, the action immediately transitioned into a chase with the hero attempting to stop the lead gorilla from carrying off the girl. Players control a reticle to aim fireballs Asura shoots from his hands Dragon Ball Z style while avoiding enemy attacks and obstacles. Even more synchronic events show up during the chase scene, showing Asura dispatching the gorilla and catching the captive in mid-air. The chase scene wasn’t the only combat that varied depending on the situation. Later, Asura’s arms were destroyed and he was limited to using his head and feet to deliver the pain – no long range attacks.

In fact, the length of the cutscenes and the number of synchronic events seemed to overshadow normal gameplay during our demo. While the transitions move the action along from one scene to another well, the fully controllable action seemed like it was over almost as soon as it started. Granted, this is an early section of the game in which story needs to be established, but we have yet to see real prolonged gameplay. Hopefully, the trend doesn’t continue throughout the entire experience – otherwise, Asura’s Wrath might feel more like watching a movie than playing a game. We’re excited to see more of the standard combat, however, and appreciate that Asura’s Wrath is pushing the limit on over-the-top events and larger-than-life enemies.

We’ll know for sure if the right balance is struck when Asura’s Wrath releases on February 21 for the PS3 and Xbox 360

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