January 12, 2012

The Asura’s Wrath Demo – What Just Happened? Edition

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 11:06 pm

Asuras Wrath Demo
I just finished doing something with the Asura’s Wrath demo. I don’t wholly know what it is that I did, and really, I’m not sure what kind of thing I did it with.

Ostensibly, Asura’s Wrath is a beat ‘em up—except, I think I maybe beat up three guys in the course of the demo, for a total of perhaps ninety seconds of gameplay.

The demo chiefly consists of cut-scenes and quick-time events; it plays like an interactive episode of Dragonball Z, where following the prompts progresses the story, chiefly by causing Asura to get angry and hit things harder.

Interspersed were a few brief gameplay interludes, where I actually had some limited freedom to move Asura and do what I would typically describe as “playing the game.”

These sequences involved A) running and blasting things, or B) running and punching things. In the latter section, I fought what would, in any other game, be called a boss battle—but strangely, even this brawl felt suspiciously as if it were on rails. Not that it was, not truly, but there was a pattern, there were prompts—and eventually, I understood that the game was trying to make me play out a cinematic with my own two hands. If the boss knocked me back, I could tap quickly and recover—if I advanced perfectly through his assault, I could attack. If I was exactly skilled enough, I would use all the right moves and the battle would simply look like a cut-scene.

It would look like a good one, too. The aesthetic of Asura’s Wrath is, in a word, brilliant. I’ve never seen a videogame look like this—like a painting come to life. What’s accomplished here is what so many games struggle endlessly with and never achieve; a true visual dynamism where the nature of the image can change, like a brush stroke, becoming smooth and calming or stressed and furious. The visuals alone demand attention, insisting the game be played.

If there is a game, that is. At the end of the demo, a title screen thanked me for playing, and I sat there, wondering: had I played? I had mashed some buttons, sure—but whether there’s a game here? Whether this is a videogame? I really don’t know.

I do want to find out.

January 11, 2012

Demo Report – Asura’s Wrath

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 4:13 pm

Demo Report Asuras Wrath
Swinging the many furious fists of an angry stone God can now be sampled on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, courtesy of a demo for CyberConnect 2’s upcoming Asura’s Wrath, which appears to pioneer the genre of Anime-Action-Space-God-Epic.

If you don’t find some mix of humor and awe in that bold new label, stepping into Asura’s heavy shoes may require checking a certain amount of reason at the door – this demo provides access to two separate chapters that are both heavy on chaos and light on narrative explanation. And as much as I favor firm narrative ground, there’s an abstract sense of sense to appreciate all the same here in addition to the ludicrous lengths the game goes to in order to tickle your “hey ain’t that cool” bone.

Both sample chapters also present breaks with title cards, as if I were actually watching an anime series on television – color me intrigued as to how that might play out further in the presentation.

As for the mix of gameplay offered – and it is mixed – there’s a definite sense of two streams converging into one enthusiastic hyper-thread attempting to build on existing real estate. That’s my way of suggesting that whilst playing, one certainly feels the Platinum Games’ philosophy of ever increasing moments of insanely impossible but irrefutably amazing feats, such as flinging a God into space only to have him return larger than the planet you just tossed his ass off of, or being stabbed by an extending sword that pushes you off one planet and into space only to then push you through the core of an entirely new planet. These things happen in Asura’s Wrath, presenting a new benchmark for ridiculous over-the-top action that I want to lamely label anime-approved-cool or some such nonsense.

But there’s also a bit of Ninja Blade’s determination to make something more useful of those pesky quick-time button prompts, which Asura’s Wrath also has plenty of – many of them attempting to draw a connection between cinematic styled sequences and your existence as a player versus a spectator, adding some ground by having you push the analog sticks to make Asura literally stand his ground during an attack for instance. There are also moments where you attempt to press buttons at the right time, mash buttons, and curse while rotating an analog stick in a fashion that seems to fly in the face of how normal humanoids hold controllers.

There are times when the experience is more traditional, dodging bullets from an overhead ship and getting in front of missiles for a chance to throw them back comes to mind. Boss encounters also present familiar patterns for dodging, with a bit of button mashing attached at the confrontation mark. But the rhythm is constantly shifting here, always looking for the next new plateau to separate the current action from a previous one.

The much shorter appraisal is that Asura is a God who spends a great deal of time being pummeled by other Gods until reaching his Hulk factor and filling the screen with explosive rage. How could you not want to break from listening to me and go check that out for yourself?

Oh hey and if you do, be sure to swing back around and let me know what you think.

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