Well, this is certainly an oddly risky release from Capcom, a company whose output seems to be solely reliant on a small handful of 'safe' franchises of late. Asura's Wrath is a game that's fairly unique in what it's aiming to do... and it's debatable as to whether or not that's a good thing as what it's aiming to do appears to be to show what God of War would have been like if it was Japanese developed and was being adapted from an anime series version of said franchise. The game is every bit as nuts as that probably makes it sound.
Set on some ill defined, ancient/fantasy version of Earth called 'Gaea', the story revolves around a group of 'Demi-Gods' called the Eight Guardians, each representing one of the 'eight Mantras' (Think the seven deadly sins with one extra). You control the Demi-God of Wrath, Asura as he is finishing a battle between the Eight Guardians and the armies of Vlitra, an immensely powerful monster created from the will of the planet Gaea that must be subdued every few thousand years or it will wipe out the fairly primitive humans who worship the Eight Guardians it appears. Following the battle, Asura is framed for murdering the emperor the Eight Guardians serve as part of a conspiracy between the other seven guardians, who want to take Asura's daughter (A priestess with immense 'Mantra power')for some unknown reason. For good measure, they also kill Asura's wife... and then Asura himself. Now... if you've played God of War, you'll know killing a guy like Asura right after epically trolling his life so badly is not going to keep him down for long, and sure enough Asura crawls his way out of what passes for hell in this game's world only to find he's been gone twelve thousand years, and his former comrades now rule the world as the 'Seven Deities', using humanity as nothing more than fuel for their soul powered godhood, in the name of attaining eternal peace for Gaea in the long run. So with nothing on his mind but revenge (And seemingly saving his daughter as a secondary concern), Asura proceeds to go on a rampage across Gaea as he wages a one man war against the seven deities and their vast armies... but severely outnumbered and outgunned, what hope does the angriest God around have of victory against far more powerful beings than he? Lucky for him he's starring in what is essentially the unholy offspring of God of War and Dragon Ball Z, where death is a temporary set back and when your opponent is stronger than you, you just scream very loudly after he beats you up until you get stronger than HIM. This is macho excess at it's finest and damn it all if it isn't a total hoot to see. Each 'episode' of the game is designed to resemble the format of a Japanese anime TV show, with opening credits (No theme songs sadly), mid-episode 'bumpers'(Place holder screens that would be used to book-end ad breaks on TV) and narrated next episode previews. The presentation is perfectly realised and the way the whole package is put together is hilariously authentic. The story is actually a very good one despite it's seeming simplicity... touching on all the old tropes you know and love from action anime shows while also managing to be genuinely engaging at the same time, making you care about characters who are, for all intents and purposes, total d-bags. It's worth noting that while the game does have a conclusive finale to it with episode 18, there is a 'true ending' to the game that is fairly easily unlocked that seems to be a set up for a sequel to the game... this is NOT the case. This is actually a set up for the downloadable content, which consists of a four episode pack costing around a fiver and adding in four further episodes that closes the book on the story completely and honestly? These extra episodes provide a much better climax than the already fairly good one already there... even though it costs extra... but that's a matter for later...
The gameplay in Asura's Wrath is an odd beast, consisting as it does primarily of three methods of play: The standard third person beat-em-up segments, which are essentially room clearing Dynasty Warriors-lite affairs which are actually fairly sluggish to play in places, the 'into the screen' shooter segments (Played the new Kid Icarus game? Like that... but playable) and most prominent of the bunch is the QTE segments, which occur constantly throughout the game, and to be honest, they do drag a bit after a while. There is amusement to be had from the way some of the QTEs are used though, with them being used to enhance the madness of some of the OTT fight scenes for example... such as when two characters are punching each other at lightning speed rapidly your QTE prompt will be a screen filled with dozens of attack button icons, meaning you have to press that button like crazy to bump up your score/ranking. It can get old, but there's fun there. The game's structure is designed to mimic the format of an anime TV series, with "levels" broken up into 'episode' numbers. The episodes usually last around half an hour a piece (With a couple being much longer than that), with 18 in total on the disc (And further episodes available for download in yet more DLC cash grabbing tomfoolery). It shouldn't take you any longer than 11 hours tops to get through the game, and as there's no multiplayer or extra game modes that means that what's here is fairly slight on the content front. There are unlockables and the like of course, but more than likely this is a game most will play through once and then not bother with again. You'll have fun, yeah, but just the once probably.
Graphically, the game looks great. The game is clearly using the same graphics engine as the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm titles unsurprisingly, and they pack a ton of detail into the look and design of the characters and the game world, but the visuals occasionally adopt a very 'jagged' look to the edges, which, while at worst a minor distraction, still hurts an otherwise pretty game. The soundwork is truly phenomenal also, with some extremely strong voice work on both the english dub and the Japanese original (Switchable in game) and a superb soundtrack mixing loud rock and hauntingly downbeat tunes expertly.
It's a lot of fun to play and it looks and sounds fantastic, but Asura's Wrath is still very much a niche product that aims itself squarely at fans of anime first and foremost to an extent that I could see it being offputting to anyone who isn't already a part of that fandom. The fairly large volume of cutscenes and QTEs will likely not add to the game's mainstream appeal, and the frustrating DLC based concluding chapters of the game certainly left a bad taste in my mouth, even if the ending on the disc was satisfying enough on it's own. It's a fun experience, but a short lived one that takes a lot of shortcuts with it's gameplay sequences and uses far too much QTE padding. The story is fantastically well put together, but this is not a game worth full price in my opinion. £15 or less? Sure, that's fine... but just be warned that the style of this game is aimed at a very specific mindset/fanbase and could very easily just come off as a repetitive button basher with more cutscenes than gameplay to a lot of you.