Capcom was, it should be said, experimentive with Asura’s Wrath in a way that other game publishers don’t amount to in an entire console generation. Asura exudes aesthetic and originality through the screaming and fighting most have seen in (insert media preference here), but even there the contextual size is pumped to such a scale that few can claim to be comparable.
Asura, separate from the rationality of the publisher, is a gemstone of the last generation. That beholden aesthetic is a gentle, unseamed weaving of Eastern religions and philosophies with a futuristic, mechanical approach. The titular character is one of eight of his kind, each running on mantra power to defeat a pestilent enemy called the Gohma in a war for the purity of humankind. Asura is eventually betrayed for the greater good and left to take his revenge against former allies that progressively grow in power and scale – hence, anger.
This concept – immediately delicious on paper – flies through space and time, spanning thousands of years in a story-heavy, episodic fashion. In this instance, being “episodic” is built into the game and concept itself, bringing you all the commercial bumpers, before and after credits, and everything else to make this feel like a full season of a show called Asura’s Wrath. Story is front and center, and delivers story and character beats that are reminiscent of some of the better anime shows ever put to screen. The cutscenes are peppered with quick-time events to make sure you’re paying attention, however, as you’ll never want to set the controller down for more than an episode bumper.
That being said, you’re not going to dip into an incredible, up-scaled combat system in Asura’s Wrath as you might expect to. I mean, which other character is better suited for varied power moves on top of impressive bull rush moves…but, alas, the punching hits with a thud. The main issue that’s eroded away my enjoyment the more playtime I’ve had is the lack of evolution in the combat. Asura’s repertoire never expands nor even changes; after the fourth episode, you’ve seen it all and will do it all over and over again with different contextual backdrops only refilling enjoyment so far. It doesn’t help that some of the fights feel, grindingly so, like filler with a prime example being the second to last episode (in the DLC, which we’ll get to) that tasks you with fighting common Gohma after you’ve taken out a massive, world-shattering enemy. There’s no sense in the battle’s placement, and it serves to frustrate when the story is ramping to a climax.
Even with the same combat throughout and technical issues, I’ve have taken the one-note protagonist through multiple journeys in Asura’s Wrath. I love the damn thing, and I love more than one of the characters as influencers on the world. Capcom’s DLC butchery, then, should be felt all the harder and as all the more slicing through an open, trusting hand.
The blunt honest picture is that Asura’s Wrath shipped wholly unfinished from a story-perspective. Unlike the other two downloadable episodes that feature Capcom characters in fantasy fights with Asura, there is no parsing around the fact that Part IV: Nirvana was originally meant for the main game. Now, did this episode need more time in development and was held behind, or was this the window Capcom saw to make more money off of a pre-destined niche classic? My belief is that both intentions lead to this part being cut, leaving Asura without its head and a “True Episode 18” ending that feels like nothing more than mental manipulation and makes the bridge between parts three and four charged at all times. There’s no regret attach to purchasing the DLC on my end – it’s worth the purchase to me – but I won’t pretend that there’s not a constant reminding whisper in my head that I spent extra money to finish a game. It’s a sign burned into the landscape and planets, every enemy may as well whisper it when they attack; who wants their game to be absorbed through that grimy film?
That’s a difficult issue to parse for me when it comes to a final score. Back when I first started in games reporting, I remember giving the game a 7 with the missing Part IV being a massive blow. Today, it feels even more so, especially with the fighting system finally getting to me and whittling me down. Sorry, Asura. You deserved better.
Asura’s Wrath Score: