Asura’s Wrath Hands-On: One Of These Days, Argus… Bang, Zoom!

Thanks to a soundproof glass booth where attendees lined up to scream in order to win cool swag, Capcom and CyberConnect 2 had gamers literally screaming to play Asura’s Wrath, the upcoming PS3 and Xbox 360 cinematic action game that’s so very hard to describe in the space of something like the entire Internet. OK, overblown hyperbole aside, the demo on the show floor was quite an experience that packed in over the top quick time events, a bit of strategic button bashing and a classical music score that made the experience quite hilarious. This is shaping up to be one of those games that has to be seen and played to be believed and even after that, you’d probably wonder what the hell just happened. Think the mighty God Hand on steroids and with a serious case of rage issues and well, that’s about a tenth of what’s coming your way next year.

The game’s premise is pretty simple: you’re the god Asura, your powers have been stripped away and you’re not to pleased about that. You still have more than enough power to deal with the other deities and of course, it off to the races to deal a few epic beat-downs on a massive scale. In the demo, a one on one fight between Asura and his master, Argus which took place on the moon (let that sink in for a minute) was the main event. Instead of a straight up punch-fest you’d expect, the game combines basic attacks with cinematic sequences that demand precision timing and paying close attention to different parts of the game screen. Amusingly enough, you determine when to start the battle, as your opponent has a few things to pontificate on before hand. I decided to be good and listen to him prattle on about the joys of battle as an icon on screen flashed “Shut Him Up”, which was a good idea. Normally, sprouting six arms means you’re in for a weird bit of explaining to do (anyone remember when peter Parker grew those extra extremities in an old issue of Spider-man?) or the wearing of a trench coat at all times. Here, it means you’re powered up and ready to bash in another god’s face a few times.

One thing was clear right away to me right away – even the huge multi-display Capcom demo kiosk was TOO small to contain the game. At the close range players were forced to play at (less than two feet or so away from the monitor), it was tricky to see some commands as they appeared in different places on screen. This is a game you NEED to play sitting down on the couch a good six to eight or more feet away from the screen for maximum enjoyment. In other words, I failed a few events because I was looking in the wrong place. Fortunately, the game drops you back into the action mid-battle, so I quickly picked up on where to look and what to press or jam on and the fight continued. After a few insane minutes of action that had me cracking up, the demo ended on a crazy cliffhanger that had Asura punched from the moon to the earth and Argus plunging a ridiculously long sword through him and the planet as he came down to deal a finishing blow. Of course, Asura’s rage (er, Wrath!) was in full force at this point, so he was charging up to deal some sort of retaliatory strike when the demo abruptly ended.

Obviously, you’d be quite silly to even try to apply ANY rules of reality to the action here (so don’t even try). Total suspension of disbelief and a willingness to dive in and play the game for what it is will be what makes this one a hit. I say the folks who loved Clover’s work on God Hand will absolutely appreciate the game’s sense of absurdity while fans of CyberConnect 2’s work will get grins going at the visual style and dynamic action set pieces. The game is set up to feel VERY much like an anime in terms of storytelling and how cinematic the action sequences are. Granted, those “expecting” some sort of God of War clone might be disappointed that the game isn’t quite what they’re thinking. However, CyberConnect 2’s willingness to do something different is a really good thing to see and Capcom should be very pleased that they had fans lined up for what seemed ages to try out the demo only to walk away stunned, smiling and wanting more.

While a concrete release date has yet to be set, I’m gathering it’s sometime in 2012 and definitely after Capcom lets a few more bits of gameplay get out there to us editor-types and fans. Until then, I’m  absolutely psyched to play more of this super-fun, comically violent and super thrilling story-driven new IP.

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