GROWING UP CATHOLIC, my exposure to Eastern religion has been limited at best. Still, I'm pretty sure that the Bhagavad Gita doesn't include orbital battleships, giant turtles made of blood, or six-armed dudes who punch comets on a regular basis. Thankfully, Capcom and developer CyberConnect2 have amended these grave oversights.
Imagine Sony's God of War (or more accurately, Sega's excellent Bayonetta) as filtered through the lens of an epic anime series, then blended into a stew of Hindu, Buddhist, and Shinto mythology. The story—a surreal tale of the demigod Asura's revenge after being betrayed—is almost operatically melodramatic, while the gameplay is a combination of quick time events and cinematic third-person brawling. If you played either of the aforementioned games, you should know what to expect in Asura's Wrath: tap buttons, watch an impressive combo unfold, and then prepare yourself to hit whichever button the moment demands. You're graded on your speed, accuracy, and the amount of damage you unleash. Pretty standard, and nothing we haven't seen before.
So it's a compliment to the game's design team that despite using such basic gameplay tropes, Asura's Wrath is still an exciting experience. With these core elements in place, the game's style is allowed to flourish—and it has style in spades. Between the gorgeous artwork (which is like a modernized, sketchy adaptation of traditional Japanese ukiyo-e art) and the game's episodic nature—each episode lasts only a few minutes, and is bookended by ultra-stylish vignettes and still images—Asura's Wrath excels for the same reasons that most modern roleplaying games fail. It may be heavy on non-interactive story, but these passive moments are succinct and, most crucially, gripping.
If Asura's Wrath has one glaring flaw, it's that the experience is a bit short. Though, in fairness, the too-soon ending does leave players wanting more. That's probably the best endorsement of Asura's Wrath that I can offer: Once the ending cinematic rolled, I desperately wanted a sequel.