Asura's Wrath is an epic, anime/manga-inspired science fantasy with awesome bosses and a tightly scripted storyline.
It's very rare to find a game that feels fresh, rather than a variation on a theme, but this is exactly what Asura's Wrath manages to do — and without the dark angst, black humour or graphic violence of some the most popular games of the last few years.
It isn't that there's no violence — far from it, this is primarily a fighting game — but it's cartoon violence, as befits the anime inspiration.
Plentiful cutscenes drive the storyline, though you do have to pay attention as every once in a while you'll need to hit a button or twist the joysticks at a climactic moment. As an option, you can choose extra background detail in the form of your enemies' dialogue over a series of extremely beautiful manga paintings.
All of this feels less like a game than an interactive animated movie.
The game sequences themselves generally consist of a few brief minion fights leading to a sub-boss fight, then the full boss of the level. And it's in the boss fights that Asura's Wrath reaches its spectacular peak.
The first boss, a giant, grows near sky high after his first defeat. After the second, he towers above the planet. It's a moment that brings a disbelieving chuckle to the throat. And subsequent bosses manage to do the same thing in different ways.
Gameplay, however, is relatively simple. Once you figure out your powers and the powers of opponents, it isn't too challenging. You basically have to dish out more damage than you take until you fill the boss's damage bar, then use your finishing move. Depending on the boss, that's either the end of the fight or the beginning of a new round.
It's simple, but fun.
The basic premise is that you are Asura, one of eight immortal superheroes charged with protecting the planet from ancient, corrupt demons. Unbeknown to you, your seven colleagues are plotting to take power for themselves. They kill your wife, enslave your daughter and banish you to the underworld. Twelve thousand years later, you emerge looking for vengeance. Your former friends have set themselves up as false gods, harvesting the souls of mortals to fuel their powers, and you must stop them.
And in the meantime, you have to protect the mortals from both your former colleagues and from the demons.
Is it worth buying? Well, that rather depends on what you're after. This isn't a game with much replay value: there's no multiplayer mode, just a campaign story to run through. And it is much more like a series of anime cartoon episodes with a bit of interactivity (each episode even has its own credits). If you're looking for a deeply immersive game that'll take you weeks to finish, this is not for you.
If, on the other hand, you're looking for something that's just pure fun, stylish and different from everything else out there, if you're feeling a little jaded and looking for a diversion from your usual gaming fare, this may well be just what you're looking for.
Fact file: Asura's Wrath
Platform: XBOX 360, PlayStation 3
Version tested: XBOX 360
Rating: 4 stars
Street Fighter X Tekken
Two of the oldest, most revered fighting games go head to head in a classic cartoon 2D contest.
To be perfectly honest, all that will concern fighting fans is the title. It’s Street Fighter meets Tekken. What more do you need to know? But since the editors want a little more detail, here goes.
There’s the loosest of plots tying together the main story arc. A mysterious maguffin has fallen to Earth from space, and both Street Fighter’s Shadaloo and Tekken’s Mishima Zaibatsu are after it. And thus we enter a series of fights.
The mechanics and feel of the game are pure Street Fighter. Tekken fans, more used to a 3D environment, may find this a little disconcerting. Even more disconcerting is that Street Fighter characters often have ranged attacks — to compensate, Tekken characters have been given ways to block or evade them.
There’s an extensive list of characters from both games: Ken, Ryu, Chun-Li, Guile, Cammy and many others, including baddies like M. Bison and Vega, are playable from Street Fighter. Tekken favourites include Kazuya, Nina, Marduk and Ogre. In total, 19 characters from each franchise (more with the limited edition).
Play is fast, furious and fun. Fights are in tag-team format, against the computer or another opponent (with four characters in each fight, up to four people can multiplay), so it’s a great social game with plenty of replay value.
There are training levels and practice rounds to get used to the new controls and moves. Basic moves are simple enough and timing subtle enough to satisfy both novices and old hands.
Top notch. If you’re into 2D fighters, it’s a must.
Fact file: Street Fighter X Tekken
Platform: XBOX 360,PlayStation 3
Version tested: XBOX 360, standard version
Price: Dh249 (limited edition Dh299)
Rating: 4 stars