As soon as someone entered the southern show floor, they would be greeted with the massive Capcom booth, home to heavily advertised Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 demo stations. While the majority were there to play either the aforementioned UMvC3 or Street Fighter X Tekken, I went to check out two new properties they will release next year: Dragon’s Dogma and Asura’s Wrath.
The first up was Asura’s Wrath, a beat-’em-up developed by CyberConnect2 (known for their work on the .hack franchise) for the XBox 360 and PS3. There were two different demos set up at the booth detailing what appeared to be two different boss battles from the game. As I waited in line to play, I examined the two different scenarios, one on the moon, and the other against what appeared to be a large flying beast. My turn finally came; it was time to kick some demigod ass.
One of the first things you notice about the demo is how quickly it loads on the 360. Within only a couple of seconds I was given the option to start the demo. I was immediately thrown into a conversation between Asura and his master. The character designs, while a bit jagged around the edges, really stand out because of the “carvings” on their bodies. As the two begin their pre-battle dialogue, the music starts to play, and I knew right then and there that this was a game I needed immediately. If there’s one thing I noticed about the game, it’s that CyberConnect2 created an extremely unsubtle game. Instead of some original composition, Asura’s Wrath starts playing Dvorak’s New World Symphony 4th Movement. I fell in love with the song the first time I heard it play during Legend of the Galactic Heroes, so hearing it once again brought a grin to my face.
Once you can actually start the battle, the game’s actual combat is broken up by a series of Quick Time Events that take the battle from one phase to the next. As Asura starts beating his enemies with his six fists and a combination of light and heavy attacks, you feel the intensity of each blow and how brutal the game wants to be. Each blow is punishing to watch, and the combat system, while incredibly simplistic in the demo, works rather well. Once you have dealt enough blows to fill your burst gage, you get to the next QTE, and another cutscene plays out. I felt it was novel to have cut-ins similar to commercial break screens in animes in the battle. Rinse and repeat the combat, and you’ve beaten the demo.
Asura’s Wrath felt like it followed only one rule through the entirety of the demo: try to be awesome. From the musical choice, to the striking character designs, to the ridiculous attacks (swords that extend from the earth to the moon) and the intense blows, all it wants to do is appeal to that inner child that wants everything to be done because it’s cool. My only problem with what I played was that the game felt too easy. Never did I feel challenged during the length of the demo, but that’s fine. It was a thrill to play and experience first-hand. This is definitely a game to check out when it is released.
On the exact opposite side of the spectrum, several hours later, I revisited the booth to try Dragon’s Dogma, developed by Capcom for the same systems. Again, a two level, four console set-up, and upon visiting the booth, only two of the four setups were being used. It felt like a gift to be able to try the game right away without waiting in line for people. Unfortunately, what I experienced fit exactly with the empty booths
I decided to try the griffin quest, as I figured that nearly everyone would try the dragon quest instead. As the demo booted up, I noticed a significantly longer load time before I could start the demo. Upon starting, the player assumed the role of an archer as he and his team set off to slay a griffin. While visually the game looked rather nice, I could not get into it the same way I could Asura’s Wrath. Walking the short distance before starting the quest, the party encountered a band of goblin things and had to kill them to attract the griffin. Within a few minutes, our party had slain the griffin and finished the quest.
As an archer the controls just never felt right. Aiming always felt a bit off, and controlling where exactly you would fire seemed too jerky for my tastes, so I switched to the twin dagger melee attacks. While not the intended weapon for this class, they felt much more natural to me. The party AI seemed rather competent, as they easily dispatched both the goblins and the griffin, but again, it felt too simple. The goblins never noticed me, or attacked me, and I only took damage when I tried to jump and attack the griffin with my daggers. My disappointment grew when I noticed that the players who were doing the dragon quest had significantly more room to move, enemies to fight, difficulty, and quest length.
While I shouldn’t pass judgment on a game because of a poor demo selection, I felt that both should have been similar in length and difficulty. Or even usability. That archer class just never seemed to work naturally. Perhaps this is due to my lack of console FPS aptitude, but I felt that the system it uses is too unnatural to play with. While the game itself looked nice, it just never felt like it worked.
If I were to go back in time, but limit myself to playing only one of the two demos, I would definitely have chose Asura’s Wrath over Dragon’s Dogma. While both are welcome original IPs from Capcom, I feel that only Asura is capable of making a splash over here.