Asura's Wrath preview: Just one more episode

A grimacing man who appears to be partly made of stone, faces off with a portly, glowing-eyed man in the desert. "YOU DON'T BELONG HEEEEEERE," the large gentleman (Wyzen) exclaims, launching into a fistfight with his more muscular interloper (Asura). In the ensuing scuffle, Wyzen ends up thrown off a cliff, then rises up, 100 times his previous size. He explains that he got this power from Asura's daughter.

"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH HER," Asura asks before catching one of the missiles thrown by Wyzen (did I mention Wyzen was shooting missiles?) and throwing it back. Firing projectiles of his own and reflecting Wyzen's back, Asura prevails again.

And then Wyzen grows to the size of the planet and attempts to smush Asura with his index finger. Asura pushes back against the glacial finger, and then peppers it with punches, eventually launching Wyzen into space.

For the next thrilling episode of this Asura's Wrath preview, hit the break.%Gallery-125713%

Asura's Wrath, developed by .hack/Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm developer CyberConnect2, has a lot of qualities that make it much more exciting than almost anything at E3. For one thing, there are no US soldiers firing guns in it. Instead, you control Asura, a Hindu deity who was somehow disgraced and has a serious chip on his shoulder -- which, of course, leads him to pummel other god types. I guess he's like a less overwrought, less one-note Kratos who can sprout six arms and outpunch a planet.

For another, Asura's Wrath is serious about mixing up the gameplay. Brawling segments have Asura punching with super-speed, launching occasional crowd-clearing attacks, and also shooting mystical projectiles. Shooting-focused segments have Asura running on the bottom of the screen, aiming and firing with a targeting reticle in a sort of Sin & Punishment deal. And those are all connected by QTE sequences that are actually enjoyable.

To advance within the game's structure, you play through a section until you've made enough progress to fill a "burst" gauge, at which point you can press a button to trigger a dramatic, interactive (QTE-laden) cutscene that moves the story along and transitions into the next scene. And so you punch Wyzen until you can "burst" and throw him off a cliff, for example. Or you shoot at him, or defeat underlings, or what have you, until you can trigger that "burst."

Capcom's Kazuhiro Tsuchiya and CyberConnect2's Hiroshi Matsuyama, demonstrating what they called the "Asura pose"

The QTEs aren't just simple button presses -- they often require rapid presses, or representative thumbstick motions in the style of Heavy Rain. For example, Asura attempting to lift the giant hand pushing him down is aided by you pulling up on the two thumbsticks. The Heavy Rain comparison wasn't lost on the developers: when I mentioned it to CyberConnect2 president Hiroshi Matsuyama, he laughed and said (in Japanese), "Indeed, indeed," while enthusiastically pantomiming the motion of Asura lifting the giant hand.

This is all wrapped up in a presentation meant to mirror TV shows, "like 24 or Lost." Each "chapter" of the game wraps up in a cliffhanger, and the next chapter opens with a quick recap. It's useful for building satisfying stopping points into the game, but it also encourages marathonning even as it prevents it, according to Matsuyama. "It's basically the same as if you go to a rental store and you rent the whole Lost series, one of the seasons," he told us, "and you put in a disc and watch the first episode, and then it gets pretty late, and 'Hmm, should I watch one more, or should I go to bed? I kinda want to watch one more.' Or you can just go to bed and come back the next day. That's the kind of feeling we want players to have when they play this game."

This article was originally published on Joystiq.