Asura’s Wrath: Anger and Acceptance

So it’s a few weeks overdue, but I have finally completed Asura’s Wrath and I’m happy to report that the story is pretty damn good, thoughI’ll admit, my first impressions were actually pretty bad. You start off in the middle of a gigantic battle where eight bombastic and downright bizarre “Guardian Generals” prepare to do battle with the Gohma, demons that look like a bunch of Sea Cucumbers in space.

Not the most menacing villain I’ve ever seen.

At this point I should point out that this game was made in Japan and is highly stylistic, in the same vein as most Anime. In fact the huge fights that the characters get into reminded me a lot of Dragonball Z, which is really the only thing that made me stick with the game past the rather iffy first couple of levels (I have a lot of nostalgic memories of watching DBZ on Cartoon Network after school). The Gohma come in many forms, usually a twisted mimicry of actual animals, which explains the Sea Cucumber ships I guess. On the ground they come in forms of Elephants, Apes, Turtles and even giant floating Tuna fish. So yeah, it’s an odd game to say the least, but if you’ve ever seen an Anime movie you’ll be familiar with most of the imagery. Stick with it though, because even though the gameplay itself wasn’t stellar, the story Asura’s Wrath is telling is one of the most ambitious I’ve seen in a video game. It’s a story that deals with personal issues like loss, anger and love while also tackling huge cosmic questions like the meaning of existence, free will, and the measure of the greater good VS the rights of the individual. The story also incorporates many Eastern religious and mythological sources, Hindu being the most prominent but also featuring imagery and allegories from Buddhism, Shinto, and Chinese mythology. Most of the story focuses on Asura obviously, and while his character arc is quite compelling, he’s not the easiest guy to get along with.

On the bright side at least the main character isn’t the Fat Guy.

As you’ll find out though, his anger is integral to his character and the story as a whole. It is called “Asura’s Wrath” after all. Still combining a very unlikable character with a thoroughly confusing starting battle makes it quite difficult to get into the story at first. Like most things though, perseverance is rewarded and if you can get past the rough start then you are in for one hell of a journey. Here are the basics of the story:

Demons, called Gohma, are rampaging across a planet called Gaea. Eight demigods have risen to power using the power of Mantra, a form of magical energy that seems to use the power of prayer and/or human souls in order to charge it. It is then channeled into the Demigods by the Priestess, a young girl named Mithra and daughter of Asura. The battle we start in seems to be the height of a war that has been waging for some time, a war that has no end. For the Gohma cannot be defeated, only subdued. The origin of these creatures is a gigantic planet-sized demon named Vlitra, that lives inside Earth like some kind of horrific Lovecraftian hermit crab. Asura, along with the other 8 demigods, force Vlitra back into the depths of the earth, buying them a few millennia of peace until its eventual return.

When Asura returns home to his wife, Durga, and daughter Mithra, I got my first look at the complexity of Asura’s character. Out in space I had absolutely no relationship with this character, I didn’t like him, I didn’t like his attitude and I didn’t know why I should have any stake in the fate of an apparently invincible Demigod. On the ground though, with no one left to fight, Asura is a different person. Though clearly happy to see his family, he’s also uncomfortable and unsure of himself, almost shy. When his daughter hugs him, crying into his shoulder, the guy looks like he’d rather be back out there fighting Space Krakens than there with her. He’s a warrior, he has only one purpose and one talent; to destroy. He takes on anything that endangers his wife and daughter with all his heart, but once he’s won their safety, he doesn’t know what to do. As Asura later says in a flashback, “I don’t know what to do when she cries. The best I can do is punch anyone that makes her cry.” Fortunately before he punches himself in the face for making his daughter cry, he’s called away to see the Emperor.

Where he immediately finds that the Emperor has been practically ripped in two by an unknown assailant, and with blood now all over his hands, Asura is framed for the murder. He rushes home to his family, only to find his wife dying on the floor. With her dying breath she asks him to save their daughter Mithra. At this point I’m still not impressed, because right now its shaping up into an Anime version of Taken, with Asura going on a rampage to reclaim his daughter. Yay, big deal.

Liam Neeson, more badass than a Demigod.
Liam Neeson, more badass than a Demigod.

So he goes off to confront the kidnappers and yadda yadda yadda, we’ve all been here before…wait…wait a second. Did Asura just die?

Yes he does, Asura arrives to find that Deus (the Greek word for God, cute) the first Guardian General, has orchestrated the death of the Emperor in order to seize power and put into motion what he calls “The Great Rebirth”. We don’t find out much else before the incredibly powerful Deus grabs Asura by the throat and kills him with all the effort it would take for me to wrestle an Oreo cookie into my mouth. He dies literally minutes after confronting Deus. It was completely unexpected, and the best way for a story to win me over is to do something unexpected. That was when I decided I was going to play this game through to the end.

Asura awakes in limbo essentially, a place between life and death, saved by a Golden Spider. An infinitely tall spire dominates the center of the screen, black oblivion below him and white life above, with Asura clinging to the spire by one hand. Asura begins to climb, with only his rage and fury fueling his efforts. When he emerges from the underworld the Spider informs him that 12,000 years have passed since his “death.” Much has changed since then. The Eight Guardian Generals now call themselves the Seven Deities, with Asura being referred to as “the Fallen”, and rule over the humans on Gaea as Gods. The Gohma continue to plague the population, killing everyone they encounter and consuming their souls. The Seven Deities however, do not protect the population. No, they “purify” the population…by bombing the crap out of them. Essentially the Gohma and the Seven Deities are in an arms race to see who can harvest the most human souls the fastest. The Seven Deities, and Deus in particular, hopes that by harvesting as many souls as possible before Vlitra’s arrival, he can attain the power to permanently end the Gohma threat. It seems to be working too, because the Fat Guy has become so powerful that he can swell up into a planet-sized avatar and tries squishing Asura with his finger.

What? You thought I was kidding?
What? You thought I was kidding?

Through the sheer power of his anger, Asura forces Wyzen (aka The Fat Guy) to use so much energy that he literally explodes in a gigantic fireball that devastates much of the continent he was orbiting over. Asura doesn’t fare much better though, thoroughly exhausted and now minus his arms, Asura is forced to fight his foil, a man named Yasha. Yasha is his brother-in-law, Durga’s brother, and Mithra’s uncle. He’s the polar opposite of Asura. While Asura is always angry, Yasha seems incapable of any emotions whatsoever. Even though Yasha knows that Deus, the man he serves, killed his sister, he shows no anger. He doesn’t seem bothered by her death at all. And despite the atrocities that he has committed and witnessed, Yasha hides behind the excuse of “the greater good.” Yasha flings the weakened Asura into a pit of molten rock and warns him: “do not return again.”

Yeah right. This is Asura we’re talking about, and if anything he’s even more pissed off then ever. This time his sleep in Limbo takes only five hundred years, and he awakes to find that his body has been enshrined by a local village. One of the girls praying over his body looks eerily like his daughter, and Asura immediately becomes fiercely protective of her. Which is a shame because the Seven Deities show up soon after his awakening, led by a despicable woman named Olga, and bomb the village into ash, killing everyone including the girl and her infant son. I thought Asura was peaked out on the rage bar before, but he buries the needle when he sees her broken body. The anger rips through his body like a wave and he turns into what looks like a Gohma, no longer human and thus free from any sense of restraint, he starts swatting their fleet out of the sky. There are literally hundreds of ships in the air when Olga arrives but when she’s finally forced to retreat, she has maybe half a dozen still flying. Olga, incensed at Asura’s defiance and terrified of his power, retreats to their gigantic orbiting station when she plans on unleashing a powerful beam weapon on Asura, annihilating him forever.

And this is where Yasha comes back in. After witnessing Asura’s immense power, Yasha has begun to question his blind loyalty to Deus. Asura is so powerful that he has defeated two Deities and their fleets, all without the help of the Mantra that powers the Seven Deities. His moment of crisis comes when Olga plans to use the Bahmastra, the huge space gun, to destroy Asura. The Bahmastra is the weapon that they were planning to use on Vlitra, and have spent twelve millennia gathering the power necessary to fire it. Oh, and it’s being powered by Seven Trillion (yes, with a Tr, not a B) souls. Seven trillion. I’m pretty sure that’s more lives than have ever lived on Earth ever. And Olga’s about to waste it on a personal vendetta.

He knocks the Bahmastra out of alignment and saves Asura not only from its devastating beam, but also from the rage threatening to consume him. Still in a rage induced monster-mode, Asura is killing everything in his path and it is Yasha’s cold detachment that finally brings Asura’s wrath under control. Thus a beautiful friendship is born.

A friendship born of fisticuffs!
A friendship born of fisticuffs!

The two decide to put an end to Deus and his reign of terror. Not only do they succeed, but then they turn on Vlitra, and put an end to the Gohma once and for all. You’d think that’d be the end wouldn’t you? Both big bads are defeated, and Mithra is safe. Until an almost forgotten character reappears. The Golden Spider.

I don't care if its made of gold, spiders are still creepy as hell.
I don’t care if its made of gold, spiders are still creepy as hell.

And he reveals why his avatar is a Spider, he is called Chakravartin and he is the creator. In Hindu mythology he is a benevolent ruler, but in Asura’s Wrath he’s a spider pulling at the strings of the universe. He sent the Gohma to Gaea, and he provided mankind with Mantra in order to see if a powerful being could step forth and defeat Vlitra. In essence, everything we’ve experienced in the game so far has been one huge, catastrophically costly test. He’s the scientist observing how two ant colonies interact in their glass cages, watching them fight meaningless battles to see who will eventually emerge victorious. That’s why I skipped over much of the fight between Deus and Yasha/Asura, because in the end, Deus was nothing. He was an arrogant man pretending to be a god. This is an actual god, and he’s a cruel, conniving god at that.

At its core Asura’s Wrath is a story about mankind’s struggle against the Gods and earning the right to self determination. First struggling against the False Seven Deities, men who claim godhood and try to force their will on the world. Then you fight an actual God, who believes life cannot exist without Gods to guide it. Asura’s entire life has been controlled by gods of one form or another. Chakravartin sent the Gohma to Gaea as a way to test humanity, and choose a successor to rule Earth for him. And here’s the thing: Asura passes the test. Charkvartin is offering Asura the chance to become supreme ruler of Earth, to rule as he sees fit while Charkvartin moves on to torment other worlds in the universe. As much as I’d like to think I would show as much courage as Asura, I’m forced to admit that if someone offered to make me a god I’d probably trip over myself in my rush to accept. How does Asura respond?

“I pray to no one, nor will I be prayed to!”

He’s fed up with these powerful creatures forcing their will on others. He’s saying that people deserve the chance to lead their own lives, to create their own triumphs and make their own mistakes. He’s refusing to continue an a cycle of cruel indifference and arrogant cosmic meddling that has made Gaea a warzone, caused the deaths of trillions and made Asura’s life a living hell. Charkvartin means “He who turns the wheel” in Hindi, and that’s exactly what has been happening in this game. It’s all been one big circle, Asura trapped in a cycle of dying, rising and dying again as he struggles to save his daughter while Charkvartin watches. He’s through with this shit, and he’s going to tell Charkvartin where he can shove his godhood.

Unfortunately for it to work, Asura’s got to get angry. Real angry. Luckily Yasha knows exactly what buttons to push, and challenges Asura to a fight.

“Let us see who is strongest.” Yasha says. But Yasha already knows the answer. Unbeknownst to Asura, while he was unconscious after his first encounter with Charkvartin, Yasha gave him the Mantra Core that had once powered the Bahmastra and at one time contained seven trillion souls. Yasha also gave Asura his soul, the precious Mantra that granted him his power. Yasha is living on borrowed time during his final fight with Asura, and it ends with the most epic fist bump in history.

The true gift here isn’t the power of Yasha’s soul, no, what Yasha really gave to Asura was acceptance. Asura has been struggling with his anger throughout the entire game, every time someone praised him for his power Asura would say “This power? What good is this power?” after all, all Asura can do is destroy. He was afraid of holding his own infant daughter because he thought he might accidentally squish her in his hands. Yasha, in this final battle, is showing Asura that he has the power to set Gaea free. Yes his anger is destructive, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used for good. Where once Yasha admonished Asura for his constant anger, now Yasha tells him to tap into his rage. To accept who he is. And it’s only when he does that Asura finds any semblance of inner peace and he’s able to finally channel his anger toward defeating a god.

He wins of course, but in defeating Charkvartin, the Mantra he was giving to mankind to become gods evaporates. The otherworldly power that was holding  Asura together, his body literally ripped apart with its own power, simply fades away. The touching part is, he knew this. Moments before he delivers the killing blow, his daughter Mithra begs him not to kill Charkvartin. She tells him that he’ll die.

“Yes – but you’ll still live.”

The response any parent would give I think. Remember Mithra is the person through whom Charkvartin has been channeling the Mantra, and so long as it exists, she’ll be continued to be used by people who seek the power of the gods.   I don’t think any parent would want their child subjected to that fate, and so Asura makes the only choice he can: he sacrifices himself so that his daughter can live. That’s the beauty of Asura’s Wrath, we just finished up a battle of cosmic proportions (the final boss literally throws entire solar systems at you) with long reaching consequences, and then it shrinks the viewpoint down to the relationship between a father and daughter. It’s the greatest part of the game really, the human emotion and the underlying themes.

The great theme though, the subtle one lying just under the surface, is live life to the fullest. Obviously it’s not a theme to be taken literally, I mean on the surface Asura is a big stupid bulldozer shaped like a man. If you go through life punching everything that makes you mad you’ll end up spending your life in one of our fine correctional institutes.

That was sarcasm by the way.
That was sarcasm by the way.

He gave everything he had, he never held back, and he never hesitated. Forget the fact that translated into Asura punching everything he sees, that’s just a product of how the story is being told, it’s the underlying point you should listen to. As Mithra says in the final scene of the game:

“And that…is how my father lived.”

May we all be so lucky.


  1. Bravo, thanks a million for doing it. Though i personally thought the beginning was awesome mostly because of the music but thats just me. I would have liked to hear your take on Augus (asuras mentor) but whatever, thank you.

    1. Oh indeed, Augus was awesome. I couldn’t cover everything in the original review, as you can see it was already pretty damn long ;). I have a followup covering my favorite things from the game coming this week. Augus plays a big part.

  2. I love what you guys are up too. This type of clever work
    and coverage! Keep up the very good works guys I’ve you guys to blogroll.

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