Now I’m not an otaku or Anime maniac by any means, I watch it from time to time and I like the classics like Cowboy Beebop and all that lovely jubbly shit adored by masses of white middle class teens who don’t fit in at school for some reason and clog up deviant art with their fan fiction and pictures of wolves or foxes doing unspeakable things to girls and guys all the while dressing up like fictional characters and shouting out garbled Japanese like “dasu dasu” and such. I like anime to an extent; I do however loathe a good majority of its fans. Especially those weird cat-ear wearing girls who write fan fiction on the bus and survive on ramen noodles and sushi.
Ok, now that that’s all out of the way I can say that Asura’s Wrath, a game heavily influenced by Japanese anime and Buddhist theology is bloody brilliant. It looks good, has an engaging plot and the characters, while on the whole rather shallow and not fleshed out all that well, pop out and are at least very memorable. What else is worth mentioning about this game? Oh yeah I almost forgot THE MUSIC.
Asura’s Wrath astounds me in terms of its imagery and musical score. Both are beautiful and well done and you can tell at a quick glance that some concept artist had a fucking field day working on this game and some composer looking for direction got it in the form of a small napkin with the single instruction “make it fucking epic” (epic in the sense of vastness, impressive by virtue and scope. Not your typical internet use of “epic fail lol” no fuck that shit, this soundtrack deserves the proper dictionary definition and the like.) The plethora of musical styles used in Asura’s Wrath gives it amazing variety and helps set the tone for the game in terms of atmosphere and pace.
The main influence in Asura’s Wrath’s plot is Buddhism and anime and while the latter is shown through the score the former was barely hinted at. The music expanded the cut scenes impact and made them appear even bigger and grander than could have been thought possible. The first track heard in game is honestly nothing short of a beautiful and moving piece that wouldn’t be out of place in a concert hall. The prologue theme is used as an introduction to each level or “episode” as they’re called in game. This theme relies heavily on string arrangements to carry the main weight of the song as well as horn sections which accompany at times. In all honestly I probably can’t do it much justice with words and you’ll just have to listen to it yourself. Here you go then. Stop reading for a second and just listen. No I’m being perfectly serious. Close your eyes and listen God damn you!
Done? Pretty damn moving wasn’t it. Want to know something even better. The games soundtrack is basically all in the same style. Every song is piercing and vast and makes you feel like you’re about to experience something of unimaginable proportions and be a part of something that will shake you to your very core. It’s at this point that I would like to coin the term “last stand track”. Every other song in the soundtrack is essentially a song that you have no problem seeing some kind of hero or protagonist having a final show down. That’s not to say the game doesn’t know when to slow down. There are moments in the game where rather than having some kind of epic full out score that accompanies two guys beating the living shit out of each other you receive a slowed down, more gentle track to let you catch your breath. Now these tracks don’t overstay their welcome and follow the rule of “less is more” only being applied at critical moments, making them stand out like a sore thumb amongst all the weird Buddhist inspired orchestral scores and shite techno, rock tracks.
Oh I forgot to mention.
There’s shit techno/rock tracks in this games soundtrack too.
Now here comes a lovely comparison to Bastion. A game which made it apparent that the differences between tracks were reflecting the two opposing cultures within the context of the game.
Asura’s Wrath is inspired by Buddhist theology, everything from the names of the characters, the aesthetics of the villagers, characters, and the majority of the plot points and such all reflect that Buddhism played a massive role in fleshing this world out. Why then does the soundtrack include Western style themes and techno tracks? It just breaks flow. When I’m having an amazing and rather powerful boss fight/ cut scene I want it to be accompanied by an equally amazing orchestral score that fits the game’s overall aesthetic A rock tune is sub standard when it’s used on a game like this and the weird techno stuff while fitting in certain stages just breaks flow, you know flow. Something that’s necessary for a game, book, film EVEN STUDIO QUALITY PORN to be engaging and worthwhile. Putting a rock or techno theme that just serves to be a quick fix to pump up the player is a choice made at the expense of the games overall design and feel and it just bothered me that tracks like this were included in the game.
That aside, this game has a soundtrack that I just love. It’s vast, sweeping and flat out extravagant in places such as climactic fight scenes and the overall climax of the game. While the game itself might not be a masterpiece I will say that its music definitely is.
BEST TRACK: Prologue Theme
This song manages to be both badass and moving at the same time, with its introductory strings and drums making way for wind, brass and horns to create a song that can be likened almost to a strong breeze. It’s simply tasty.
WORST TRACK: Gohma Theme
Bland techno with no real place in the game as a whole. It didn’t really go anywhere and just played the same bass line over and over again. It got dull. Fast.