Asura's Wrath is a beat 'em up game that also has some segments in it that are on-rails. The gameplay of Asura's Wrath is a combination of multiple genres and types of gameplay, while overall is presented in the style of an episodic anime series.
Episodic Anime Presentation
Each level is played out like an episode more akin to an anime television series, with subtle introductory and closing credits at the start and end of each episode. This is then followed by a preview/brief promo with cut together footage for the next episode, along with a narration recapping and previewing upcoming events. In between episodes, there are also snippets of additional narrative and back story that are presented in the form of a series of illustrations, with each different segment drawn by a different credited artist. The entire story is split into four parts/chapters, each cutscene at the end of a part/chapter is overlaid with lengthier production credits.
In all forms of gameplay, however, player progress is determined by two gauges presented at the top of the screen, the Life and Burst Gauge. The Life gauge determines the current health and damage taken by the character that if depleted results in a game over/restart screen for that current section. The Burst gauge, however, starts empty at the start of every encounter that needs to be charged fully. In order to do this, players must successfully defeat enemies, inflict large amounts of damage and press the current quick-time prompt correctly and in time. Once filled to maximum, the Burst icon appears onscreen and players can unleash a powerful burst attack, which in the majority of cases is required in order to finish off strong opponents and advance through the story/gameplay, even commencing another cutscene. In addition to these two gauges, an additional one which is known as the "Unlimited Gauge" fills up in a similar way to the Burst gauge but instead can be activated to temporarily increase the damage that can be inflicted on opponents.
Beat 'em up and Shoot 'em up
The gameplay throughout shifts between a third-person action and a rail shooter/shoot 'em up game. The third-person action sequences resemble "beat 'em up" style gameplay where the player must defeat enemies in close combat, utilizing light and heavy attacks, counters, dashes, and projectiles. While regular light attacks are fast, heavier attacks inflict more damage and can throw back multiple enemies yet can overheat, requiring a cool-down period between uses. Players can also perform counter moves if they input the current prompt during an enemy's attack. When an enemy is knocked down, special moves can be performed that further help fills the Burst gauge. If however the player character is knocked back, they have a chance to quickly recover by landing on their feet and saving additional health. The rail shooter/shoot 'em up portion of the gameplay involves the player character moving yet on a fixed axis, being only able to move to dodge and maneuver against incoming enemy fire and obstacles, all the while locking on and firing upon enemies. The player will generally fight small fodder enemies and some larger enemies simultaneously, that are normally of easy difficulty to defeat. The boss fights in Asura's Wrath is mainly where the difficulty presents itself, and even on normal, it is not entirely easy. In the Lost Episodes DLC, it alternates between a fighting game and a beat 'em up game. Certain gameplay elements can alter the player's (Asura and Yasha) abilities, which are the unlockable Gauges.
Quick-time events and Performance Grade
The interactive cutscene element is integrated with the gameplay, however. The game also requires the player's direct input during cinematic events in the form of interactive cutscenes with various Quick-time event (QTE) and context sensitive button prompts. Correct inputs when prompted will advance the story while failure can cause the restart of a sequence and damage to health in a previous gameplay sequence. While some sequences may continue regardless, certain synchronization quick-time events have degrees of success where the player may attempt to press at an even more specific time than when the prompt immediately and initially appears. For example, a press too early or later might register a merely "Good" or "Great" while the exact correct moment will register as "Excellent". The player's performance in this aspect, along with the time taken to complete and overall damage inflicted is graded at the end of each episode, which ranges anywhere from D to S Rank.
Hidden Episode and DLC
At least 5 S Ranks or completing 50 episodes in total unlock an extra hidden episode of the game, which subsequently leads to the "true ending" of the game in the form of a DLC. The DLC comprises of "Part IV: Nirvana" alongside the true ending of Asura's Wrath which is not available from the disc. Also, "lost episodes" are included and use fully 2D hand-drawn animation with quick-time events, mostly to fill gaps between the game's episodes.
The unlockable Life and Burst Gauges with various effects in gameplay can be found below:
- Avenger: Asura's default gauge.
- Defender: Decreases damage taken.
- Destructor: Fills up the Unlimited Gauge faster (Bar that indicates progress on being able to transform to Unlimited Mode).
- Thermoregulator: Recover from overheating faster.
- Survivor: Length of time in Unlimited Mode is extended.
- Blind Master: None of the gauges are displayed throughout the game.
- Augur: All counterable attacks are automatically countered.
- Mortal: Reduces the length of the Life Gauge (Health bar).
- Obliterator: Maintains the Unlimited Gauge at maximum at all times.
Burst Mode is activated in gameplay whenever this gauge is full. This needs time to charge though, time that can also be used by a smart enemy. So, this is a weakness. Asura's boiling rage stockpiles itself to an intense degree to start a powerful attack on the enemy. In gameplay, it will often start QTEs (Quick time events) or cutscenes, and may even deliver the finishing blow, while also progressing through the plot.