|System: PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ninja Theory||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SCEA (SONY)||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 12, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Maria Montoro
In just a few days, Heavenly Sword will become part of the slim but promising PS3 game library. Many of the games we've been waiting for are slowly but surely being released, giving gamers less reasons to complain about Sony's powerful game machine. Since so many games are being developed for both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the PS3 is relying almost entirely on its exclusive titles in order to get more sales. People don't feel quite ready to drop their money on it, especially when they've owned an Xbox 360 for a long time and have such a big library available to them; that and the Achievement Points, which everybody loves. Hopefully, when Sony Home comes to life things will be different.
Heavenly Sword is a fantastic addition to the PS3 lineup, and it's also an exclusive. Even though it's quite short compared to other epic titles, the game is so interesting and fun to play that almost everyone will forgive them. I'd say this game would make a good franchise; we'll just have to wait and see how it does sales-wise.
The story is very engaging, and it's the main reason why you'll find yourself playing the game. Somewhere in Asia they don't actually reveal (although it's most likely Japan), you'll meet Nariko and her clan. Nariko is a red-haired heroine with very strong traits. She was brought up as a warrior by her own father, Shen, who also happens to be the king of the clan. Her mom died when she gave birth, and Shen never felt a connection with his daughter as such; instead, he trained her to be one of the most powerful combatants ever known. As protectors of the Heavenly Sword, they put a lot of sweat and effort into hiding the blade from the unwanted. However, Bohan, king of another tribe, felt the urge to brandish the powerful weapon and become the feared and omnipotent master of the lands. This will, inevitably, provoke a bloodthirsty war that will end the lives of many. Nariko will join the army and play a decisive role as the heroine who wields the Heavenly Sword and masters it to perfection. But things are not always as easy as they seem, and it will soon become a story of vengeance, pain, and blood; lots of blood.
You might have heard the incessant comparisons of this game with the God of War series, and you probably want a further explanation, don't you? If you've played God of War you will find similarities in the amount of violence and bloodshed that takes place. You will also notice that one of Nariko's weapons is similar to the Blades of Chaos or Olympus. Moreover, the game controls feel similar, as you will be able to perform combos by pressing different button combinations, just like in Kratos' masterpiece. However, this game is not a copy or knock-off of God of War; Heavenly Sword has its very own personality and has been carefully made to please those who enjoy epic action-adventure titles. There's certainly more action than adventure in this title, and puzzles are almost non-existent in Heavenly Sword. It's the story that will take you to the end, along with its masterful soundtrack and the easy but engaging gameplay.
The key of the game is to help Nariko master the Heavenly Sword. The square and triangle buttons will perform the attacks, and holding L1 or R1 will trigger other powerful actions. Combat mode is divided in three stances you will also recognize in the enemies' attacks; Speed Mode is the standard mode, with no secondary buttons required. When you hold R1 while pressing your square / triangle combos, you'll obtain Power Stance attacks, which are stronger but also slower. You'll enter the Range stance by holding L1; this is when the Heavenly Sword splits into two blades hanging from chains, very much like Kratos' favorite tool of destruction. These attacks are much faster, but they don't cause as much damage. One thing I missed is a blocking button. You'll have to press triangle as soon as they try to attack you, which will result in a strong counter-attack. However, the counter attack is not guaranteed, and sometimes you'll find yourself helplessly taking a lot of hits from the enemy. Time it correctly for best results! Also, you'll have to counter in the proper stance; the enemy will glow blue or orange before it attacks - blue being the speed attack, and orange being the power attack. If they glow red you better get out of the way, because those attacks are the enemy's specialty and you can't counter-attack. You can also wait to build up enough style points by performing lots of regular combos, counters, and aerial combos. She can use these points to perform a special attack with circle; those moves are the most shocking and spectacular of the game, and they're very fun to do.
In some occasions you'll play as the young Kai, Nariko's dear girl-friend, who looks like a little girl and also a weird version of Smeagol; she even acts like him sometimes. I know Andy Serkis, the actor that played that role in The Lord of the Rings, is part of the team that created Heavenly Sword; not only did he play King Boham's role, but he also has a lot to do with the characters within the game, their personalities, and many other things; it wouldn't surprise me if he was behind Kai's awkward, Golum-like behavior... One of the greatest things of the game is the originality of the characters, not only the way they look and pose, but the way they talk; they will make you laugh, even the most evil ones. Just take a look at Whiptail, Roach, and Flying Fox, and you'll know what I'm talking about!