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May 4, 2008

Review: Heavenly Sword

Heavenly Sword
SCEA, Ninja Theory
Available now for the PS3

After spending so much time with God of War: Chains of Olympus for last week’s review, I felt the urge to bring to light an older, but similar title to the God of War series for one of this week’s reviews.

Heavenly Sword for the Playstation 3 is a dramatic tale of revenge that sees Nariko, a fiery red-haired heroine embark on a quest for vengeance against an invading King and his army. The story builds around the ancient Heavenly Sword which once belonged to a powerful deity and can never be wielded by a mortal without it draining their life-force, killing them within hours. When the invading King Boham (played by Andy Serkis) destroys the warrior clan that guards the Heavenly Sword, the clan leader's daughter, Nariko, takes up the sword in a desperate fight for survival.

The game play mechanics are very similar to God of War, in that Nariko’s movements are all based on combo moves, and by pressing a button at a specific time, she can also pull off a random finishing move. As the story line progresses, Nariko obtains the Heavenly Sword which will split into two blades on chains which she can spin in a circle or swing down on her enemies. She also gets the chance to use the SIXAXIS controls to guide rocks from catapults, and other projectile weapons to attack enemies and to open gates. Mixed in all this fighting are also push button events, which are used to complete certain scenarios like finishing boss battles or climbing up sides of cliffs

In some scenarios, you get to play as Nariko’s friend, Kai, a child-like teenager who almost acts like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Players get the chance to use Kai’s archery abilities in some stages, where using the SIXAXIS controls again, you have to guide the arrows to their intending targets. Though with too many enemies on screen and very sensitive controls, I found I couldn’t take the enemies down quick enough and repeated her missions a lot.

Probably the best part of Heavenly Sword is how the developers managed to pull you into the story and its characters. I actually cried for Nariko and I’ve only done twice during a video game, so you know someone did something right with this game. The developers really managed to create unique personalities for the characters that make you want to follow them through to the end. I especially loved the twisted character designs for King Boham‘s minions who‘s weird personalities and even weirder body designs make for the best enemies.

The graphics in this game are phenomenal and the character mapping done on characters like Nariko and King Boham are so life-like, you can’t help but play cinematic scenes over and over again. The character designs and environments are so beautiful down to the littlest details that you could almost get lost in the levels. The music has a mix between traditional Asian music and very epic battle drum beats. I like the contrast between the two choices because they seem to reflect both Nariko’s beautiful feminine side and her revenge driven side.

Though Heavenly Sword was a little on the short side and I found some missions to be very frustrating especially when I had to use the SIXAXIS controls, I honestly don’t think anything bad I found about this game, could have ever made me put my controller down for more than a day. The story line, characters and graphics definitely make this game worth a purchase, even if it is an earlier PS3 launch title.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Buy it!

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