Heavenly Sword Review
There was a fair amount of hype surrounding Heavenly Sword, not to mention a 5 episode, animated prequel. It was supposed to be Sony’s big exclusive title for the season. So, is Heavenly Sword gaming nirvana or a disappointment of Devil May Cry 2 proportions?
Action games aren’t known for their engaging stories, in fact, most of them just down right terrible. Heavenly Sword proves the stereotype wrong by delivering one of the most fulfilling stories this side of the action genre. Before delving into the plot, a little background of Nariko’s clan are in order.
Nariko's clan believes in a prophecy of a warrior sent from the heavens with the Heavenly Sword to protect them from evil. After the warrior defeated the evil, he left the Heavenly Sword on Earth. Naturally, people lusted after its power and destroyed people to get their hands on it. Nariko’s clan is charged with protecting the sword from people who would use it for their own personal gain. The clan believed that someday a hero would be reborn and reclaim the sword, ensuing peace in the land. Their hopes crushed with the birth of child, instead of the male hero, a female child. The chief at first tried to kill the child but couldn’t go through with it, instead raising the girl as a warrior. (All this was explained in the animated prequel)
So now the story begins, or rather, ends with King Bohan trying to get his hands on the blade. In parallel to God of War, Heavenly Sword begins with the death of the protagonist with the main story serving as a flash back, retelling the events that lead up to the grand battle against Bohan and his army.
The game play is somewhat similar to God of War but different enough to make it feel like it’s a different game. You have three different stances (speed, range and power) each with their own benefits, weaknesses and combos. The fights are like an intricate dance with blocking playing a major role. (Going on an all out attack will only get your butt handed to you) while this sounds boring on paper, it works beautifully in the game, with Nariko doing spectacular counters and combos while the enemy is off guard. Also, one interesting tid bit I enjoyed was being able to pick things up and throwing them in first person. by picking up an item (be that a barrel, person or a dropped sword) you can hold down the X button to control it like a missile using the sixaxis. Again, this sounds like a bad idea but it’s executed perfectly. (And, if you don’t like it, feel free to control it via the right analog) There are some downsides. The combat gets repetitive. If you’ve played the demo, it doesn’t get much more complicated than that. Sure you’ll learn new combos but you’ll end up finding 2 or 3 combos that get the job done just fine and repeat them over and over.
Graphically, the game is a league all on it’s own. It seems like just yesterday we were gushing over how great looking MGS3, Halo 2 and RE4 were and those don’t even hold a flicker of a flame to Heavenly Sword. The characters are life-like, expressing the right emotion on their face without that zombified look that permeates a lot of current titles. The environments are a masterpiece unto themselves. So much so, that it seems pointless to debate whether or not video games are art. (Answer: They are)
The biggest downside to Heavenly Sword is its length. It can be completed by a competent gamer in about 6 hours. With no online play and little replay incentive, makes Heavenly Sword roughly a $10/hour experience. (I don’t even get paid that much.) For someone on a budget, this would seem like a better investment to rent the game rather than buy. With warhawk having extremely addicting online gameplay at $40 on the PSN or $60 with a headset, we’ve been a little spoiled in terms of value. Still, if the biggest complaint about Heavenly Sword is its length, then the game is a marvel and a must-buy for anyone who’s looking for a satisfying gaming experience on their PS3.
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Developer: Ninja Theory
The good: Just about everything, from the gorgeous graphics, to superb story and kick@$$ game play
The Bad: Game is too short. There just doesn't seem to be enough content here worth $60
The Ugly: Bohan's son. Seriously.