Heavenly Sword Review (PS3)

Many games nowadays have female leads; these characters tend to be all about sex. Donít get me wrong I have nothing against that, why create a female lead if there isnít a drooled factor for guys. I mean, look at Rachel from Ninja Gaiden Sigma, she was just a mass ofÖ well I think you know what Iím thinking about. But it is nice sometimes to have a break from that kind of thing. This is where Heavenly Sword steps in. Nariko, the gameís central character, is one such game babe. But with her things are different, her sexuality is not paramount it is her fighting skills.

The combat is as fast-paced as any action film!
This is Nariko, our ill-fated heroine!

But her story is also not a typical one; you see, her story starts before the game even commences and so does that of the games name sake, the Heavenly Sword. But a quick search on this site, or friendly mister Google with get you up to speed quickly enough. For those who want here is a quick summary, Nariko was thought to the savour of her clan by being a prophesied warrior that would come and claim the Heavenly Sword and return it to the heavens. But she breaks that prophecy by being born a girl; this makes her an outcast and (even though she is the daughter of the clanís chief.) blamed for all of the foul misdeeds that have befallen her clan in their quest to protect the sword. An evil king, Bohan, is pursuing her clan and he wishes to claim the sword to use it for his own gain. Narikoís clan-people in this time of destitution have to accept that she is the only one who can save them. The story is wonderfully written, and even though sadly predictable in its path, still is one hell of a story with some excellent acting from the cast.

Each of the levels is simple in their design with your general aim to cross from point A at the beginning of the level to point B at the end. But there are a few elementary puzzles along the way that require you to hit gongs to open doors and the like, there is also some interactive cinematics, like in Spider-Man 3, where you have to press the correct button on the controller at the right time these are very easy to operation and rarely offer any challenge. But these are just small detractions from the bulk of the game that sees you as Nariko hacking through thousands of soldiers in your desperate attempt to stop Bohan getting his grubby mitts of the sword.

You have three different types of combat stances, with Nariko, the Speed stance, and the Power stance and ranged stance; each of these stances changes the way in which the Heavenly Sword is operated. The Speed stance allows for lighten quick strikes but it is terribly weak against all but the lowest of grunts, which turns into a great shame because as it is your default stance you (I know I certainly did) use this stance almost all the time. For this stance you find that the sword changes into two dagger-like blades that act a lot like tong fa. The next stance, performed by pressing and holding the R1, which is the power stance, gives you a massive broadsword like weapon that can deal crushing blows to your enemies. The final stance is the ranged stance; which does holding L1 perform. This stance places the two blades that you have in the speed stance on ends of chains giving you a means to extend your damage radius. The stance is proficiently for deflecting ranged weapons attacks, like that of arrows or rockets.

The best way of attacking enemies is by stringing your attacks together combo style; this can be done by executing predetermined combos or by hitting triangle or square in various patterns. But a great trick is stringing stances together to prohibit your enemies from blocking you. To do this makes for some amazing action shots, with speed and ranged attacks combining brilliantly throwing soldiers around like rag dolls.

Boss battles are as chaotic as the rest of the game
Superstyle is one of the best way to kill off foes quickly

For each of these combos that you can pull off and string together you are given style points based on how many hits you make on your target and also if you manage to counter attacks as well. The more style points you get in each level the more you unlock within the game. There are three stages to each of the levels with regard to the style points; it gets progressively harder to achieve each level of the pointís grid as it requires more and more points in which to access them.

Each time you perform one of the combos and receive style points those points are also added to a bank that once full (shown at the top left hand corner of the screen) permits you to commence a superstyle attack that can take out a soldier in one hit. To activate these superstyle attacks you have to complete one orb of the bank once that is completed pressing circle next to any target with set off the attack. There are three levels that are to be unlocked throughout the game; each level of the superstyle adds more power to the attack thus killing more of your foes.

Added to the fury of Heavenly Sword is a second playable character, Kai; she is Narikoís adapted sister. She adds a comic relief to the dark elements that are part and parcel of Narikoís sections. Kai is a child-like character that is remarkably skilled at using a double bowed crossbow. In her sections you, either are static sniping at adversaries or normally having to hide and take pot shots at them from a distance before proceeding along a level. She has no ability to fight at close range except for a stunning attack that turns soldiers around on the spot. So it is safe to say that Kaiís on foot levels are far too fevered and are almost impossible to stop and aim your bow. Kaiís best bits are she is static and just picking off opponents with her bow, adding to this Kaiís ability to aftertouch arrows, which basically allows you to move your fired arrow to get a better hit on a target or steer an arrow back on course. Nariko can perform aftertouch too; when she is either using a canon, or when she is on foot where she can pick up weapons or dead bodies can throw them, unfortunately this type of Narikoís aftertouch really doesnít work, most of the time my thrown sword was easily deflected which often meant the guys I threw it at got a few hits in as although time is slowed down it takes a few seconds after your attack has finished to be able to move again, which can be really annoying.

Heavenly Sword has some top-notch graphics that make the presentation of the game something to wonder at. The animations are one of the standout things about the game, Narikoís movement in battle is pure eye candy at times, but does suffer from a little drop in frame rate at times but nothing that detracts too much from the look of things. The only shame for the graphics is the soldiers they could have done with a bit more of a character about them. But the few models that there are very detailed and so easy to tell a part in the fury of battle which helps when choosing your fighting style for each enemy. The cutscenes look amazing and although the game is loaded with them it never seems to lose any pace from the game, which some other games experience.

The landscape looks so impressive that it could have been hand-drawn
Thousands of men can be on the screen at a time, without a frame rate drop

All in all Heavenly Sword is a truly class A game and one that should sit proud in any collect. There is the small factor of shortness to the game but that still cannot sully this masterpiece. The direction of Heavenly Sword, keeping the combat tight and gameplay refined, not including any backtracking or side quests makes the game all the more compelling.

Top Game Moment:
Killing 1000 men in about 30 seconds!

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By crow18 (I just got here) on Jul 09, 2008
Great game,good graphics, i like the fighting.