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Heavenly Sword

Destructoid review: Heavenly Sword

Oct 04 // Nick Chester
Heavenly Sword (PS3)Developed by Ninja Theory Released September 12, 2007Heavenly Sword follows the tale of the fiery-haired warrior, Nariko, and her quest to protect her clan against the power-hungry madness of King Bohan. When Bohan and his massive army strike, Nariko fights alongside her family and clansmen, and is ultimately defeated in battle. As her father and clan are taken captive, Nariko is forced to protect (and ultimately wield) the "Heavenly Sword," a blade known through prophecy to corrupt men with its mysterious power.The game begins with its ending -- the title's first (but not last) parallel to God of War. The game opens with the player controlling Nariko, cursed blade in hand, slaughtering hundreds of Bohan's soldiers, as the blade slowly (and visibly) begins to take over her body. It's in these moments that Nariko begins to regret her mistake to wield the "Heavenly Sword," and the game truly begins as it flashes back to recount the events that led up to this fateful moment. Told over the series of five days, the game is broken up into easily-digestible chunks of levels. As the story plays out, the days go by, and Nariko gets closer and closer to the battle that opens the game.From the start, Heavenly Sword plays itself as an over-the-top hack-and-slash title, with its countless on-screen enemies, and what begins as endless button mashing. The game introduces a number of gameplay mechanics early on, including the three-stance fighting system. Players can switch between the three styles on the fly by simply pressing and holding a button to activate the different stances -- Speed Stance, Range Stance, and Power Stance. Each has its own strength and weakness, and the game attempts to force the player to use them all for various situations.The default stance is the Speed Stance, with Nariko quickly wielding two blades. The Range Stance is what gets everyone onto the God of War comparisons -- attacks are made with two chained blades, much in the same manner as the blades wielded by God of War's Kratos. The Power Stance is where the Sword truly shines; gripped with two hands, its slow and deliberate attacks are the most powerful in the game.The different stances also play an essential role in the game's defensive system; Heavenly Sword has no guard button -- holding no button will cause Nariko to guard. The catch here is that different attacks will require a different stance to successfully guard. If there's a blue glow when an enemy attacks, for example, this is the cue that the default Speed Stance is required for a guard, and no button should be held. An orange attack is the signal to quickly change to the Power Stance, as that's the only stance that will result in a successful guard. Red attacks are unblockable, and this is another place where God of War rears its head; like Kratos, Nariko can be made to roll by using the SIXAXIS' right thumb stick. Battles become button-mashing at its finest; combat is fun and flashy, emphasized by the game's "Super Style" attacks, which result in cinematic-style finishers. But while all of these different stances sound like they could deepen the experience, you'll quickly realize that they're not all entirely necessary. Sure, Nariko has a number of flashy combos at her disposal (and more are unlocked throughout gameplay ), but becoming familiar with them isn't key to success. Besides a few of the game's key "block breaker" combos, you can successfully make your way through the game's endless armies (and boss battles) by essentially mashing buttons. Unlike God of War, which had a wide variety of combos that found different uses for various situations and enemies, there's no real need for memorizing any particular combo. Effectively, they all seem to be the same.The game does make interesting use of the SIXAXIS controller with its projectile weapons mechanic, known as "AfterTouch." When activated, you're able to both aim and direct projectile objects by tilting the controller in any direction. This can be used by Nariko in a number of ways -- she can pick up and throw objects (or corpses), or she can fire cannons in certain parts of the game. In some of the game's areas, you control Nariko's creepy, Bjork-like sister, Kai. Since Kai is weak in one-on-one (or one-on-fifty) combat, she relies heavily on her bow and arrow. The Kai portions of the game are significantly different than the Nariko battle sections, and depending on your mastery of the game's "AfterTouch" controls, can be a chore. While this is one of the more interesting uses of the SIXAXIS, at times it can be a frustrating experience. Because the game is relying on the wild assumption that objects thrown in one direction can be directed to go up, down, or make complete turns, projectiles don't have a real-life weight to them. The motion controls can either feel too sensitive, or not sensitive enough, depending on any given situation. Tilting the controller a bit to the left might cause an object to veer sharply in that direction; other times, tilting it forward will cause that same object to hardly move. In missions where Kai or Nariko must nail a set number of targets as a clock ticks down to "Game Over," these inconsistencies can turn into profanities. Experience teaches the nuances of the "AfterTouch," though, and nailing enemies in the face in slow motion can become a fun and gratifying experience ... if you're patient enough.One thing that should go without saying is that Heavenly Sword is one of the finest-looking games on the PlayStation 3. Gorgeous, detailed environments come to life in high-definition, with a varied color palette that pops off the screen. The quality of facial animation is the best seen to date in any videogame (including Valve's impressive Half-Life 2). The result is delivery of a narrative in a way in which many games fall flat. When characters speak and react to one another, the subtle and realistic facial movements connect with you on an emotional level like few titles do. Tied together with the game's impressive voice cast (skillfully spearheaded by actor Andy Serkis, among others), an otherwise mediocre tale comes to life as an epic and engaging journey. But even visually, the game is not without its faults. In many ways, Heavenly Sword seems to push the PS3's Cell processor to its limit, and there are a few areas where the game's frame rate suffers, although it's certainly nothing "game breaking." The game fits an extraordinary number of characters on screen at once, and in some ways this is one of the game's biggest weaknesses when it comes to maintaining interesting and consistent visuals. It appears that in focusing energy on the game's main characters, the bit players have suffered. This wouldn't have been an issue if you didn't (quite literally) end up mowing down thousands of carbon copied enemies throughout the course of the game. As the game nears its conclusion, you realize that if you've seen one enemy, you've seen them all.The game also nears its end both quickly and easily. Although there are a few "tricky" (yet obvious, and sometimes cliched) boss battles that stand between you and the game's 10+ hours of gameplay, there's no real challenge to be had. Even on the game's most difficult levels, the button-mashing techniques you learn early on will serve you well enough to move through the game's story. For a PlayStation 3 owner, there's still nothing else like Heavenly Sword, both in terms of the game's style and visuals. It doesn't necessarily justify an entire console like some had hoped it would. It is an impressive visual feat, backed by enough fun and style to give it a place in any PlayStation 3 owner's library. If anything, it'll show off that new high-def television you purchased far more than that Talladega Nights Blu-ray disc ever could.Score: 8.0Verdict: Buy it!

For a game that started life as a PC title bound for next-gen consoles -- the Xbox 360 among them -- Heavenly Sword has come a long way. The game's developer, Ninja Theory (formerly Just Add Monsters of Kung-Fu Chaos "fa...

Contest: The Heavenly Sword letter opener - Aerox Wins!

Oct 01 // Niero Gonzalez
Original post:First, a matter of business. Congratulations to Nimic, who won our Lair Reviewer's Guide after pointing out that the game's botched controls were the result of a dragon-proof lolcat. Special thanks to Volcannon, who pointed out that page seven is full of filler text.  Just goes to show -- neither we nor 1UP reported that because, well, neither of us actually read it. But it was pretty, though! Onwards to our next Sony press giveaway. Heavenly swag, isn't it?  Sony sent us this pint-sized replica of the Heavenly Sword along with the game's press kit. As tempting as it is to keep it handy at the house to behead small animals, we are passing this rarity along to a dear reader.  How does one win it?  I'm looking for a SWF photo of the ugliest red-headed woman you can find.  Her hair must be fiery red like Nariko's ... that's the only rule. CarrotTop submissions are appreciated, but not eligible for the grand prize.  We will announce the winner along with our PS3 giveaway in October. So get posting! Use BBcode to display your photo entry in the comments below. Oh, and look how time flies! We are also just seven hours away from my announcement about that ominous announcement at Destructoid on the 18th.  The story goes up at midnight tonight. Oh, but what could it be?  

The staff at Destructoid realizes that some of you may just have digested a meal, so we will spare you from posting the winner of the Heavenly Sword Redhead babe of death contest we ran last week.  We challenged our read...


Music4Games has posted an interview with Nitin Sawhney, the composer of Sony/Ninja Theory's upcoming PS3 title Heavenly Sword. From the very little we've seen of the title, Heavenly Sword seems packed with musical goodness, b...


Heavenly Sword Part II: The Guardian of the Sword

Aug 13
// Nick Chester
The latest installment of the animated Heavenly Sword shorts has hit the net today. This second short, entitled "Guardian of the Sword," delves deeper in the mythos and history of the "heavely sword" itsel...

Heavenly Sword Part I: The Legend of the Sword

Aug 07
// Dale North
A new animated short giving more backround story on Sony/Ninja Theory's upcoming PS3 title Heavenly Sword has just hit the web.The video, titled Heavenly Sword Part I- The Legend of the Sword, gives us a little more backgrou...

Big-mouth Itagaki hates buttons and Heavenly Sword

Aug 05
// Jim Sterling
It was but a few scant days ago when Team Ninja's Tomonobu Itagaki was mouthing off about how Tekken 6 sucks and yet he's already back on the diss-wagon, slandering yet another game he hasn't played yet. Next up on the choppi...

A date with a fiery redhead: Heavenly Sword on September 12th

Aug 04
// Dale North
I've always had a thing for redheads, but this particular one is really special. It's just a shame that I haven't had the chance to get to know her that well. I first saw her at an industry event in 2006 -- I was there for w...

The evolution of Heavenly Sword: originally intended for the Xbox 360?

Jul 31
// William Haley
Ninja Theory, the developer behind one of the PS3's biggest showcase titles, was not always known by that name. Several years ago they were actually Just Add Monsters, but with only one Xbox title, Kung Fu Chaos, under their ...

Heavenly Sword presents: Pounding on limeys and the best cutscene ever!

Jul 29
// Jim Sterling
Big fat action games are my bread and butter and there's no denying that Heavenly Sword is looking like it'll be the biggest and fattest thus far in this fledgling generation. It contains the only three things I like in life ...

PlayStation Network Update: Heavenly Sword demo and RE5, MGS4 trailers

Jul 26
// Dale North
Earlier this week we told you that we thought we'd see Ninja Theory's Heavenly Sword demo hit the North American PlayStation Network very soon. Guess what? It's up now, and available for downloading. The demo weighs in a...

While certainly not news, I thought this would be of interest to those readers who can't wait to get their filthy hands on the Heavenly Sword demo hitting the PlayStation network tomorrow. If anyone thought this game was ...


Heavenly Sword demo coming to UK PlayStation Network this week

Jul 23
// Dale North
We know for sure that the UK version of the PlayStation Network will update on July 26th with a downloadable demo of the upcoming Ninja Theory title Heavenly Sword, but there hasn't been much in the way of an official wor...

Heavenly Sword demo done, coming to PSN ... eventually

Jul 17
// Nick Chester
So I don't know what you guys were doing last Thursday, but I was playing Heavenly Sword in a dimly lit Sony arcade, tucked beneath Santa Monica's Le Merigot hotel. Jealous much? Would it make you feel any better if I...

E3 2007: New Heavenly Sword videos; why are all ancient people British?

Jul 12
// Earnest Cavalli
Aside from the unnecessary use of the British accent by the main characters -- possibly an homage to every movie set in Ancient Greece since the beginning of time -- these brand new Heavenly Sword clips make every part of m...

Collect your jaws from the floor: new Heavenly Sword screens (update)

Jun 29
// Leigh Alexander
Blades are cool. Women are cool. Kratos taught us that blades on chains with fiery streaks coming out are even cooler. But blades on chains plus fiery redheaded women plus screenshots that look like this? Ashes, ashes, we all...

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