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 "fame"), had gone through a number of publishers before finally making a home with Sony Computer Entertainment, and the PlayStation 3.
Originally described as "Ninja Gaiden meets Half-Life," the title was once labeled "too ambitious" by one of the game's previous publishers. Some four years after its 2003 reveal, Heavenly Sword has finally seen the light of day, and -- in some people's eyes -- came with a huge responsibility: To prove the viability of the PlayStation 3.
With Sony openly acknowledging the lack of original, high-profile titles, Heavenly Sword's stunning visuals and high-impact gameplay has surely turned some heads. But is it a stepping-stone title that can finally put the PS3 on some gamers' radar, or is a repetitive God of War-clone that never truly reaches its full potential?
Heavenly Sword (PS3)
Heavenly 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.
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.
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.
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