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Heavenly Sword (PlayStation 3) artwork

Heavenly Sword (PlayStation 3) review

"Heavenly Sword is the hotly anticipated sword fighting game from Ninja Theory which was released exclusively on PS3 on 12/09/2007. The game plays in a very similar fashion to Ninja Gaiden Sigma, for any of you who have already played that and enjoyed it. If you open the controls menu the list of available attacks and their often long winded button press combinations will certainly look familiar. If you mastered Sigma then you should certainly have no problems here. There are, however, a numb..."

Heavenly Sword is the hotly anticipated sword fighting game from Ninja Theory which was released exclusively on PS3 on 12/09/2007. The game plays in a very similar fashion to Ninja Gaiden Sigma, for any of you who have already played that and enjoyed it. If you open the controls menu the list of available attacks and their often long winded button press combinations will certainly look familiar. If you mastered Sigma then you should certainly have no problems here. There are, however, a number of key differences to Sigma; some of them good and some of them not so good which I shall cover as we go.

The majority of the game is played as our cover star heroine Nariko who is the daughter of the head of an ill fated clan. I say ill fated as this clan has been left with the unpleasant responsibility of guarding the Heavenly Sword; a weapon of incredible power which has been the target of every ambitious warrior since the day it appeared. As the game begins you see Nariko collapsing, surrounded by a huge army as her skin is slowly covered with strange runes. She appears to die, the Heavenly Sword falling from her grasp. The game then flashes back five days to a point where the clan is under attack from the current seeker of the sword; one King Bohan. Bohan has already conquered much of the surrounding world and Nariko’s clan seems to be the last on the list. She must protect the sword and so your battle begins.

You begin the game with a normal sword, carrying the Heavenly Sword on your back so don’t get too excited. Your normal sword only has a limited number of attack combinations and none of the posh ranged and power attacks you may be familiar with from the PSN demo of the game. Sadly attacking is pretty much a case of bashing those buttons. There are, as I have said, a number of combinations available but unless you have the kind of mind that can think “Square, Square, Square, Triangle, Square etc” in a heated situation then they are pretty much a waste of time. Nariko also auto blocks, that is to say, if you don’t press any buttons she will block. Following a successful block you can then make a counter attack which is way more powerful and often deadly. Once you learn to time this right it is all you will do which makes learning the combinations even more of a waste of time.

I don’t want to spoil the story for you but suffice it to say that at some point Nariko chucks her old sword and takes up the Heavenly Sword in order to hand out a whole new level of punishment. This new sword opens up two new styles of fighting; ranged and power. This at least adds a degree of variation to the button mashing as by pressing L1 or R1 Nariko will change stance and either attack with blades on lengths of chain (that what it looks like) or dole out slower but more powerful sword swipes. Hit enough enemies in a row and the Style Bar at the bottom of the screen will start to fill as will the Superstyle Disc at the top left (I know, imaginatively named aren’t they). The Style Bar is divided into three and as you fill up each third you are awarded with extra content such as new attack combinations or artwork. The Superstyle Disc is also divided into three and as you fill each third it gives you the chance to perform increasingly powerful Superstyle attacks. These are a one use attack which kills the target and, at higher levels, damages those nearby as well.

Now you don’t always rely on your sword to do the death dealing and on occasion Nariko will find herself either wielding a huge rocket launcher (a little random for a sword fighting game but hey) or being the controls of a massive cannon trying to prevent the approach of Bohan’s army. A nice touch in these sections is the fact that you can perform what is called Aftertouch once you have fired your weapon. Simply keep the button pressed and you follow your projectile in slow motion and can guide it to its intended target by tilting the Sixaxis. You get to see some close up carnage this way and watching the enemy dive for cover like they are moving through treacle is very cool.

Not satisfied with that? Well on occasion the action will also put you in control of Nariko’s slightly disturbing friend Kai and her bow gun (for want of a better way to describe it). Kai is extremely weak and has no close combat skills whatsoever so she calls for an entirely different style of play. Run like hell and then shoot them from a safe distance works for me. Again you get to use the Aftertouch to guide her arrows to their target and once you get used to the control method it is very accurate. Try shooting a few enemy soldiers in the arse and see how they react it is very amusing. In fact I found Kai’s sections of the game more entertaining than Nariko’s and will probably replay those first.

So anyway, what do I think of the game? Well for starters the graphics are stunning. The cut sequences are the best I have seen with good voice acting and incredible lip synching. The in game graphics are pretty spectacular too with some particularly lovely backgrounds, a very cool slow motion effect and no apparent lag even with in the region of a hundred enemies on screen (yes you did read that right). The annoying camera from Sigma isn’t present as the game pretty much decides where it wants you to look and points you in that direction. You can look around if you wish but there is really no need as you can always see what you need to. The downside of this is that the game is very linear, the camera tells you where to go and there is no room to explore. This is a major issue for me is it impacts dramatically on replay value.

The sound is good and the voice acting is very good, none of the cut scenes are so annoying that you feel the need to skip them. As for replay value well the game is short. There are six levels, each of which is split into a number of chapters. Beat the chapter and you can replay it to your hearts content. The only extras you will gain from this, however, are the unlockables for getting a full Style Bar. It is also easy right up until the last level which is only slightly harder. Counter and you will win the day. Complete the game and there is a harder difficulty setting but this doesn’t make much of a difference.

Overall I am disappointed, particularly as I bought this for £40 from a high street shop (I know silly me, impulse buying). I kind of feel that the developers deserve my money as the effort that has gone into creating this game is obvious. It is still too short and too easy though. I would have liked to have seen a bit of exploring involved or a few junctions where you can vary your route at least. Oh yeah and a suggestion for any game with unlockable artwork: okay it is very nice to look at but how about letting us unlock it and then use it on the XMB as wallpaper?

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Community review by OrpheusUK (April 14, 2008)

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