Certain espionage games aside, Heavenly Sword may have been one of the most talked about exclusives on the PlayStation 3 for the past couple of E3 events. Now that it’s finished and out, one can certainly see exactly why. All it takes is a quick look at video to immediately see why the comparisons to God of War can be made, but this is so much more than a God of War knock-off. You play the role of Nariko and on occasion her sister Kai through five stages of hack and slash goodness filled with deadly combos and beautiful visuals broken up with occasional stages where the Sixaxis controller is used wonderfully.
Let’s start with the graphics. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a game with characters that showed the amount of detail that Heavenly Sword does. The sheer amount of detail in the main character, Nariko, is stunning and jaw dropping which is possibly an understatement. The story is told through cutscenes that would make most Square-Enix animators green with envy. It’s that awesome. Everything is so polished the environments are huge and are highly detailed. If you rated the game alone based on graphics it would get a perfect 10 out of 10 score.
However, games don’t get scored based on one aspect alone. Thankfully for you, though, Heavenly Sword also features great audio anchored by top tier voice acting. I did discover one sort of oddity in terms of the voicework as, in case you didn’t notice Nariko is Japanese yet she has a distinctively European accent to her. A little weird, but you’ll get used to it and over it in a hurry. The music does a good job of setting the table for the action. There are lots of drums that help to build on the tension. The use of trademark Japanese instruments also helped add to the overall dramatic flair and sense of urgency for Nariko’s story.
Speaking of that story, Heavenly Sword does a superb job of conveying the story bit by bit, so that you’re never completely unaware as to what is happening throughout the game. The characters roles are well defined and the story unfolds quickly and is sandwiched by some pretty fun and challenging, but not overly difficult, action sequences that shape Heavenly Sword into a great action adventure game. Nice touches and somewhat smart enemies keep the game from entirely being a button-masher. Certain enemies will require moves that prevent them from blocking your attack, so you’ll have to choose any one of your several attacks that can penetrate their block. The enemy AI also does a good job of not being too easy, but they’re also not cheap. Meaning that when you’re standing around with ten enemies hovering over you they won’t work you over until you get killed. Again, at the same time, they’re not exactly pushovers either.
One element that Heavenly Sword did borrow from God of War is the brief action sequences during boss battles. Once you wear a boss down you’ll get to a point where you have a second to push a certain button which will then act out certain moves on the screen that do severe damage. These actions are played out for you probably because it’s better to see really cool action to serve as the death blows rather than the same attack you’ve done 300 times before. It’s one element that divides gamers because some like it and some don’t, but regardless of which side of the fence you fall on you’re stuck with it.
The one feature that I found to be the absolute coolest of the game was what the developers called “aftertouch”. When you pick up an object and throw it if you hold down the button you can manipulate its flight through the air using the Sixaxis controller. While it may sound sort of un-cool, when you use it in practice it is indeed one of the cooler features of the game. There are even a few levels dedicated to using aftertouch almost entirely. Levels where aiming with the controller is just too time consuming and time is of the essence. These are the little touches that make Heavenly Sword a great play.
If there has to be one major downside to Heavenly Sword it’s definitely that the ride is over far too quickly. The game is probably somewhere in the neighborhood of ten hours long. It’s hard to say whether or not that will justify a purchase for you, but it’s definitely rental material. You do get an added bonus of unlocking a second difficulty mode, so that might extend the replay value for you. There’s always the fact that you can go back and perfect each stage so that you can get unlock bonus features in the game, but that might be strictly if you want to squeeze out every penny that you spent on the game.
All in all, fans of games like God of War and Devil May Cry will find a lot to love here. PlayStation 3 owners clamoring for a new game will definitely need to take this for a spin, especially if you’ve got an HDTV set to take advantage of its gorgeous graphics. If this isn’t a must have title for the PlayStation 3, it is, at the very least, a must try game.
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