Each year there are a few standout titles that seem to make it to the forefront of the hype meter. Hype can literally be described as the anticipation or the buzz surrounding a game, something that Sony has been building up for quite sometime with their latest Playstation 3 title, Heavenly Sword. I have never seen such a consistent attack from Sony trying to push a title as hard as they have pushed Heavenly Sword. Let’s just say I think Sony knows they need to make up some ground. But can Heavenly Sword make an impact in the console race, or is this just another hack and slash action game that can be passed up? Read our full review of Heavenly Sword for the PS3 to find out!
As mentioned at the top of the review, Heavenly Sword is one of the most highly anticipated titles this holiday season for Sony. There is no doubt that many people have had their eye on this game, as many have compared it to a God of War, something Sony has been extremely successful with in the past. But can Ninja Theory pick up the ball and really create an amazing next generation experience?
I don’t want to get very in-depth with the story of Heavenly Sword, as that is really what drives the game from start to finish. To make a long story very short, you play as Nariko, a very hard nosed woman who really takes nothing from no one. She has a sword, it is the Heavenly Sword, and let’s just say there are some evil people in the world that if the sword got in the wrong hands would cause major problems for her. Nariko is actually a much deeper character than many might think, and among her and her sister Kai, there is plenty to learn about their family, and how much of a burden the sword is on Nariko.
The story itself is absolutely brilliant. This is by far one of the most engaging cinematic displays in a video game I have ever played. Really, only the Metal Gear Solid series has been able to keep up a pace that keeps you interested in the story and yet wanting to continue to play on. Heavenly Sword actually does one over on those games however (in terms of story), as this game reminds me of just a great action movie that you actually get to participate in. One thing I don’t want to forget on mentioning on is the voice work, which could have been very cheesy (think Dynasty Warriors) but instead actually was extremely well done. It was even funny at the parts that were meant to be funny. All in all the story was fantastic, and I hope this leaves many doors open for others games to adopt a more cinematic approach.
Once you get past the game’s story, you then have the game itself, which does borrow a bit from the God of War franchise but not nearly as much as I thought from my preview experiences. In Heavenly Sword there are two playable characters, which are both Nariko and Kai, although about 85% of the game is played with Nariko. So since the majority of the game is played with Nariko, let’s discuss her mechanics first. She is a pure hack and slash character, she block upcoming attacks by switching either to a fast or slow attack stance, and then can counter attack as well. Although the game looks like a mindless hack and slash experience, its gameplay mechanics are much deeper than that and actually offer up a ton of strategy and combos. Nariko is actually a great deal of fun to play as well, there are some sequences where you will take the cannon and take out hordes of enemies, and other times where you will be going through some onscreen button sequences to take out enemy or bosses.
Then there is Kai who may be even more fun to play as, she is a ranged attack character who has no close up attack, so you have to stay away. This is where the Sixaxis is actually used perfectly. You can shoot arrows from Kai’s weapon, and then go into this slow motion feature that you then guide the arrow towards your enemy using the game’s Sixaxis support. This is really the first time I would say that the Sixaxis support was actually used in a way in which it actually improved the overall experience of the game, and in that sense I should say it never was not fun to guide arrows at enemies.
In the end, the overall experience of Heavenly Sword was fantastic, but short. The game doesn’t take much more than a day or two to complete, and really doesn’t put up a huge amount of resistance on the normal difficulty setting. However even though it’s short, it is one of the most exciting and engaging games I have played in quite sometime. I can honestly say playing through this game twice would not be any less enjoyable.
Once again, Ninja Theory went all out for Heavenly Sword, and it shows in the visual department where the game looks absolutely amazing. First off both Nariko and Kai have such amazing detail, it just shows more detail in a character then most games out right now. The environments, although not very open and rather linear, are absolutely gorgeous to look at, and manage to really give a beautiful panoramic view of the world of Heavenly Sword. Where the game really shines are in the beautifully rendered cut scenes, which on an HD screen scream of vibrant colors and amazing detail. If you have an HD screen, prepare to be amazed.
I will just once again reiterate the fact that Heavenly Sword is a very short game, and that the length of the game is really the only substantial problem I had with the title. There are only a few other minor gripes about Heavenly Sword and the rest of the title really shines bright. I know Sony and Ninja Theory put a lot of time and resources into this game and I personally feel it all paid off. In the end, Heavenly Sword is one of the most enjoyable and engaging games I have played in a long time. When play as both Nariko and Kai, I have to say they both make for extremely enjoyable characters and the mixing of the two really blend quite nicely.
In the end, Heavenly Sword is really the first major standout title for the PS3 since its console debut. The only complaint that I have is its longevity, as you can finish the game in a day or two. But even that does not detract from the fact that this game is highly playable, even on repeat sessions. Get this for its engaging and cinematic storytelling, and deep, satisfying gameplay.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.