The Beauty that is Heavenly Sword
I’m excited to be writing about Heavenly Sword for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, this is post about a PlayStation 3 game. And secondly, I wasn’t expecting to really get into Heavenly Sword. At least, not for a few months. Since it was set to be released a day after Skate and less than two weeks prior to Halo 3, I figured there simply wouldn’t be time for it. It seems Skate’s delay has brought a positive spin about and given me good reason to spend some quality time with my PS3. But a filler game, Heavenly Sword is not. I feel that I owe it an apology, since that’s basically what I pinned it.
Heavenly Sword just raised the bar in the visuals department. It is, without a doubt, the most beautiful game I’ve played. The environments are lush and and absolutely massive. Chalk full of every items you would find in villages of old. Not cluttered with boxes, crates and other filler items you find in most games. Everything in the world is interactive and the physics are amazing. While things might feel a little light, it’s still awesome seeing things break and smash apart as you wreak havoc around them. Bodies fall where they law, until you pick them up and throw them anyway – more on that later. But the true beauty lay within the characters. Nariko, the heroine, is absolutely stunning. The emotion she shows is so real, I lost count of how many times I said “wow” during cut-scenes. It’s not just about Nariko being a hottie, though. Every character in the game is incredibly detailed. They’re all warriors, and they bare the scars to prove it.
It looks as if all of the cut-scenes and character animations were created by motion capture, as they’re very natural and fluid and amazingly realistic. The voice acting and lip syncing match the incredible visuals and animations as well. Put that all together and you have the PS3’s new showpiece.
Speaking of characters, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Nariko isn’t the only playable character in the game. On a few occasions, you assume the role of her extremely animated younger sister, Kai (pictured right). Kai is a weird one, to say the least. She’s super bubbly and seems to be talking gibberish most of the time. But she is fucking deadly with her mechanical crossbow-type weapon. Kai’s chapters also bring a more light-hearted feel temporarily, which is quite nice.
The combat system is nothing new, but very elegant and well executed. Similar to God of War, you have a number of different stances which wield different amounts of damage and a slew of combos for each. One element of combat that is a very nice addition, is Aftertouch – a slow-motion mode used when throwing or shooting items. The airborne item is guided using the Sixaxis’ tilt control until you eventually hit your target. Nariko can pick up just about anything in the environment. From swords of fallen enemies, to chairs and barrels, to corpses. As mentioned on Penny Arcade a few days ago, guiding a body into a gong never gets old.
The first mission where you really get to make good use of Aftertouch is an absolute blast – I played it a second time back-to-back it was that much fun. You have to fend off a wave of massive catapults using a cannon and guide your projectiles into specifically marked shields until you’ve taken each down. But what follows is where the fun begins – the hordes of infantry, and you have 700 to kill with cannon balls before you can proceed. Awesome!
While it may be short (about 6 hours to complete), I would say it’s justified. Everything in the game is so well done and so detailed, that it’s obvious a hell of a lot of time and effort was put into this game. It simply can’t be under-valued because it doesn’t have a 20 hour campaign. Some may call it a rental title, but I’m going to buy it. It’s one of those games I’ll always be able to revisit to play through chapters that are just a blast from start to finish – which is the majority of them, honestly.