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 - Nariko

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.

Heavenly Sword - Kai Touch

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.

Heavenly Sword - After Touch

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.

Rating: 4/5

Heavenly Sword

7 Responses to “The Beauty that is Heavenly Sword”

  1. Right on! I was too feeling like Sony had let us down with the PS3 not experiencing anything "crunchy" to play with except the usual sports games (MLB 07, Tiger Woods 08). But with Heavenly Sword, most of my "Halo 3 crazy" friends have changed the way they look at the PS3 as a console and not only a beautiful Blu-ray movies player.

    It's a sure rental for "tight wallets" but if you have the extra 60$…go ahead and buy this beautiful piece of art.

  2. Why is it games lately look great. Play great. But last only a few hours? Heavenly Sword is around 6 hours i've heard. Gears of War around 6. God of War 2 i heard clocked in around 10 (hey, an extra 4 hours!)…

    Anyway, i can handle great everything with a short story. I only have the 360 but i can appreciate the visuals of Heavenly Sword. One question; was it hard to get use to the lack of a jump button? I've heard it is hit or miss. Personally, i like having a jump button, more control = more fun (sometimes). Though in HS's case it seems with the stances there's no need for a jump buttons as Nariko fluidly goes through the motions. Great review. Would love to play this, but at least i can look forward to Halo 3 (which i was going to pass up…until i saw the commercials). I've been losing interest more and more each time i play the COD4 beta so Halo 3 will be a welcomed addition 😀

  3. Oh, what a pity. People are dismissing this game a "Sony Cash-In" because the core game only lasts 6 to 8 hours. Why do people insist that a game is bad because it doesn't last overly long? Sorry it ain't like your Final Fantasy series with 50+ hours of gameplay (And sometimes I feel like I'm the only person who thinks that the FF series is overrated shit).

    I loved the GoW series and I could see where it draws inspiration from it's sister series, but it puts forth its own spin and looks absolutely STUNNING like you said.

    Haven't got around to checking it out myself but after reading this article, color me sold. 🙂

  4. I'll be honest. I wasn't planning on reading this article from start to finish seeing as I don't have a PS3 or any intention to get one. But this game, wow, it sounds fantastic!

    You say it's the most beautiful game you've played which makes me think of Gears. The level design was gorgeous in that game, so for this to succeed that in the looks department probably warrents a purchase on its own (Well, for someone like me who is a bit of a graphics whore).

    Anyway, glad the PS3 has something to get its owners excited about. Knew it was just a matter of time.

  5. @subcell: While the PS3 might not have its Gears of War or Halo 3 yet, we're starting to see some stellar titles – Heavenly Sword being one of them. I'm also pretty stoked on Warhawk, but haven been distracted with the likes of BioShock and Heavenly Sword lately.

    @Dustin: Gears of War is definitely more than 6 hours. Especially the first time you play it through. I think I put about a dozen hours into God of War 2 the first time as well.

    As for the lack of jump button – I didn't miss it. Jumping around in combat wouldn't help you in this game. Most enemies wield weapons with lots of reach and would simply knock you down. The right stick is used to dodge and roll, like God of War, which is more than sufficient for quick movements during combat.

    @Rockers Delight: Nice! Glad I was able to hold a non-PS3 owners attention.

    @Alexei A. Korolev: There's lots of unlockables which require you to collect things during gameplay. So I guess that would be enough reason for some to replay it. Personally, I just enjoy a great game and will definitely play Heavenly Sword from start to finish again. It's one that I will likely keep in my collection, as apposed to trading in when I'm done with it.