Sunday, April 26, 2009

Heavenly Sword

Heavenly Sword is the perfect game to play if you love God of War I & II, and need something new to play before God of War III. The combat is smooth and fairly unique. The cinematic visual quality is fantastic. Acting is top notch, and the story isn’t half bad. In fact I’m going to get the negatives out of the way early so I can just keep on praising this game. Playing through the game takes about six hours, and the enemies are not challenging or diverse.

Players take on the role of Nariko. She is the daughter of Shen—the leader of the clan that protects the Heavenly Sword. There clan is under attack by King Bohan. He is the evil king overlord who has conquered all of the other clans in the region. Nariko doesn’t want dear old daddy, or her lovable adopted sister Kai to become slaves of Bohan. During the final siege she becomes desperate and wields the Heavenly Sword. This sword grants her the power of the gods, but kills her in about five days. The game begins at this moment where Nariko first kills with the Heavenly Sword and ends with her death.

So what makes a sword heavenly? Is it a relic of some ancient deity who performed amazing feats of valor? Did Kratos get with Nariko, and decided she was worthy of a parting gift? Is it just really really shiny? The Heavenly Sword is three weapons in one. The light attacks turn the weapon into chains with blades on the ends. This produces a whirl wind like effect that can easily hit multiple enemies at once. The medium attacks utilize two halves of the sword that combine into a large single blade for the heavy attacks. Switching between weapons is simple and allows players to easily pull off combos using all three forms of the Heavenly Sword. It was very satisfying to charge an army of people, stun the immediate circle with a quick light attack, and then target a few weaklings with a devastating heavy attack.

The combat gets even deeper with finishing moves, aerial attacks, counters, and a slew of objects to throw at enemies. When Nariko scores enough kills she can perform a devastating finishing move that can instantly kill numerous enemies. These moves have three levels of intensity and vary between light, medium, and heavy attacks. Aerial attacks are not as destructive as the finishing moves, but they add nice variety to the games combat. The counter system is simplistic yet effective. Nariko blocks when she is not on the offensive, and players can counter enemies by pressing an attack button immediately after blocking an attack. The mini-cut scenes that ensue are very appealing and differ between the three forms of the Heavenly Sword.

Throughout her journey Nariko will kill many men. Luckily it was all in self defense, and every one who does die at her hands leaves a present. Nariko can pick up fallen weapons, bodies, shields, and hats. Hell she can even fire large cannons and crossbows. Why would she want to do this? Well it turns out she has a wicked arm, and when ever Nariko (or Kai) uses a projectile they can slow down time to accurately aim the death device. This feature is utilized in numerous segments that range from simple puzzles to defending a castle under siege by Bohan’s armies. This feature is annoying at first because it relies on the six-axis controller feature of the PS3, but once that feature is deactivated players can use the analog sticks for better precision.

So after reviewing the fantastic depth and variety of the combat system I have concluded that a sword is heavenly if it makes you a super bad ass. Supreme power, however, is not the only thing that Heavenly Sword offers. In her quest Nariko will travel through snowy mountains, lush forests, and sprawling cities. The visuals are gorgeously epic. The story is also well done. Voice attacking by such talent as Andy Serkis (King Bohan) and Anna Tov (Nariko), combined with amazing motion capture cinematics, make each cut scene engaging as well as appealing. Finally, the boss encounters are unique and entertaining. This is really surprising given the lack of variety for the average solider. Each boss fight is a combination of quick time events and open combat. They all end differently, and I was especially pleased with the ending of the Flying Fox.

Heavenly Sword has everything that a gamer could want in an action packed hack and slash adventure. There are beautiful women and environments. Boss fights are extremely satisfying, and is complimented by a well thought out, diverse, and fluid combat system. The story is presented through high quality cut scenes, and great voice acting. The game is epically fun. If it was only a bit longer, then it would have received a perfect score. A 4.8 out of 5, however, is nothing to be ashamed of.

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