Wielding a Powerful Sword
PlayStation 3 launched nearly a year ago, and exclusive worthwhile titles have been few and far between. Developer Ninja Theory aims to change that with Heavenly Sword. It has been called the "female God of War." Does it live up to that label? No, because the further you get in the game, the experience changes.
You play Nariko, who dies at the beginning of the game, thanks to the "heavenly sword," which slowly drains the life force from those who wield it. In a style similar to God of War, the game starts five days earlier so you can see what led to her death. Along the way, you realize that Nariko's tribe is in danger from tyrannical King Bohan, who needs the sword to bring order to the world.
The gameplay is first-class. In the beginning, you have only a broadsword. Once you acquire the heavenly sword, the gameplay changes. You have three stances, each with its own move sets. Knowing which stance to use when brings depth to what would otherwise seem to be a simple button-mashing game. In some segments, you control Nariko's sister, Kai, whose controls are different. Hers are mainly sniping missions in which you shoot arrows and guide them with your controls. You probably will want to complete these hit-and-miss missions quickly so you can resume control of Nariko.
The game looks beautiful. Playing it on high-definition television is breathtaking. The sound is equally impressive, and the voice acting is top-notch. (Andy Serkis from the "Lord of the Rings" films and "King Kong" fame is the voice of King Bohan.)
Playing Heavenly Sword, you feel like you're in a movie you don't want to end, which leads to one of the game's faults: It is painfully short and can be completed within six hours. Still, it's easily one of the best PS3 games of the year. It's no God of War, but it's a shining example of what a "goddess" can do.
-- Gregory McDougal
Heavenly Sword Teen; PlayStation 3 ($60) Sony Computer Entertainment/Ninja Theory