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Games That Nobody Plays Any More: Heavenly Sword

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It’s hard to recall but this was one of the big PS3 releases, drumming up massive E3 excitement over the rolling demo several years ago. On first glance it’s just Goddess of War, twin blades twirling, quicktime eventful and featuring an epic, mature, Conan-style fantasy storyline. To be absolutely honest, the first impressions aren’t too far off. This is every bit as action-packed as Kratos’ journeys, if considerably less gruesome. What sets HS apart is the level of elegance, both in the games heroine, and the design and flow of the game itself. Rather than just mashing the buttons and flailing the blades of Chaos, there’s a little more Ninja Gaiden-style switching of stances and timing of blows. Hammering square will get you blocked and killed fast. You have to time and counter. Nariko arcs about the screen, a lady-shaped death-machine, but each button-press has to be managed. There’s no hand-holding here. You have to earn your awesomeness.

The reason this game stands out in the mind, and why when you’ve finished it, it will stay with you and leave you wondering why other games don’t do it that way is the performances turned in by the mo-cap and voiceover actors. Gollum himself; Andy Serkis plays Bohan the tyrannical and brawny villain, injecting every line with easy, almost likable, poisonous charisma. He’s not some gloating D-lister with pretensions on being Emperor Palpatine, this is an award-winning actor at home in a digital role. He’s more like the terrifying man you meet in the pub and pray you’ll get away from before he snaps and you get a pool cue in the eye. The man who would be Kong also took up the role of dramatic director for the rest of the cast, and it shows. Every line is committed to, every emotion feels true. If every voice director in gaming took this much time and effort to get his crew emoting then games would honestly be further down the road to being taken as seriously as films. Nariko, Bohan, Kai, Shen are all excellent characters, none of them stereotyped, all of them interesting, with strengths and frailties making them far more human than we’re used to in this medium.

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Looking back on the game, it’s really a pretty slick but standard slasher. Golden Axe brought right up to date (and not like the atrocity that was Beast Rider) but the reason to find this game again is that if you own a PS3 and if you’re looking forward to God of War III for reasons of story and character as well as action then you owe it to yourself to get this played in the meantime. It has some annoying sections involving crossbows and catapults and the sixaxis controls, but a little perseverance, aiming first and keeping a cool head will get these completed. Criminally overlooked on release and not likely to see the sequel it probably doesn’t need, this stands alone as a time when Ninja Theory (They of Kung Fu Chaos) truly excelled and made an action game with a bit of heart and soul for a change.

  • Nathan Hardisty

    Nice to see others trying out my series, except you kinda got the title wrong. It’s ‘Games That Nobody Plays Anymore’, other than that, solid A+ article.

    I actually have a list of the future games I was going to GTNPA, and Heavenly Sword never came to my mind.

    Good job.

  • I’ve had this game on my shelf in it’s wrapper for ages. . Actually feel inspired to play it now. Maybe it got damned for not being a console seller at the time? Critically I remember it not doing terribly well.

  • I loved Heavenly Sword. I really hope they make a sequel soon.

  • Title changed Nathan and yes it’s a great series you’re penning, I felt compelled to add to it.

  • Edub

    I just got a ps3 about 2 months ago. I was browsing Amazon and picked this game up for less than $25. I’m extremely happy I did, as it’s voice acting and plot really had me hooked. The fighting is top notch and it’s a great experience. I regret not getting a brand new copy so Ninja Theory could at least get a cut of my purchase.

  • Ryan “BrushYourTeeth”

    I literally laughed out loud when I read this because I just started replaying the game, trying to unlock all the artwork and videos. And I totally agree with the article. Good timing.

  • Mark

    Isn’t worth $5, both GOW’s and Ninja Gaiden blow this crap away.

  • Great game. I remember being in awe of the mo-cap and voice, I’m still waiting for a title that beats HS in that respect. I gotta say I thought the catapult/crossbow sections were pretty fun too! Especially the one where you’re catapulting giant boulders into literally hundreds and hundreds of oncoming enemies. Memorable stuff.

  • Mohammed

    Extremely Fun Game

    -Graphics- A (mo-cap is just awesome)

    -Gameplay- B ( could have done better for the six axis sections but non the less quite good )

    -Story- B+ ( it is not as epic as God of war but it is good enough to get u into the mood of hacking and slashing )

    Sound A ( you will appreciate the hard work and time they have put into the sounds when u play it just sounds great )

    The only thing i have against the game is that it was short but u know i it would not make any sense to make it any longer because the story ended quite nicely but cuz the game was funy to play u wanted more time to play .
    other than that it is an overall good game.

  • I might have to check out Heavenly Sword, I actually played no more then just the demo of the game.

    Plus it is for sell in our amazon store for only 24.99! http://astore.amazon.com/platfnatio-20/detail/B000K9OP2A

  • chris

    The demo didnt do it justice. This game was really a lot of fun.

  • sNsKid

    I never liked this game and I still don’t.

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  • name

    i hope they do another one of these.
    i rely enjoyed it more than ninja gaiden2 and GOW 2.
    now that i think of it ninja gaiden 2 was a complete waste of money, why o why did the gore have to suck me in.
    and still to this day theres no game that has as enemies on screen as this did, in the final lvl you cant even see the floor it was amazing.
    i want more games like this, best game i played that year allong with uncharted of corse.

  • ladmag

    what a coincidence , played this game last night , its thoroughly enjoyable and totally underrated .

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