Heavenly Sword Review


Action games are a dime a dozen and most of them, even the great ones such as God of War, really devolve into button mashers much of the time. While entries such as Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden manage to retain the intense action without resorting to interactive cutscenes and button mashing these are few and far between. Most games can be picked up by just about anyone and be button mashed through, if not beaten using that “technique.” It is obvious that the developers of Heavenly Sword wanted to avoid falling into this category with quite mixed results.

The biggest success of Heavenly Sword is the storytelling. Not that there is anything all that fantastic about the story itself, it’s a fairly typical tale. Nariko, an outsider from her own people, ends up wielding the Heavenly Sword, a sacred weapon that slowly takes the life of its bearer, to fight off an evil Emperor. What really makes Heavenly Sword shine is how the story is told.

Using the motion capture god Anthony Serkis, the man behind Gollum in the The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, they have managed to get incredibly realistic cutscenes of a quality never before scene. The lip-synching matches up to the words perfectly in almost every area of the game, the physical mannerisms of the actors and subtle body language all go a really long ways to immersing you in the story. Much of the time these cutscenes really do come across with an almost Hollywood movie type quality to them.

Then again it is also the characters that make the game. Nariko is fairly stereotypical of a tough-guy type character, except the guy is a gal. She is rather wooden and one dimensional for the most part. However Emperor Bohan, the irrepressible Kai and Bohan’s three flunkies all do incredible jobs of drawing you into the experience. The interaction between characters goes to a nearly unbelievable level in projecting the actors’ emotions through their video game avatars.

The voice acting is pretty much flawless as well. While some of the characters can come off as really silly at first you will soon realize that this is how the character was meant to act. It isn’t a failing in the acting quality as much as it is just an obnoxious and insane man. Much of the voice work is like this, being of good quality if not a bit quirky. There is nothing dubious about the music though. It’s all suitably epic and sometimes over the top but it fits the game rather well. At the drop of a hat it can go from subdued tribal sounding music to the crashing drums of war.

Nariko has a variety of attacks at her disposal. While she starts off wielding a simple long sword she eventually wields the Heavenly Sword in all its glory. This magical weapon can be alternated between three different modes. In its default mode, or speed stance, Nariko breaks the blade into the separate long swords and uses them to handle most enemies. This is your middle ground, fairly strong and fast but nothing too incredible. It is mostly designed for handling large groups of weaker enemies.