Saturday, February 15, 2014

I Am My Sword

It was written that twenty-three years ago, in the year of the fire-horse, a deity would be reborn, in the body of a mortal man. A savior, destined to unite our people and show us the way to the Promised Land. Instead, I was born from my mother’s dying body…and my people wept. They said I was a portent of doom… - Nariko

Nariko is the kind of heroine who takes matters into her own hands. An outcast, reviled by her clan for seemingly not fulfilling an age-old prophecy, she takes her role of savior very seriously. So much so, that her very her mission becomes her life; that at least is the premise of Heavenly Sword, a ps3 exclusive game.

Nariko and her notorious hair are a wise design choice and so are the locales found within the game disc, which are breath-taking to say the least; constructions in the mountains adorned with banners waving in the wind, stairs that go on forever, and waterfalls as a backdrop, like an Eden invaded by evil men, led by nefarious and resolute King Bohan. Five years in the making and a staff of 140 people will get you that.
In fact, the game, which is basically a hack and slash title, makes a powerful argument for art in gaming, since much work went into this ps3 launch title, as can be witnessed by the behind the scenes features. The talent behind Ninja Theory explains they wanted the game to have the grandeur of a movie and they certainly succeed in that regard, although the game looks more like a series of illustrations come to life. The cast, starring Anna Torv, of Fringe fame, and Andy Serkis, is a great addition.

In this challenging game, the art design truly shines; Nariko and Kai, the two playable characters, are wonderfully depicted, with top notch animations. The villains are also a joy to behold, each of them crafted with great care. Be it King Bohan himself, who sports the best facial animations, or his henchmen, Flying Fox, Whiptail and Roach. These characters appear in well written cutscenes and inventive boss fights, and have solid voice acting to bring them to life.

The Sixaxis motion control is the thorn in this rose. The bow missions with Nariko's adopted sister, Kai, in which you have to shoot arrows at enemies, are of extreme difficulty when you find yourself shaking the gamepad. However, there is thankfully an option to turn Sixaxis off and use the analog stick instead, making those sections fun. When companies allow gimmicks to have an integral part in their games, as is the case of Microsoft's almost defunct Kinect, things can go downhill.

Whilst it is a combat game, as explained above, there are enough combat stances to keep you fairly busy. Each of these moves is accompanied by a balletic animation which is pure eye candy. The game, which has inspired a recent animated feature, comes also with a series of animated shorts which are breath-taking in their simplicity. For a title which offers no trophies due to its early launch date, it certainly comes packed with hefty extra content to make up for it.