The lights are on
When I was younger, I’d be crushed if I beat a game in a day. In my eyes, I’d either squandered a trip to the video-rental store, a weekend trade with a friend, or – worst of all – $40. Now that I’m older, I’ve grown to appreciate games that get in, do what they do, and get out. That’s one of the reasons that Heavenly Sword has stuck with me all these years. Ninja Theory’s PS3 game didn’t wear out its welcome, and if anything it left me wanting more.
In the PlayStation 3’s early days, there weren’t many mind-blowing exclusives. The Xbox 360 had a year on Sony’s console, and most third-party developers were having a difficult time working with the PS3 and its unusual architecture. My friends were on Xbox, which made me lean toward that console for multiplatform releases, too. The first year was pretty dire on that front, and as much as I tried to get into Resistance and Motorstorm, I just couldn’t.
Heavenly Sword was the first game on the console that I felt really spoke to what Sony’s hardware could do. It was absolutely beautiful, it told an interesting story, and (most importantly) it was also a lot of fun. The game features performances from Andy Serkis and a pre-Fringe Anna Torv, who, along with a large supporting cast, breathed life into the characters who inhabited a rich fantasy world.
That world is filled with grotesque enemies, like the serpentine Whiptail and the sadistic Flying Fox. Fortunately, Torv’s heroine, Nariko, doesn’t have to face them alone. She’s accompanied in her adventure by Kai, an almost feral girl who’s a crack shot with a bow. One of the things I loved about the game is how the action shifted between Nariko’s God of War-style melee combat and Kai’s long-ranged sequences. In the latter, you could control arrows in mid-flight using the Sixaxis’ motion sensors, helping her snipe enemies with deadly (if not entirely plausible) accuracy. There was something particularly satisfying about guiding a missile over long range, ultimately landing into a target with a “thwack.”
You can beat the game in about seven or so hours, which strikes me as the perfect length. That’s enough time to learn about the sadistic King Bohan and the prophecies that guide Nariko’s fate without feeling padded. Ninja Theory could have extended things with loads of annoying elevator sequences or endless waves of enemies, but they didn’t. There’s a sense of urgency and progression throughout the game, without a lot of needless fat. I can’t complain about that.
While we haven’t seen a sequel, Nariko hasn’t completely left us. She’s a playable character in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, which is part of September’s PS+ free games promotion. Heavenly Sword itself isn’t available digitally, but you can pick up a used copy for around $7. Not bad for the price of a movie ticket.
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