Button Bashing – a term gamers use a fair bit for titles that require little skill other than fat fingers to mash all four buttons in one go quickly. It is also the term most gamers labelled Heavenly Sword as, based on their experience with the PSN demo that was released.
Admittedly the 5 minute demo that was released did feel a bit of a button basher. There’s something about the full game though that changes that feel. Throughout the game, you play as the rather gorgeous Nariko, a pretty red headed warrior trained in all types of warfare, and outcast by her clan. The story unfolds with King Bohan (that’s the bad guy!) wanting to gain the supernatural power of the Heavenly Sword, which is eventually protected by Nariko.
The main aspect of the game focuses on the warfare. Straight from the off, you’re put into the middle of a massive fight, with thousands of enemies launching themselves at you at once. When a game starts off with such intensity, you just know that it’s going to be a hit.
There is a huge amount of satisfaction smashing six or seven enemy foes with one powerful heavenly sword swing. When wielding the Heavenly Sword, you have three main types of attack. There is the normal speed attack, which is simply done by pressing the attack buttons, the range attack, which is done by holding the L1 button and then bashing the attack buttons, or the powerful attack (a personal favourite), executed by holding R1 whilst attacking. Different enemies will be beaten by different attacks – if you’re surrounded by a load of them, the range attack is best for pushing them back and giving yourself time. The larger enemies are best attacked with the powerful attack, which can break their block allowing you to hit them where it hurts!
The main thing that keeps this game from being an all-out button basher is the combos. As you progress through the game, if you fight well by blocking and stringing together hits, you’ll get rewarded with new combos. There seems to be an almost unending amount of combos, considering you have combos within each type of attack, plus you can then combine those combos with other attack combos. For example, you could start with a power attack combo, but then switch to a range attack mid-combo to create a new one. You’ll soon find yourself trying to perfect the combos based on your situation, and instead of just mashing the buttons, you’ll be thinking about the attacks you’ll want to make.
The game is nicely split up with a few simple puzzles, and some range attacking. For some of the game you play as Kai, Nariko’s younger sister. Kai is a cross bow specialist, and so for some of the game, you’ll have to tactically use Kai’s athletic ability to dodge enemies, get some distance, and take them out with an arrow to the head. Sadly though, there isn’t much variety to Kai’s levels, and so although it splits up the games somewhat similar fighting aspects, there isn’t enough of it, nor is there enough of a variation to it.
Annoyingly, the game can also sometimes feel a bit easy. It’s rewarding taking out heaps of enemy fighters with one swing, but even when you lower your guard and get a smack around the head, you don’t really lose that much of your health – and if you do somehow manage to get low on health, you can quite easily find a red health box to recover during a fight. That being said, it doesn’t detract too much from what is actually a very addictive title.
And coupled with that addiction is some quite stunning graphics. If you’ve played the PSN demo, you’d of been fed a taste of the superb graphical ability of the PS3. Throughout Heavenly Sword, there are plenty of mind-blowing scenes, and the impressive dynamic camera angles that add to the scenery.
Although somewhat of a short single-player game (about 7-10 hours worth) and no multi-player gaming to keep the longevity, Heavenly Sword is still a great game. The fighting feels a bit of a button bash affair to start with, but as you progress and unlock new combos, you’ll soon find yourself tactically using your attacks to get the best out of each battle. With stunning graphics, and decent storyline and addictive gameplay, Heavenly Sword gets a well deserved 87%.