Ah, Heavenly Sword. Yes, the PS3 launch game commonly derided for being too short, too shallow, a pale shameless reflection of God Of War. One of the great moments of the PS3 generation?
Ninja Theory’s ninja epic, still a lavish visual feast, was used to loudly declare the power of PS3’s bespoke CELL processor. With every movement motion captured, every line delivered by named actors and all the cut scenes directed by Andy Serkis, it was heralded as the next evolution in video gaming. However, there was a big problem – the actual game mechanics, while focussed, were far less intuitive and varied as the action stars Heavenly Sword was so eager to replicate. No jump button, three move sets and foggy multiple key combos didn’t help define star Nariko’s impact, instead creating a reputation of inadequacy and mediocrity. The identikit enemies mashed into enclosed rooms further amplified the negativity.
It didn’t look like Heavenly Sword could be the star of any generation, least of all one that featured such finely-tuned fighters as Bayonetta and Kratos. The promise of the (then) new generation shoved Nariko onto the backburner for many players. However, as the generation unfolded and marketing hyperbole was replaced by measurable experiences, something strange happened. Against this new backdrop, Heavenly Sword actually started looking better.
I returned at first for Nariko herself. Beautifully animated and fantastically voiced by Fringe‘s Anna Torv, she is a symbol of dutiful tenacity. Every move she makes is echoed by her swathe of red hair, framing the deadly ballet underneath. Once she takes hold of the titular sword, her effort in swinging such a huge – and, ultimately cursed – blade is truly tangible. It’s here that the tight move set starts making real sense. Each shoulder button instantly switches to a new fighting type, reflected in the abilities of the sword. Soon, the various moves start to seamlessly blend together and, coupled with some fantasticly meaty hit-pause connections and acrobatic up-close finishing moves, it enables the player to transform Nariko into a stunning slaying machine. When you get to this point, it’s a feeling of breathtaking beauty.
But, the voice of the people had now established that it was a Bad Game, and Ninja Theory moved on to the immensely less satisfying Enslaved before reimagining Devil May Cry for Capcom. Last year, some concept art cropped up for a cancelled Heavenly Sword sequel that seemed to show Nariko using her moves to escape the hell to which the sword had doomed her. It looked fantastic and really underlined the game’s effect now we can frame it against the whole generation, but this is probably not a game we’ll ever see now. And so Heavenly Sword drifted into “so much potential” obscurity.
Until this year. In a complete surprise announcement, an animation company showed the trailer for an animated version of the game’s story, set to be released in the first part of 2014. If this could somehow trigger a full sequel then the Heavenly Sword faithful might finally be able to spend time with Nariko’s deadly dance slicing through the hordes once more.
Great Moments Of The Generation will return on Monday. Happy weekend!