Heavenly Sword Reader Review
So, I was walking through JB hifi by myself (for some reason woman don't like warehouse style music/game/hifi equipment shops as much as men - at least my wife doesn't) when I saw that a whole crop of PS3 titles I had always wondered about were now effectively in the bargain bin. I grabbed a couple, among them Heavenly Sword for $49AU.
Now, I read reviews, love reviews (at least good ones), love EG reviews because they tend to be a bit more meaningful than most, but I'm not here to go over what all the reviews have said. I'm just going to throw a few (odd) points out there for anyone who missed this game first time round, and might be interested in it now that it's dropped in price.
This is, as everyone knows, a fighting/adventure game. I have cut my teeth on the Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry games, so I felt pretty comfortable right away. About half way through playing it, if I had of summed it up in a sentence, maybe to write a blurb on the back of the box I would have said:
"Experience a story that takes seriousness and melodrama to new heights, battles that take button mashing combos to new depths, the odd occasional frustrating bit, and environments that only a few years back might have been impossible."
Or something equally uninspiring. Probably why I don't write blurbs.
It took a little while to get used to it. There's no jump button for one - wow did that annoy me, at least until I started using the roll function a bit more. However, something did click for me around half an hour in. Funnily enough it centered around the main characters' eyes. Hard to explain, but if you've ever read a book where the author refers to the eyes as windows to the soul or something, you might get the idea. Of all the things they do well in the game, it's the eyes that got me. They glint, they shine, they express emotions - it's really quite remarkable.
So, I kept playing to see the cut scenes, get another look at those eyes, when I started to realize that the fighting wasn't actually bad. The only real problem with it is that unlike the crispness of NG, or DMC, as long as you can roll around you can almost button mash. In fact, if you chose an attack button (square or triangle), make sure to tap the right analogue stick to roll occasionally, and then hit the right/left bumpers to change stances every now and then, little will trouble you. Before you know it you'll have made it through most of the battles. The boss fights are a little different, mainly for two things - quick-time button press sequences that crop up at odd moments, and a need to ramp up the speed of how fast you move. Other than that though, not much different.
The characters are strange. Very serious - which can be dangerous with bad writing - but here they actually almost pull it off. The freaks that surround the main bad guy are a little too freaky though - something that pulls you out of the story a little. They are all acted exceptionally well, but really, if you are going to write such as serious story, you need to put in bad guys that people can take, well, you know, seriously...
The two main women are fantastic though. It took me a while to warm to them, but there really was something there for me. The little nutbag crossbow wielding girl was great fun - the sixaxis controls to direct her arrows really worked for me - and of course the main heroine, at least after halfway through, really does work well. And the voice acting for everyone is just wonderful.
I have to admit that when I hit the final battle, I had just breezed through most of it, vaguely impressed by most things, truly impressed by some things, curious to know where it was going. Then I got a reality check. You see, to get to the last battle you don't really have to know how to play the game.
No joke. You can make it through pretty much every battle/boss until the last by the strategy I outlined above, and you'll probably do it because it's the rhythm that you naturally fall into. However, the last battle suddenly requires you to be far more strategic. And when you get it, or at least, when I got it, I gained a new appreciation of the fighting mechanics. Timing was essential, planning and reacting were suddenly required, and when the bad guy finally went down I had lost very little health, and was every bit the hero I was supposed to be. Quite satisfying. And I really did like the end sequence once I'd completed it.
Other than, of course, being frustrated that the rest of the game hadn't bothered to make me play it properly.
I should mention the shield throwing bits - I'm pretty sure they will put some people off, but they are brief, and not particularly hard. Sometimes you have to think outside the box a little though. Maybe throw a shield to a better place before starting the puzzle, rather than running over to the boxes to grab a new one. Just a little hint. And as I said, the sixaxis controls worked great for me.
So, that's it. A bit random and rambling, and I probably haven't given you all you need to know to sway you to buy it, but that wasn't really my intention. For the record, I'd say buy it. As a game there are better ones, but as a development teams' vision, there's something quite special about it. I bought it out of curiosity, but I'll keep it, maybe even play it again (though on the harder difficulty that became available on completion), because there is a true sense of artistic vision in the game that by the end, gives it real gravitas. And that's not something I can say about many games.