The fate of any new console isn't so much about how powerful it is, but the quality of its first party exclusive titles. You only have to look at how significant Gears of War, Project Gotham Racing and Halo have been in establishing Microsoft as a serious player, or how vital Zelda and Mario games are to Nintendo.
But does Heavenly Sword have what it takes to banish the cycle of negativity surrounding the PS3? Certainly from what we've seen so far, it's a very interesting proposition from a technical standpoint, but does it have the crossover potential to be the sort of game you'd buy a PS3 just to play?
With the launch of the game just four months away, we thought it was high time we caught up with Ninja Theory's co-founder Tameem Antoniades and find out how the game's shaping up.
Eurogamer: What have you learned from the experience of making Kung Fu Chaos for Microsoft - i.e. what did you do differently this time to get the amount of pre-release attention that KFC simply didn't generate?
Tameem Antoniades: We learned a lot of lessons. Two of the biggest ones at the time were "Go big or go home!" which every publisher rammed into us, and don't do a cartoony game unless it is an established brand. We also did our own PR and marketing when we didn't have a publisher, which helped us a lot. A big thanks to you guys for supporting and covering us back then!
Eurogamer: What elements of Kung Fu Chaos made it into Heavenly Sword? As presumably you didn't just junk all the good ideas you had and start from scratch.
Tameem Antoniades: Yeah, it does seem like a bit of a leap from KFC to HS, but look closely and you'll see that there are a lot of ideas we have built on.
We learned a fair bit about how to make combat work in a third-person game with multiple enemies, so we really pushed that to the maximum of our abilities. The object interaction we took, too, so that you can pick up and throw pretty much anything in the environment.
The variety of mini-games we had in Kung Fu Chaos made it through to a degree, although it's integrated into the story and action rather than being a separate part. The scale of the levels and richness of animation we pushed to new heights, as we're strong in that area, and the replays with cinematics were pretty cool so we did our best to integrate them into the gameplay.
On top of all that we added loads more layers; things like physics, story, facial performances, interactive audio, group A.I. and armies to name a few.
Ultimately, Heavenly Sword would never have been possible without the experience we gained from making Kung Fu Chaos, even if it is a completely different gameplay style.
Eurogamer: Kung Fu Chaos was one of the few genuinely amusing games of the last generation, yet Heavenly Sword appears to play it with a straight bat. Was that a conscious decision from day one?
Tameem Antoniades: You may well be surprised by the humour in Heavenly Sword!
It will come courtesy of our innate draw towards it and the wicked sense of humour that Andy Serkis has. Most of this revolves around King Bohan and his three Generals, who are sick, sadistic and one of the most dysfunctional "families" ever seen in a film or game.
But, yes, the humour is a lot more subdued than the slapstick approach in Kung Fu Chaos. We wanted to make something with feeling that could affect you at a deeper emotional level, so the themes are more character-based this time.
We've always maintained that the big difference between the last generation and this one is that we can create more believable characters and stories, so we've pushed in that direction by collaborating with people who are the best in their fields, such as Andy Serkis, Weta Digital and Nitin Sawhney.
Eurogamer: What helped influence the game setting? What kind of hero are you trying to create, and, conversely, how have you made the bad guys interesting to those of us who've fought a zillion nefarious maniacs over the decades? Who's the history buff on the team?
Tameem Antoniades: There are quite a few kung fu and samurai movie buffs on the team, including myself. And I'm satisfied we have created a fantasy setting that feels grounded and could easily be built upon in future.
The hero we tried to create was one that was strong and beautiful, yet vulnerable and tragic. In a way I think we created a typical Eastern or European hero - one that favours inner strength over American outer strength.
Eurogamer: The art style is very strikingly different. Who came up with the art direction, what were the influences there, and how hard was it to fit the design around the overall look of the game?
Tameem Antoniades: We wanted to make a beautiful, dreamy Wuxia experience like Hero or Crouching Tiger. So rather than go for realism we went for a stylistic look revolving around scale, lighting and movement.
Originally we wanted something authentically Eastern, but quickly found it to be derivative and restricting. Game worlds just have to look larger than life to be interesting, so we ran with our imaginations and found every excuse to make it more stylish and over-the-top at every turn.
There were lots of hands involved in shaping the visuals, mood, animation, and feel of the game, so there's no one person that I can pick out above others. It's been a team effort and lots of excellent talent has helped make Heavenly Sword what it is. I am proud of what we have achieved from such humble beginnings.
Eurogamer: What games would you say Heavenly Sword has most in common with? If we were lazy and trying to encourage a mate to buy it, our first impressions suggest it's Prince of Persia meets God of War. Is that on the money?
Tameem Antoniades: If you really want a small list of influences and inspirations, how about this: the poetic beauty of ICO, the dynamic action of Panzer Dragoon Orta, the extreme style of Devil May Cry, the depth of combat of Virtua Fighter, the visual emotion of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, the "wire-fu" style of Yuen Woo Ping, the over-the-top action of Kung Fu Hustle, the madness of Versus and the scale of Lord of the Rings.
But we've always made things our own and pushed them into areas we were interested in going. So I would really prefer the game to be judged on its own merits, as it really isn't the same experience as any of the games or movies I mentioned.
Eurogamer: We last saw the game at the Tokyo Game Show in 2006. How far has it come since then? What improvements have been made and which areas have been refined?
Tameem Antoniades: 90 per cent of the game is pretty much done now, bar polishing, balancing, and bug-fixing. It has been fleshed out fully and there have been improvements in too many areas to mention.
I'd rather not try and hype it up anymore than it is now. It's an enjoyable game with lots of eye-popping moments, and if it entertains and sells, then I, and many of our team members who have invested years into it, will sleep easy.
Eurogamer: Our biggest concerns when we played the game in Tokyo were the camera positioning and the potential lack of variety. How do you ensure that the the experience stays fresh throughout?
Tameem Antoniades: I got so much flak from the team for your comments about the camera!
I was aware that in shows around 10-50 people stand and watch each person play. So I thought we should get the camera nice and close to Nariko to help introduce her and make her look cool. But the camera is actually further out for normal gameplay, and we've added a look-around feature you can use by tilting the sixaxis or pressing the shoulder buttons. The idea is that you can peek left and right while fighting, just like you would in real life.
As for variety, well, I'm not surprised you found a lack of it, as you only got to play in a single room! But Heavenly Sword actually has a fair bit; I'd say more than most games in this genre. Hopefully you'll see that the combat system requires some brains as well as reflexes, so it should be fun and challenging throughout.
Eurogamer: What sort of different areas and situations can we expect from the full package?
Tameem Antoniades: There's quite a few weapons that we've created gameplay sections around, like the cannon and the bazooka. In combat we go right up from tricky one-on-one boss battles to group fights against coordinated enemies, even up as far as epic encounters against thousands of enemies.
We've thrown in some skill-based puzzles for good measure, too, plus a few surprises we're holding close to our chests for now. Also the pace of the story and scenarios is quite intense - I guess we've inherited that from Kung Fu Chaos as well.
Eurogamer: How would you differentiate the combat, controls, and general gameplay of Heavenly Sword against titles like Ninja Gaiden, God of War, and Devil May Cry?
Tameem Antoniades: Heavenly Sword is a game that aims to create the feeling you are in a blockbuster movie, and that cinematic ethos is carried through to the combat.
In terms of mechanics and controls, it's the unique free-form multi-stance combat engine, use of objects and weapons, and the scale of the encounters that sets this game apart. I would say the fighting is unlike any of the games you mentioned, although it's in the same genre. It's a sizeable evolution, I believe.
Eurogamer: Multiplayer is obviously a big part of any next-gen game, but we haven't heard a great deal about how you're approaching this side of things. Can you reveal any more, and explain the decision for taking this approach?
Tameem Antoniades: There's no multiplayer mode in Heavenly Sword because our plan was always to create an intense and personal experience - it would have been too damn complex to deal with that as well.
We did, however, develop the combat system using multiplayer test levels, as it's a great way of soak testing and balancing it. So who knows? Maybe we will decide to go down that route sometime soon. And when we do, it won't just be slapped-on to please marketing tick-boxes. You can be assured that we have our sights on multiplayer.
Eurogamer: Heavenly Sword is fantastic looking game, no question. How much of the PlayStation 3's capabilities do you think you've used? Is it the first game to really tap into the true potential of the console?
Tameem Antoniades: We are pushing it bloody hard - that's for sure! But this is our first-generation engine for PS3, so there's certainly a lot more in the machine to give. And, more importantly, there's more in us to give it.
Eurogamer: Does having the potential to make your game larger by using the extra storage capacity of Blu-ray make a difference to you? And does the fact each player will have a hard drive as standard yield any particular benefits?
Tameem Antoniades: We have stuffed the Blu-ray disc with data. It's full up, and we actually struggled to get it all in! If we had more room then we would have filled that up too! It's the law of game development that you can never have too much.
The hard drive really helps with caching and streaming data, letting us minimize load times as much as humanly possible, which is crucial with all this hi-definition data.
Eurogamer: Do you have plans to expand on Heavenly Sword with a sequel, expansion packs, or downloadable content?
Tameem Antoniades: If the game sells and Sony is up for it, then anything is possible! I'd love to do all of the things you mentioned.
Eurogamer: Have you signed up to do more games for Sony?
Tameem Antoniades: We've got no long-term deal with Sony. We are an independent company so we're free to work on any game or platform we want - although we'd love to continue working on the PS3.
Eurogamer: Will we see Heavenly Sword on the PSP in some form in the future?
Tameem Antoniades: If you do, we would take care to ensure we made the best use of the PSP platform. Heavenly Sword was always designed to push high-end next-gen technology, so we would probably create something based in the same world to complement the PS3 experience.
Eurogamer: When can we expect a demo of Heavenly Sword in Europe?
Tameem Antoniades: I really don't know about that, but I can at least confirm there will be one.
A big thank you to Tameem for answering our questions. Heavenly Sword is due out on PS3 in September.