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Heavenly Sword

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Heavenly Sword is a video game by Ninja Theory for the PlayStation 3 console. It is a martial arts action-drama game with a freestyle combat system.

Gameplay

The gameplay is similar to God of Waras a hack and slash action game. The player plays as Nariko, a female warrior who carries the heavenly sword. The levels are mostly linear and the player spends most of his/her time killing crowds of enemies. Players can use combo attacks to unlock more combinations and bonus content such as making of movies and artwork. The player is able to choose from three stances when playing as Nariko. Speed Stance, the default, provides an even balance between damage and speed, where the sword takes the form of two separate blades. Range Stance allows fast, long-ranging, but weaker attacks, with the sword resembling two blades, chained together. Power Stance is the most powerful, but slowest style, where attacks are made with the Sword in the shape of one large, two-handed blade. Each combo attack performed by the player, without getting damaged, will fill a meter with style points. When the player achieves enough style points, he is able to hit the circle button and trigger to see a cutscene of Nariko finishing the enemy. The player can also play as Kai, a female character who uses a crossbow. Kai has fewer combos than Nariko and is more vulnerable to melee attacks. The arrows can be controlled with the SIXAXIS controller.

Features

  • Player can switch between three distinct stances for different fighting styles
  • Advance AI: Enemies employ intelligent squad-based dynamics in large groups or can fight the player one on one with sophisticated intelligence.
  • Physics based Combat using Dynamic objects. Player can throw enemies & objects at other enemies or use the scenery to their advantage.
  • In-game Cinematography which tells the story.

Storyline

The player plays as Nariko, a woman whose clan has long protected the "Heavenly Sword" which is a god's blade of immense power that slowly drains the user's life-force (if wielded by a mortal). King Bohan is obsessed with the sword's power. Bohan sends his forces to capture Nariko's clan and retrieve the sword. The game starts at the end where Nariko fights against the entire army alone and appears to be winning, but suddenly she weakens as strange markings appear on her skin. She falls to the ground gasping in pain, and then begins a dialogue with the sword, telling the story that began five days earlier.

She begins by saying that she was born on the day that the Heavenly warrior was supposed to be born.

The character Kai is introduced as a childish teenage girl who fights with arrows alongside Nariko. During the defense of their stronghold, the battle goes badly and Nariko draws the Heavenly Sword. She uses it as best she can, but in the end Bohan signals the archers to kill her. She takes a flying leap off the nearby cliff and vanishes.

She wakes some time later, having been found by Kai. Nariko asks her what happened to Shen (her father) and the clan. Kai explains that they told her to hide and that they were captured by Bohan's army. Nariko then explains to Kai that she must find her father and that Kai should keep a look out.

King Bohan's forces capture Shen, but don't have the sword. Bohan tells Nariko's father that his purpose of possessing the sword is to bring order to the tribes of the land. Bohan and his generals then start laughing and Shen spits in his face. They then stop laughing and it is revealed that Roach is Bohan's son and King Bohan despises him. Bohan tells Roach to hang Shen somewhere high so he can be seen by Nariko.

Nariko battles her way through several enemies and defeats General Flying Fox, though he leaves of his own accord and not because she thrashed him. She enters a prison and frees members of her clan. She tries to convince them to help her rescue her father, but they tell her that she should not find her father and that he is probably dead.

When she does find her father, Whiptail mentions that the King told her stories about Nariko and the sword. Whiptail torments Nariko by explaining her that her father wanted to kill her when she was a baby because she was a violation of the prophecy. Nariko asks her father if it is true, and Shen only says that it was not a simple decision. Nariko tells him that he should have killed her and then orders him to leave.

Whiptail then decides to battle Nariko. During this, Nariko baits Whiptail and at one point makes the assertion that Bohan turned her into a monster. Rather than answer the question, she screams and attacks with new fury. In a final strike, Nariko stabs her enemy and severs Whiptail's spine, but the battle weakens her and she collapses.

King Bohan arrives and breaks Whiptail's neck before taking the heavenly sword out of her chest. He orders his men to take Nariko with them.

Kai shoots the guards to help Shen escape, but instead of leaving, Kai insists that she must go find Nariko. Kai makes her way through several gates and corridors to reach her best friend. She tells Kai to find the Heavenly Sword instead of trying to rescue her. At this point she tries to get Kai to be serious by saying it is not a game. Kai becomes more subdued and agrees to help.

She finds the armory and eventually gets the password to enter. Once there, she takes the sword but notices a strange figure in the shadows. Memory hits her as she recalls her mother leaving her hidden in some rocks, only to return later as a corpse held by Flying Fox as he grins and says, "Peek-a-boo, little one!"

Kai cries and screams, then General Flying Fox appears and taunts her about being the sole survivor of her clan. She seizes the sword and flees.

Meanwhile Nariko fights other prisoners in an arena watched by spectators. She manages to rend them unconscious, but then several of Roach's "pets" are set loose on her. After defeating them, she fights Roach. Then from overhead, Kai calls Nariko's name and throws the Heavenly Sword down to her friend. Nariko ends the battle quickly and then escapes the arena, running to find Kai who is still being chased by Flying Fox.

Kai is captured by him and Nariko catches up just in time to see him put a noose around her neck drop the young girl. She hangs from the rope without moving and Nariko thinks she's dead. She fights General Flying Fox again but can't kill him. Then Kai opens her eyes and aims directly at Flying Fox with her crossbow, saying "Peek-a-boo" before pulling the trigger. He dies.

She carries the unconscious, wounded Kai to the last stronghold of her clan and says she will fight. When Shen asks if she will fight for them she replies with obvious anger at him that she is only fighting for Kai's sake. Bohan's army begins the attack and Nariko uses the cannon to hold them off, but just before she goes out to face them on the field alone, her father stops her. He says that he regrets having made her a warrior, but she insists it was the right thing since otherwise she would have died.

As she steps through the gate, the thought occurs to her that not very long ago she only fought because she had no choice. But after wielding the Heavenly Sword, something inside has changed and now she only lives for bloodshed.

After making her way through several hoards of enemies, Nariko is surrounded by King Bohan and his troops. He tells her there is nowhere to go, and suddenly the game is brought back to the beginning of the story where she fell to the ground dying.

At this point Nariko has come to terms with everything that has happened and instead of pleading the sword to help, she tells it what will happen to it if she dies: it will become a trophy to be admired and forgotten, then it will die too. The Heavenly Sword sees the truth of her words and grants her wish.

Suddenly Nariko returns to the battlefield as a goddess radiantly with an ethereal light. She begins to decimate her enemies without hardly trying.

Bohan looks to his raven and begs that it bestow him the power to destroy Nariko. The raven dissolves into smoke that enters his body, making him into a dark raven-winged demon. They fight an epic battle similar to the one foretold in the prophecy of the sword.

Bohan tries to bait her by saying she is nothing and no one will remember her, but she has passed beyond care and says even if no one remembers, she knows she is there and the only thing that matters is that moment. Nariko defeats Bohan in a series of final moves.

At his failure, the demon-raven emerges from his body and King Bohan begs for mercy while lying on the ground. The creature blinds him and flies away. As Bohan screams in pain, Roach hurries up. Bohan hears him and calls him his son in a fatherly voice. Roach looks up at Nariko and asks if she will let him take his father home. She nods and he leaves.

Nariko then approaches her father and the remainder of her clan. Her father tells her she was chosen from heaven, but Nariko tells him that she is not and neither is the sword. Nariko uses all the strength she has left to heal Kai and tells her to hide the sword. Nariko falls to the ground and gives Kai into her father's care.

The scene cuts to Nariko's funeral where she is put on a boat off with many flower petals. The clan watches as it floats down the river and out to the ocean. The last words are Kai's, no longer childish, as she speaks of how Nariko is the only one who ever mastered the sword.

Characters

Nariko is the main character of the game, a young warrior who belongs to a clan headed by her father, Shen. A prophecy once foretold that a son would be born who would act as a saviour to the clan; with the birth of Nariko, a daughter, the clan have come to shun her, and even go so far as to blame their misfortunes on her. After King Bohan launches his destructive tirade to find the Heavenly Sword that the clan protect, Nariko decides to wield it herself as a final act to avenge the people who sacrificed themselves fighting to defend it.


Kai is the adopted sister of Nariko, and a member of the clan which protects the Heavenly Sword. She is a child-like character who seems innocent, but is highly skilled in the use of her crossbow, a "game" which she names "twing twang". Previously belonging to a once-great clan, Kai is the last survivor; her mother was murdered by one of Bohan's generals, Flying Fox (portrayed by Steven Berkoff). Kai was eventually found by Nariko and her clan.

Shen is both the father of Nariko and the leader of the clan that protects the Heavenly Sword. He acts as Nariko's fighting tutor first and father second. For ages he has protected the sword from the forces of evil and corruption. He was once a fellow student with King Bohan before they became the leaders of a separate clan and kingdom, respectively.

King Bohan (portrayed by Andy Serkis) is the main villain in Heavenly Sword. Bohan is a power crazed king desperate to get his hands on the Heavenly Sword. He leads his army in a search to obtain it, attacking Nariko's clan in the process. He obeys and worships a crow which has a gold face plate covering its face.

Flying Fox is the first of King Bohan's war generals. Flying Fox is a rather shifty character, who is capable of appearing in a different spot in an instant. His back is covered with several metallic wings on both sides.

Whiptail is King Bohan's lover and mistress. She has a moray-like like appearance with a tail, forked-tongue, gills, and sharp pointy teeth. She has a love of extreme body modification, as evidenced by her forked tongue, sharp teeth and gill-like cuts on her cheeks. She wears the corpse of an eel atop her head and down her back. She possesses the ability to delve into people's minds.

Roach is King Bohan's illegitimate son. Roach is mentally slow and he often seeks his father's approval. He is very large in stature and his torso resembles a roach's thorax.

Development

Back in 2003, a "concept trailer" for Heavenly Sword appeared, and the game was apparently destined for the Xbox. The game's developer, then known as Just Add Monsters, made one game for Microsoft and then went bust. A year later when next gen consoles came out the game was made exclusive for the PS3.

Heavenly Sword first debut in a video clip on May 16, 2005 at E3 2005. The clip featured a female protagonist, Nariko fighting off many enemies and a dynamic environment in which player can move surrounding object in the environment. It also shows the player ability to swing around enemies and the clip ended with the player firing a cannon with fire at a massive amount of enemies.

On October 25, 2005 Ninja Theory released 10 screen shots of Heavenly Sword on Gamespot. At E3 2006 Heavenly Sword had a playable demo. On May 8 it was announced that Andy Serkis was going to play the role of the King Bohan in Heavenly Sword. Serkis is famous for his CG roles as Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings" and Kong in "King Kong". Serkis is using motion capture for his role. At E3 2006 on May 8, 2006 a trailer for Heavenly Sword was shown which featured gameplay and the features of the AI. Several playable demos of the game was also featured.

The first trailer was released on September 22, 2006 at TGS 2006. It starts with King Bohan explaining the legend of the heavenly sword. Then it shows clips of the gameplay with Nariko killing enemies and ends with the king yelling "Kill her. Wipe her out."

On March 7 2007 a video of the motion capture development was released. The video explains the motion capture used in the game and movements for facial expressions.

On June 7, 2007 a Heavenly Sword trailer was available for download at the PlayStation Store.

On Thursday July 26 the demo was released for the PlayStation Store. The 1GB demo featured a few enemies for the player to combat, and the player can also slide on ropes. The demo is approximately 5-10 minutes long. After the demo the game screen reads, "Redemption arrives in September", tying in with the game's scheduled for release on September 12, 2007 for the U.S. On August 3, 2007 Sony announced that the game will be released in America on September .

The dialogue for the game takes up 10 GB of data and three and a half hours of music and 4500 lines of voice over work, in eleven languages.

On September 11th 2007 A TV ad for Heavenly Sword was released. It features Nariko fighting a mass of enemies in slow motion and a voice saying "Vengeance has never been so beautiful".

Anime

On August 13, 2007, two Heavenly Sword anime films were released for PlayStation G.A.P. members. The anime is in a dark style, using mainly a combination of black and very bright colors.

Heavenly Sword Part 1 - The Legend of the Sword

Heavenly Sword episode one describes the origin of the Heavenly Sword. The anime begins by describing the Raven Lord is a warlord thirsty for power and blood lust. The scene shows a battle field with many soldiers fighting and many people getting killed and burned. Later, mankind was given hope by a warrior who came from the heavens and fought the Raven lord. The warrior was white and had light shining from his body. After the battle was over the warrior vanished, but he left his sword. Thus the legend of the heavenly sword was born and thousands would die for it.

Heavenly Sword Animation Episode 2: Guardians Of The Sword

The second episode describes what happens to the holders of the sword. Men tore each other apart and murdered one another just to obtain and keep the sword. The sword itself also started to feed on the blood of men. Those who wielded it were consumed by it and the sword became a curse upon mankind. The narrator's clan acquired the sword and kept it away from mankind, waiting for the legendary warrior to return and reclaim his sword.

Heavenly Sword Animation Episode 3: Rise of Evil

Episode three was released on August 20th 2007. It features how King Bohan came into power. The scene starts with two boys fighting to become the best in their training academy. Bohan lost the fight and tried to cheat with a dagger but accidentally cut himself in slashes himself across the eye when the other boy blocked him. It then showed Bohan giving the king a drink with poison which the king drank. Bohan becomes king and wanted to become a god, thus he needed the heavenly sword.

Heavenly Sword Animation Episode 4: The Divine Birth

On August 28, 2007, the fourth episode was released. It featured the clan who protected the heavenly sword from mankind and their hardships. It shows the clan defending themselves from warlords and warriors. It explained the day that the heavenly warrior would return in a divine birth and lead civilization into an age of peace and glory.

Heavenly Sword Animation Episode 5: The Day of the Warrior

Episode five features the birth of Nariko. They explained that the divine birth was a violation of the prophecy because the warrior was born a girl. Her father prevented her from getting her killed and she was to live and grow alone. She was blamed for the hardship of the clan. Her father trained her to become a warrior. The clan was then outnumbered and she was their only hope for survival.

Reception

Praise

The game has received generally positive reviews.

The game won Best Graphics of E3 2006 from MTV and Game Critics Awards for Best Fighting Game. Heavenly Sword also won the Best Action/Adventure Game Award from Game Critics at E3 2007.

Reviews of the game have been generally positive. Heavenly Sword was praised for its excellent voice acting, graphics and playability. The game mainly got good ratings for its fighting combos and beautiful animations.

Gamespot: 8.0/10

IGN: 7/10 (press average 8.1)

Game Informer: 8.7/10

Criticism

The game is generally criticized for being too short and having to less varibilities in enemies and their artificial intelligence.

External links

Anime

Trailers

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