Archive for July, 2009

The Face-off! God of War vs Heavenly Sword

Posted in Heavenly Sword, Ninja Theory with tags , , , , on July 9, 2009 by HeavenlyNariko

Nariko vs Kratos

This weeks edition of Faceoff pits two of Sony’s premiere action/adventure titles against one another. In one corner we have God of War, a franchise three titles deep, with a fourth (and supposedly final) title hitting store shelves in March 2010. And in the other corner, we have the underdog title, Heavenly Sword, which didn’t recieve the amount of praise and support it should have from the media and gamers considering it’s quality. Many people accused the title of simply being Goddess of War, because on the surface, the titles looked very similar, but anyone who has played both will testify to how very differenct they both play and feel.

Once again, we’ll be comparing the games in the key categories of Story, Controls, Gameplay, and Graphics. Who will emerge victorious? Let Faceoff begin!

God of War – Kratos is a man with a mission. As leader of the Spartan army, he was betrayed by the God of War Ares after offering up his soul to the god in exchange for giving him the strength to battle an adversary that was killing him. Ares grants his wish, and Kratos ascends to the ranks, until a fateful encounter at a village he is raizing to the ground opens his eyes to the truth. Kratos vows vengeance on the god that betrayed him, and his quest begins, taking him all over Rome, and even through time itself. He battles many a mythological creature, from Cyclop’s to Medusa and even the greatest of all gods, Zeus himself.

As a character, Kratos embodies pure, unadulterated rage and hatred. He is singular in his focus to take down Ares (and any other gods who get in his way), and he will do whatever it takes to reach his goals. In combat, he is a brutal warrior, having been grafted with a weapon called the Blades of Chaos, which are seared to his wrists, and connected to chains, allowing him to use them in close and mid to long range combat.

Despite his singular focus, there is a depth to Kratos, and even a bit of humanity hidden beneath his ghostly ashen skin (I will not explain why his skin is ashen for those that have not played the games, but it is significant, and Kratos is often referred to as the Ghost of Sparta). Throughout the three released titles in the series (God of War, God of War 2, and God of War: Chains of Olympus), we are given glimpses of that humanity, but for the most part, we regularly see Kratos decapicate, crush, and dismember his foes.

While his motives remain understandable, he is hard to relate to for the most part as a human character, because, in reality, he really isn’t one anymore. His brutal dispatching of countless enemies (human and mythological alike) is a bit of a wall.

For those that want to indulge in their rage, however, there is no better character in gaming. There are a plethora of supporting characters that Kratos encounters on his journey, though they generally don’t stay in the tale long (barring a few key characters like Zeus and Athena). Fans of Greek and Roman mythology will most certainly get a kick out of seeing the dark interpretations of these classic characters. The story plays out like an epic Greek or Roman tragedy.
Heavenly Sword – Nariko is the daughter of Shen, leader of a clan of people who’s task is to protect an ancient weapon of great power called the Heavenly Sword. The sword was once welded by a man of great power, who saved the clan from destruction many years ago. The sword was then passed down from generation to generation for protection, until a prophecy stating that in the year of the Fire Horse, the owner of the sword would be reborn, and once again claim what it his, and save his people from the tyranny of Lord Bohan, an evil King who ursurped the throne from his father decades before.

Time passed, and the year of Fire Horse came. Master Shen and his wife prepare to give birth to what they expect to be the rightful owner of the Heavenly Sword. The baby comes, and it is a girl. The clan is crestfallen, and look upon Nariko as a curse. Her mother dies during childbirth, and she is raised by her father in the ways of combat.

Despite the clan’s misgivings, upon Nariko’s 23rd birthday, Shen gives her the Heavenly Sword to protect, as many a generation have done before. She is cautioned to never use the sword, as only the chosen one can weld it without being drained of his lifeforce. In one fateful moment, however, Nariko is forced to use the sword, sealing her fate.

As a character, Nariko is excellently realized. She is intelligent, cunning, and a fierce warrior, even before she uses the Heavenly Sword for the first time. She is beautiful, with long, firey red hair, and a slim figure (though not voluptuous, like many female game leads before her). She is loyal to her clan and father, despite how they both treat her, though the person she loves the most is Kai, a girl she rescued years ago, and raises as a sister.

Nariko has depth and grace, even when slaughtering hundreds of Bohans troops. Her actions are always in service to the story or her character, and she is, ultimately, one of the best new characters in gaming.

Kratos and Nariko are so different, it’s actually rather hard to determine who is the better character. Kratos is pure rage, while Nariko is pure gracefulness. Kratos is out for revenge, while Nariko is looking out for her people, despite the fact that most of them see her as a curse. Both are strong willed and cunning.

I’ll have to give the edge to Nariko in the character department, simply because she is more relatable as a human being than the agent of chaos that is Kratos. It ultimately depends on what your mood is for that day.

Games that nobody plays anymore – Heavenly Sword

Posted in Heavenly Sword, Ninja Theory with tags on July 1, 2009 by HeavenlyNariko

What a load of crap, I still play Heavenly Sword but then again I’m a BIG fan Nariko

It’s hard to recall but this was one of the big PS3 releases, drumming up massive E3 excitement over the rolling demo several years ago. On first glance it’s just Goddess of War, twin blades twirling, quicktime eventful and featuring an epic, mature, Conan-style fantasy storyline. To be absolutely honest, the first impressions aren’t too far off. This is every bit as action-packed as Kratos’ journeys, if considerably less gruesome. What sets HS apart is the level of elegance, both in the games heroine, and the design and flow of the game itself. Rather than just mashing the buttons and flailing the blades of Chaos, there’s a little more Ninja Gaiden-style switching of stances and timing of blows. Hammering square will get you blocked and killed fast. You have to time and counter. Nariko arcs about the screen, a lady-shaped death-machine, but each button-press has to be managed. There’s no hand-holding here. You have to earn your awesomeness.

The reason this game stands out in the mind, and why when you’ve finished it, it will stay with you and leave you wondering why other games don’t do it that way is the performances turned in by the mo-cap and voiceover actors. Gollum himself; Andy Serkis plays Bohan the tyrannical and brawny villain, injecting every line with easy, almost likable, poisonous charisma. He’s not some gloating D-lister with pretensions on being Emperor Palpatine, this is an award-winning actor at home in a digital role. He’s more like the terrifying man you meet in the pub and pray you’ll get away from before he snaps and you get a pool cue in the eye. The man who would be Kong also took up the role of dramatic director for the rest of the cast, and it shows. Every line is committed to, every emotion feels true. If every voice director in gaming took this much time and effort to get his crew emoting then games would honestly be further down the road to being taken as seriously as films. Nariko, Bohan, Kai, Shen are all excellent characters, none of them stereotyped, all of them interesting, with strengths and frailties making them far more human than we’re used to in this medium.

Looking back on the game, it’s really a pretty slick but standard slasher. Golden Axe brought right up to date (and not like the atrocity that was Beast Rider) but the reason to find this game again is that if you own a PS3 and if you’re looking forward to God of War III for reasons of story and character as well as action then you owe it to yourself to get this played in the meantime. It has some annoying sections involving crossbows and catapults and the sixaxis controls, but a little perseverance, aiming first and keeping a cool head will get these completed. Criminally overlooked on release and not likely to see the sequel it probably doesn’t need, this stands alone as a time when Ninja Theory (They of Kung Fu Chaos) truly excelled and made an action game with a bit of heart and soul for a change.