(SCEA for PS3)
By Mike Delano
Is it possible to fall in love with a video game character? In the past, they were just a mess of blocky sprites, worthy of no real affection. Nowadays, technology can render them more realistically than ever, but they’re usually either a grunting soldier oaf or an impossibly-proportioned female fantasy fulfillment. It’s a testament to the success of the storytelling and character creation in Heavenly Sword that you might actually feel something in your gut for the heroine, Nariko. Sure, she’s built for desire, merging the grace and poise of Cate Blanchett with the body and irresistible cuteness of Olivia Munn, but something about her struggle with the cursed sword of the title resonates in a way that few video games do. Clichés abound in the story, but the excellent motion-captured cut scenes and overall sterling presentation overshadow the by-the-numbers plot. Disappointing gameplay mechanics, however, is what keeps the game from achieving heavenly status. Nariko’s varied sword attacks are smooth and satisfying, as are the occasional motion-sensitive arrow-guiding segments of the game, but the absence of any platforming whatsoever prevents the kind of immersion offered by the best adventure games. You’re thrown into, and just as quickly pulled out of, the various battles and puzzles with no opportunity to explore or make even the slightest detour from your predetermined path. That might be the price we have to pay for the game’s triumphs in the other areas of its design, but it also means that while Heavenly Sword is a must-play, it lacks the compulsive replayability of its Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry big brothers.