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- This article is about the game. For the checkpoint, see The Heavenly Sword. For the weapon, see Heavenly Sword (Weapon).
Heavenly Sword is a single-player action-adventure video game developed exclusively for Playstation 3 by Ninja Theory and published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. The game was released in September and November 2007 throughout North America, Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
The game's story and mythos revolves around the titular Heavenly Sword, a blade said to have been wielded by an unnamed Heavenly deity against a demonic warlord known as the Raven Lord. After the battle was won and the Raven Lord defeated, the sword was left in the mortal realm, becoming the center of wars over its power. The fighting made the sword lust after the life of its wielders, eventually killing them after a few days. A warrior tribe finally took charge of the sword, ending the wars and pledging to keep it safe and unused for the world's own good. Among the tribe, a legend said that the sword's original owner would be reborn in the year of the "fire-horse", and that this figure would reunite the world's scattered tribes and lead them to the "Promised Land".
In that year is when the main character, Nariko, is born. Soon after her mother dies, she's immediately reviled by her clanmates as a mockery of the prophecy and a portent of doom. Fast forward 23 years, a tyrannical ruler named King Bohan is determined to bring the world's tribes to heel and pave the way for a new golden age and, for that, he seeks the Heavenly Sword. Nariko, now a highly skilled young warrior, is shouldered with the task of protecting the sword from him. However, she eventually decides to wield the Heavenly Sword and exact vengeance for all those who died in its name. Can she end Bohan's invasion and fulfil the prophecy before the sword drains her life?
Looking back over the last few days of her life, Nariko begins to share her story...
The gameplay of Heavenly Sword resembles a martial arts title focused on melee combat while featuring plenty of opportunities for ranged attacks. The main character, Nariko, uses the eponymous "Heavenly Sword" which changes between three forms (Speed, Range or Power) depending on the attack style the player favours, while also offering challenges revolving around these forms.
In addition to Nariko, a secondary character, named Kai, is controlled for some portions of the game. She's more focused on sniping missions, using her crossbow to pick off enemies or to protect characters.
For exploration and certain battles, the game sometimes uses quick time events (QTE), which must be matched correctly to successfully complete the scene. The game also made extensive use of the motion-sensing capabilities of the PS3's SIXAXIS controller for projectiles through a feature known as Aftertouch. Such projectiles include guiding Kai's arrows after firing, Nariko's cannon launcher or other throwing objects.
There's also a form of upgrade for Nariko's swordsmanship in the game by obtaining glyphs, which are rewarded to the player at the end of a level based on their performance. Normally, avoiding damage and getting high combos are good ways of achieving all 129 glyphs.
Heavenly Sword began development in 2002 with footage of the original PC version published on TeamXbox.com in 2004. It had, at one time, been up and running on an early Xbox 360 prototype, but this was abandoned in favor of the PlayStation 3 when the title was picked up by SCEE. The game was developed using Havok Complete, a combination of Havok Physics and Havok Animation.
Actor Andy Serkis, who is best known for his motion capture and voice work for the character Gollum in the The Lord of the Rings movies, performed as the voice and motion capture actor for King Bohan, one of the major characters in Heavenly Sword; he also acted as Dramatic Director for the game and was one of the writers of the story of the game. Serkis is not the only familiar name attached to the game as main character Nariko was voiced by Australian actress Anna Torv, who played Agent Olivia Dunham in the television series Fringe. Nariko's facial features were also based on Torv's, who participated in motion capture for the game in March 2007.
A demo was released to the PlayStation Store on July 26, 2007 featuring a short, cinematic clip at the beginning and two brief enemy battles, lasting approximately five to ten minutes. An eight-second clip of the game was seen in an episode of the TV series Heroes entitled "Parasite", ostensibly being played by Jessica Sanders and her son, Micah. It featured Nariko running across ropes as they were cut by Bohan's soldiers, before landing on the platform to face them. While the episode was broadcast over four months before the actual release of the game, the level displayed remained in the released build, including the rope sequence shown.
Sony and Ninja Theory also made five "making of" videos about the production of Heavenly Sword, with each one detailing a certain aspect of the games production, from music to motion capture. The videos can either be unlocked while playing the game or downloaded from the PlayStation Store.
Nitin Sawhney composed the music for the soundtrack. It was performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Stephen Hussey. Tameem Antoniades of Ninja Theory said "we have our big orchestral soundtrack but we wanted to add a more ethnic element and marry those two together. There are actually very few musicians in the world who are experts in both areas. Nitin Sawhney is one of them". Sawhney stated that his creation of "musical textures take in everything from Hollywood, European and Chinese cinema to Indian and middle eastern instrumentation through the orchestras and soloists hovering between sonic tidal waves and reflective moments of intimate grace".
A series of Heavenly Sword animated episodes were released prior to the launch of the game itself, acting as a prequel to the events of the game. The series, which consists of five episodes, was produced by London production company Blinkink and animated by CHASE animation studios. The videos were made available both online and through the PlayStation Store. The first two videos were also included on the retail version of the game; the latter three videos were not ready in time to be included. The style of the animated series differs from the graphics of the game itself. The animated series relies on a simple and stylized 2D look, which allowed director Ben Hibon to "create a complete visual re-interpretation of Heavenly Sword's world and its inhabitants".
Heavenly Sword sold over one million copies by May 2008. The game has been praised for its graphics and combat system, while criticism stemmed from the short length of the game and lack of online capabilities. It received an aggregated score of 79/100 on Metacritic. GamesRadar featured Kai in the article "Freakish Fashion" in 2007, and Nariko as a "game babe" sex symbol also in 2007. In 2009, MSN featured Nariko in the article "Gaming's Hottest Babes". In 2013, she was ranked as the 18th greatest heroine in video game history by Complex.