A Little Taste of Heaven

The Heavenly Sword Demo came out early today on the PSN Store, and I downloaded the almost 1 Gigabyte-sized chunk of gaming straightaway. The good news is, the demo gives players a nice, free look and feel at one of the most anticipated games coming to the PS3 in the very near future. The bad news? It’s so frickin’ short.

As with the Demo showed during the last E3, you start with a cutscene with lead heroine Naruko and her younger, adopted sister Kai. If you’ve been monitoring Heavenly Sword for any length of time, you’ll have seen this segment. Naruko and Kai are up on a cliff, watching over a former temple of learning now under the control of King Bohan’s troops. Apparently Naruko’s father and clanmates are held within, so she’s off to find them. She leaves Kai (whom we see apparently doesn’t have all the lights on in her house, so to speak) to go and keep watch, and as the younger girl goes off to hide, Naruko is off to rescue Poppa.

You can get familiar with the controls on the cliff before going to the adjacent rope (marked with an ‘X’ prompt if you go near), which include two buttons (Square and Triangle) for attacks, the left stick or D-pad for movement, the right stick for evades and the L1 and R1 buttons for switching to the Ranged and Power Stances respectively. The X button lets you grab things and throw them, while the Circle unleashes your Super Style moves. You can do counters by pressing Triangle at the moment you block an attack- this usually results in a flashy cutscene showing Naruko kick someone in the nuts or worse- very satisfying.

Anyway, you fight through two skirmishes in the demo; the fight on the large pillar (which you reach only after passing a couple of interactive cutscenes) which has a platoon of soldiers swarming at Naruko once she lands on the plateau. You can make the fight a bit harder by NOT succeeding in the last interactive cutscene, wherein you kick off the Axe-wielding warrior from the pillar, instantly killing him. If you let him live, he proceeds to be your main enemy for the fight, using power attacks and some unblockable strikes to keep you on your tippy-toes.

Once you clear off the enemies on the pillar, another interactive cutscene occurs as Naruko cuts a vital support rope, sending the whole pillar crashing onto a guard station below. The second fight thus erupts, though this is far easier since there are only all low-level, basic grunts to fight. If you fought well enough in the earlier battle, you can actually exterminate everyone pretty much instantly using a Super Style move (pressing Circle). This will abruptly end the fight as the doors are smashed in by several Axemen, and the demo comes to a close.

The Heavenly Sword demo is pretty fun. It’s an earlier build of the game, so there are unpolished bits that will get ironed out in the final, retail game. Anyone expecting another God of War, Devil May Cry or Prince of Persia may be disappointed- the battle system is very different with the absence of a block and jump button, but once you find out what you can do and start kicking arse, it’s pretty satisfying. It’s not rocket science though, so if you want to, you will learn how to take down names with Naruko pretty quickly.

That all said, again- the demo’s gosh-darned too short. I want to see more of the game’s compelling story and lush cinematic cutscenes that have been touted to Kingdom Come thanks to Andy Serkis‘ participation, and I want to play Twing-Twang with Kai and tussle with the game’s colorful bosses. Just a couple more weeks I guess- Heavenly Sword is set for release on PS3 this September.

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