Heavenly Sword

by Angela Simpson

Every once in a while a female gaming hero comes along that makes you proud to be a gamer. Not since Lara Croft has such a cool female gaming hero appeared. Nariko in the PS3 title Heavenly Sword is one such character. We tribute Nariko, warrior, cool chick, sword wielder and 'hell-whore' - yes she really was called this in game by the bad guy.

Nariko, Heavenly Sword

Nariko is the protagonist of the PS3 title Heavenly Sword. She is an amazing character, a complete dichotomy, she has great strength, yet is also a vulnerable soul. In many ways Nariko touches upon what made the character of Lara Croft so endearing to the gamer, strong, yet vulnerable, adventuress yet lady like. Although Lara and Nariko are worlds apart in story and existence, there is something there that almost binds them together, not least of all is the fact that they are two of the coolest female games characters ever to have graced a gaming platform.

Nariko's mother died when she was born, a fact her father (Shen) could never quite come to terms with. For this reason he withdrew and  took on his role as chief of the clan over the role of father. He neglected Nariko as a daughter, instead opting to train her in clan warfare. This leads the character of Nariko to be a pained soul, something that comes across in the game wonderfully.  It is this depth of character that lends the player an emotional attachment to Nariko, you want her to win, you want her to live. Not only that, but her background is intriguing. You want to find out as much as you can about her, ever y piece of information gives extra insight into this hero that fights with honor and dignity.

As in most tales where a ‘chosen’ one is prophesised to be born and one day save the world, so goes the story in Heavenly Sword. It was said that one day a son would be born who would save the clan, When Nariko was born, she was seen as a sort of curse, which led to a difficult childhood.  With her clan coming to dislike her, believing her to be a curse, Nariko is a lone soul, save but for her adopted sister Kai, another playable character in the Heavenly Sword game.  Throughout the game, consistent references are made to Nariko not quite being good enough and this of course rings true to many women throughout history. You can see great strength and a desire to please in the character of Nariko, all coming from this feeling of never quite being enough.

Nariko, Heavenly Sword

As if one playable female character isn’t fantastic enough, Ninja Theory the developers of Heavenly Sword give us Kai, Nariko’s adopter sister. Kai was found by Nariko all alone after her family were killed - Nariko made her part of her clan and family. Kai is a brilliant character in her own right, but what makes her so extra special is her ability to show how deep Nariko’s feelings run, that she has a good heart and is a woman of honor and of her word. It’s brilliant that Ninja Theory went with something different  in Heavenly Sword, it could so easily have been yet another male hero hack and slash. The characters of Nariko and Kai add a depth of emotional content it may have been difficult to get had it been a macho slash fest.

Of course Nariko stands out because she is the female playable heroine in a video game, something that doesn’t happen often enough as far as us girl gamers are concerned, but she also stands out for another reason and it is her cool factor. With her long crimson locks, her statuesque beauty and her emotion filled face, it’s little wonder that the player can become so attached to her plight. The only place that Nariko falls flat is in her attire, because of course as a female warrior in a video game, she has to wear  as little as possible, because female warriors have skin of steel, so there’s no need for arm and leg grieves and certainly no need for a hauberk. We’ll forgive this fact however, just because she’s so damn cool.

Nariko, Heavenly Sword

Nariko’s voice is wondrous, it reeks of Lara Croft, with a little twang of something else, it is superb. She sounds like a true lady, dignified and strong and fairly British, odd given the actress giving life to the voice is an Australian actor named Anna Torv. You may not think it all that important, but a voice if done poorly can truly ruin a game, in the case of Anna Torv and Nariko it is perfection, you could listen to her talk for hours on end and still want more.

So there you have it, another tribute done and what a cool one she was. Nariko in Heavenly Sword is amazing. She kicks ass and she cares. She’s amazing, it’s just a damn shame Heavenly Sword seems to not have the extreme advertising budget some much worse Sony released titles have had. Heavenly Sword, with Nariko at its helm is what video games should be on the present generation of machines - it’s gorgeous, playable, fun and a cinematic experience unlike any other PS3 title we’ve thus far played. Of course, if it wasn’t for it’s brilliant female lead and the ensemble cast, this may not have been the case. We’d like to give a big salute to Nariko, beautiful heroine and wielder of the Heavenly Sword. You kick ass girl.

"This article originally appeared at Thumb as 'The Honorary Oakley'. It was written to highlight strong female games characters. They appear at Gamer Girls Unite with permission from fellow female gaming site Thumb Bandits, but remain their IP."