In Armchair Arcade's fun new series, we ask the provocative question, "What makes a particular videogame sexy?" Each week's feature will explore some of the many intriguing approaches game designers have taken over the years to make their games more sensual, not just with increasingly detailed graphics, but also with romantic and seductive gameplay. While some of the games we'll be looking at are unabashedly low brow, displaying their raw sexuality like a badge of honor, other games in contrast are remarkably subtle, often downplaying their suggestive themes.
Developer: Ninja Theory
Release Date: 2007
Platforms: Sony PlayStation 3
Game Type: Action
When Heavenly Sword was released in 2007, it was hard not to draw some connections to another PlayStation title, God of War. Both have a similar action-oriented style, with quick-time events. Both feature exotic locales and big battles. And both feature strong, yet tragic, protagonists. However, Heavenly Sword’s protagonist is a 23 year old, strong-willed female character, which is not quite as common in games. In fact, a tragic heroine is even less common. It’s perhaps this special combination that makes you appreciate her stunning beauty all the more, because you know it’s not going to last.
Frankly speaking, Nariko is one of the more attractive females you have ever seen in games. Tall, athletic, and exotic, her Eurasian background combined with her fiery-red hair is truly a sight to behold. She expertly wears what can only be described as a “combat kimono,” leaving one arm, one leg, and her midriff exposed. While it is a ridiculous outfit, she doesn’t seem to be too concerned by it. She moves gracefully and deadly, killing wave-upon-wave of attackers. She is a beautiful killing machine–the kind many men dream about meeting (provided they don’t meet at the end of her sword!).
What makes Nariko stand out among many of the other sexy females in games is the development of her character. She has real problems, real questions of identity, and this depth of character makes players identify with her more. Nariko could easily be placed in a different game or situation and still maintain her believability, and this makes her all the more attractive. It’s also interesting to note that Ninja Theory avoided inserting a love interest for Nariko into the game, which is good because it would have been out of place. However, because of this, many players have scooped up Nariko and placed her in their own fantasies–and it’s easy to see why!
Heavenly Sword itself is also a stunning graphical display, with Nariko as its prime set-piece. Her looks are all the more amplified by the hideous villains she encounters, resembling snakes, vultures, and cockroaches. It’s not hard to forget the side of good and more gratifying when you defeat these monsters with your beautiful avatar. The fact that she can wield cannons with her bare hands and create massive body-counts on par with games like Dynasty Warriors is thoroughly enjoyable.
So why am I sad? Because developer Ninja Theory has come out and said that it’s highly unlikely they will make a sequel. The rights lie with Sony, and because Heavenly Sword did not sell millions upon millions of units like God of War, it’s probably not a desirable IP to continue. For Nariko, this may just be reality reflecting fantasy, as her chapter with the Heavenly Sword concluded at the end of the game anyway. Like an intense - but brief - holiday romance, Nariko leaves an impression on the player that is vivid, memorable, and with us long after the game concludes.