Joystiq interview: Heavenly Sword's Nina Kristensen

Kevin Kelly
K. Kelly|06.29.07

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Joystiq interview: Heavenly Sword's Nina Kristensen
We caught up with Chief Development Ninja Nina Kristensen inbetween sword fights and developing video games at Ninja Theory, and managed to get some skinny on the upcoming PlayStation 3 ubertitle Heavenly Sword. She lets us know all about their influences on the look and style, some of the sexy Nariko's backstory, gives the definitive answer on multiplayer, and what games they play around the office whenever they're lucky enough to find some free time.

Check it out after the break, it'll help you kill some time while you wait for this game to hit the shelves.

Heavenly Sword is one of the "tentpole" games coming out for the PS3. What spurred you to develop this game and story?

We wanted to tell a big story, a big powerful story. So we went for a classic theme which is all about revenge and redemption, and then we built that story around our heroine Nariko, because she and the sword itself are the centerpiece for the whole thing.

Nariko often looks anguished and pained in some of the scenes we've seen. Does pain figure into the game or into her struggle?

She's gone through a lot, and is going through a lot in the game. So, the backstory to Heavenly Sword is that her clan are the guardians of the sword, and they're expecting a mighty warrior to be born on a certain day. Unfortunately, Nariko is born ... whoops! Absolute disaster, it's a girl, so she grows up with a really dark cloud over her head. Sure enough, 20-odd years later along comes King Bohan, and he's a maniac dictator type character, and he's absolutely obsessed with the sword. So he's coming to try and get it, and he's desecrating the land, he's pretty much butchered her whole clan, all trying to hunt down the sword. In a moment of desperation, she actually decides to pick up the sword, but of course the sword is far too powerful for a mere mortal, and it's going to kill her ... but it makes her really powerful in the meantime. So, she is out hell-bent on revenge and a lot of the anguish you see is part of her story arc, and she ultimately finds redemption after going on this massive rampage.

Women in video games are typically portrayed as scantily clad vixens with huge boobs, but Nariko seems much more realistic in a way, other than her hair, which is a character unto itself, was that a specific choice that you made early in the process?

I don't think we ever made a typical comic-book type heroine. We wanted to make someone who was real, yes I think she's sexy ... I think she's pretty hot! But, she's powerful, she has a lot of inner conviction, and that comes out all the way through, and she can really kick ass!

Are there any plans for downloadable content or multiplayer for the game? Sony really seems to be pushing adding content after the fact to add value to the games.

In terms of mutliplayer no, not for this game. This is an intense personal experience, and when we do multiplayer, and I very much want to do it in the future, it will be a game that is really focused on that so that we can make a really great game in the Heavenly Sword space that is multiplayer. In terms of downloadable content, we're kind of talking to Sony about that. I'm very keen on doing stuff for Home, I think that would be very awesome, but there's nothing ultra-confirmed about that.

What inspirations did you all draw from for the artwork and the look? It has seems to have a lot of Japanese influence in the design.

In terms of the visual look we were influenced by a lot of different things. The Eastern influence comes from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Hero which were really big inspirations. The Western influence comes from Lord of the Rings and Conan for the epic scale and the drama and the musical underscore to make it all feel really big.

A lot of people have compared aspects of the game to God of War, even going as far to call this Goddess of War, did you try to emulate that game? Some of the gameplay elements are similar, she has the blades with the chains on them, there are the keyed moments during boss battles, etc.

We've certainly heard the comparison before, and actually, hey ... to be compared against something as great as God of War, that's not so bad. But I think there's a lot of differences, certainly the style of the game ... we're all about light and beauty and elegance in a very brutal world. The storyline is very, very different, and I think they both stand alone as great products.

When you had the featured clip on Heroes, did you all plan that or was it a happy coincidence? Did you know about it when it happened?

That was Sony. As far as I'm aware, the Heroes guys came to Sony, and Sony told them 'Look, this is what you've gotta have." We were thrilled! It was very cool.

As far as other games are concerned, do you all play any games at Ninja Theory to clear your heads or take a break for awhile?

There are all sorts of games going on, you know ... things like CounterStrike and that kind of thing. We're in a software forum / chat group about games, and we're always swapping stuff all the time, like 'Check this out, check that out.'

What's a better action game? Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden, or God of War?

Oh, that's a tough question! I think they all have their strengths, and they're all great games. Ninja Gaiden is obviously targeted more towards the hardcore, God of War I think is an awesome game, Devil May Cry ... I love it as well actually. I'm a big fan of this kind of genre ... I don't know, they're all good actually!
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