Many new gamers don’t know about “Heavenly Sword“, a launch-window release for Sony’s Playstation 3, starring the “scantily clad”, strong-willed, and deadly Nariko. If you’re looking for an old cult classic, I’d highly recommend Heavenly Sword. While it doesn’t visually hold up the same way I remember from it’s launch, it was ahead of its time in the technology and style, utilizing new facial scanning and animation technologies, varied sound design, an all star cast of highly creative motion capture and voice actors. The game fell short of sales expectations in the beginning, mostly attributed to the slightly repetitive combat and short game length. It was a visual and technological delight, with some awesome characters and interesting concepts that never had the chance to reach their full potential with more fleshed out implementation.
Fast forward to this years E3, and we were presented with an interesting trailer from Ninja Theory, the makers of Heavenly Sword, DMC (reboot), and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. We learned that Senua, the protagonist of the game, is on a mission to seemingly revive someone, but is having an incredibly personal battle with psychosis, with elements of her psyche manifesting into her version of hell in real world. It’s a very interesting premise, and has me excited to see where it goes. But a thought came to my colleagues and I: “What if, this game is connected to Heavenly Sword in some small, or even significant way?” Ninja Theory already told fans that it wasn’t a sequel… but could that be a cover for something? (minor spoilers ahead)
The name “Hellblade”, for starters, is an antithesis to Heavenly Sword in the literal sense of the word. Perhaps this is simply a play on words, or rather, a descriptor to Senua’s journey into her own hell, with her sword being her only reliable tool for her survival. Or maybe it’s calling to attention the dark turn things took after the battle with King Bohan, and the desolate state of the world in which said battle left things.
Let’s call to attention the character design. Obviously, the studio behind this game is the same one that worked on “Heavenly Sword”, so similarities are to be expected. But at what point do we stop and ask ourselves if it was intentional for the character designs and facial attributes to be so similar? Let’s take a look at Kai from “Heavenly Sword”, and Senua from “Hellblade.” Both of these characters dawn a similar lip and nose shape, with accompanying face paint on both the lips and eyes. Senua’s face paint is more cracked, and aged, implying that this could be an older Kai. Oh, how you’ve grown!
Let’s also draw attention to the fact that Senua has psychosis, stemmed from traumatization from a Celtic army attack. Similarly, Kai suffers from a different level of insanity in Heavenly Sword, though what it is has yet to be determined what condition she has. Her trauma stems from being the sole survivor of a clan, wiped out by Bohan, using terms like “play time” and “happy place” to cope with the horrible realities of her past, and present. Perhaps there’s some correlation between the mental state of these two being attributed to the fact that they are one in the same.
Maybe it’s possible that Heavenly Sword was presented to us from her perspective, and the real, war torn and gritty world of HellBlade is how it really was. Incidentally, “Kai” also means “fire” in Scottish, which is indicative of the location Hellblade takes place in, and ties directly to Senua’s hell in a more literal sense. The mission Senua was on when she was first revealed was to seemingly perform a ritual to bring someone back from the dead. Is Kai trying to harness the power of blood magic to bring Nariko back from the dead? Perhaps this is all a stretch, and I’m looking far too deeply into this, but this is at least an interesting premise to consider. Could it be that I’m just wishing for a “Heavenly Sword” sequel so bad, that I’m drawing false parallels? What do you think?