By now, most of you PS3 owners out there have probably downloaded the disappointingly short Heavenly Sword demo, plowed through it in fewer than five minutes and wondered what all the fuss was about. That was our first reaction, too, when we played the same demo during E3 - until we sat down with the game's producer, Kyle Shubel, and he told us what we were doing wrong.
While you might never guess it from a quick play-through, the Heavenly Sword demo can be a sublime, endlessly replayable experience - provided you know what you're doing. Because the demo doesn't feature a tutorial, and because we want to make sure you wring as much as you can out of the scant few minutes of gameplay it offers, we've put together this short guide to pass on what we've learned.
1. Don't mash buttons
Seriously, don't. Mashing buttons in Heavenly Sword is like gulping expensive wine. It gets the job done, sure, but this is something you need to savor. The game's cursed heroine, Nariko, can block nearly any attack just by standing still, so there's no reason to rush through your attacks. Instead, take it a little more slowly - rather than jamming madly on the Triangle and Square buttons, use even, rhythmic taps. Think of it as one strike flowing smoothly into the next. The combos you'll execute as a result will be fluid, stylish and ridiculously destructive, not to mention a hell of a lot more fun to watch than Nariko flailing her blades around at random.
2. Switch your stance
Nariko has three fighting styles at her disposal - use 'em. Holding down L1 gets you the Ranged style, enabling you to weave wide (if weak) arcs with blades on chains, while R1 switches Nariko to the strong, slow Power style, which can be instrumental in breaking through the defenses of shield-bearing enemies. Best of all, Nariko's three stances can be used in rapid succession to create new combos - check the combo list in the pause menu to see exactly how.
3. Counter for all you're worth
Notice how your enemies flash blue or orange when they're attacking you? That's not just for show. It's your cue to hit Triangle as they rush in to attack; time it right, and you'll perform an acrobatic counter move that'll usually knock out anyone dumb enough to get close, while at the same time making you, the player, wince.