Blasphemy is probably the best word to describe the title of this article, but regardless of that, we recommend reading it anyways. After all, what do you have to lose? You’re killing time at work right now anyways, aren’t you?
Almost ten years ago, a small development team from Japan named Team Ico made its debut within the gaming industry with its first title, Ico. At the time, gamers didn’t truly know who these developers were and the internet wasn’t as mainstreamed as it happens to be now when it comes to looking up information or rather finding information about the latest game coming out. Sure, the Japanese knew that Team Ico was releasing Ico, but Sony never put together a strong advertising platform for it in North America and due to that, the game was received poorly by gamers in terms of sales figures.
However, Ico had one thing going for it and that was critical acclaim. Most publications praised Ico for its unique gameplay, the ability to engage the user and pull him into a brand new world, but most importantly, for its sheer brilliance of demonstrating games as an art form. In fact, has games like Halo and Grand Theft Auto III not released in the same year, there is a strong chance that Ico would have been the runaway favorite for Game of the Year and thus bringing more media attention to it.
Today, Ico is revered as a diamond in the rough. It’s a cult classic that gamers played years upon years after it released – many after a new generation of consoles had already been manufactured and retailed to the general public. It’s quite obvious that this new found love helped sky rocket Team Ico into a beloved studio outside of the small cult niche it was once known for.
This growth was spurred not only by gamers finally finding out about Ico as the internet grew, but by Team Ico’s second foray into the industry with its second classic hit, Shadow of the Colossus. Fortunately, Team Ico received a ton of financial support from Sony with SotC and because of that, gamers worldwide were made aware of the fact that the game was coming and that everyone should play it. As expected, the game released to critical success, the industry’s reviewers praised it on a majority level and many gave it Game of the Year honors. Due to Sony’s advertising, SotC managed to sell a respectable amount of units for its genre and style of play.
In the end, both of Team Ico’s titles managed to receive Greatest Hits status from Sony Computer Entertainment and that was quite the achievement for the developer and with The Last Guardian just around the corner, many gamers worldwide expect the PlayStation 3 exclusive to continue down the path of art and masterpiece that the two original titles created – after all, it’s what you’ve come to expect.
By now, you’re caught up in regards to how Team Ico caught the industry by storm, but not immediately, however, down the road once the dust had already settled. That leaves the question: How does Ninja Theory manage to fit into all of this and how are they this generation’s Team Ico?
First off, I’d like to point out that it’s no secret that I’ve given Ninja Theory a ton of shit for all of the cry babying they’ve done over the years in their bitter partnership with Sony and how they eventually went multiplatform with a chip on its shoulder. That’s not secret, right? However, I can’t deny that Ninja Theory delivered two brilliant titles in Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West that were engaging to play and more than enough to capture your mind for hours on end.
While some may point out that SotC and Ico both received 90+ averages from Metacritic, it should be known that there were much less competition frequently delivered in 2001 and 2005 when compared to the slaughter of top quality games being pushed to market this generation. On top of that, review scales have changed dramatically and I believe that a lot of “90” potential games from earlier this millennium, wouldn’t score as well now as they did then (without nostalgia).
Moving forward: Ninja Theory first delivered to gamers on the PlayStation 3 exclusively, Heavenly Sword, and immediately, the game was well received by critics and praised for some of the same things Ico was praised for as well. Critics enjoyed the visuals, its combat system, and the game only hindered itself due to length and a lack of multiplayer function (something not widely considered important like when Ico was originally reviewed). Overall, Heavenly Sword was given nothing but solid feedback and it featured a strong cast of voice actors as well as two memorable characters to play the game with.
Nariko, the main protagonist in Heavenly Sword, has been featured alongside the likes of Lara Croft when it comes to the amount of ass she can kick while looking good doing it. To be honest, that in of itself is a great achievement and one that I believe shouldn’t be overlooked. Her character was memorable, her reasoning for fighting was honorable, and gamers could enjoy the plethora of maneuvers she could pull off. Kai, although not the same, had her perks as well.
Anyone who has played Heavenly Sword has immediately fallen in love with the quirky “little sister,” Kai. After all, who doesn’t like the chick on the edge of insanity that finds enjoyment and amusement from dancing around dead bodies on the ground. Not to mention, Kai was probably the best original use of the SIXAXIS controller from Sony. Controlling Kai’s arrows through the air via motion control was a fun tactic and everyone always went for the hilarious nut shot or headshot to finish a bad guy off. Kai was an exciting character to play with and she is definitely one of the most memorable from this generation.