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Heavenly Sword
by yo go re

DC Direct's "DC Unlimited" brand was created to tackle properties that didn't originate with DC Comics. They began with the perennially popular World of Warcraft, but more recently they seem to have taken a cue from NECA: grabbing licenses seemingly at random, based more on whether the characters look cool than how popular the game actually is.

When an invading King destroys the warrior clan that guards the Heavenly Sword, the clan leader's daughter, Nariko, embarks on a quest of vengeance. The fiery red-headed heroine must now pay the ultimate price as she carries out one last mission against the King and his army before her life is finally and irreparably overtaken by the omnipotent Heavenly Sword...

A concept trailer for Heavenly Sword was first seen in 2003, but it was two years later at E3 2005 when the game was officially announced. It finally came out in 2007, and despite winning several awards and receiving positive reviews from critics and players alike, it hasn't really become "big" the way other games have.

Nariko is one half of a series that also features Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal (yes, we know it's not actually Sweet Tooth, because "Sweet Tooth" is the name of the truck that's driven by the human Needles Kane, but that's what the packaging [incorrectly] calls him). It's hard to call something a "series" that only features two characters from unrelated titles, but they each appear on the other's cardback, and they split the same case, so there you go. The figures are more or less in a 7" scale, so they'll fit in nicely with NECA's Player Select stuff.

The girl herself is sculpted very well. Nariko not only fights like God of War, she wears about as much clothing as him, too. That means most of the sculpt is human anatomy and, being a videogame girl, most of that anatomy is shapely, flawless and swinging in the breeze. She's clearly fit, but not overly muscular; like a real human woman, she has a bit of adipose tissue, which you can clearly see in the way her belly wrinkles as she bends forward, or how her tighty whiteys cut into her skin just a little bit. Up yours, Lara Croft! Her breasts are also surprisingly small for a videogame - still quite healthy, though.

If you watch the 2003 demo trailer, the star of the game was clearly Asian. Or at least "pretend Asian standin" for whatever world the game takes place in. By 2006 she had the red hair, but the facial features were still the same. By the time the game came out, though, she looked much whiter - rather like Julia Styles, it must be said - and the action figure takes things even further. Maybe it's the paint, maybe it's the sculpt, but this just looks like an average white girl. With the red hair, she looks like some weird alternate universe Scots warrior.

Her Asian roots are evident in her choice of clothing (what little there is of it). The one sleeve she has looks like it would once have been part of a kimono, and her headband thing has elements in the back that suggest hair sticks. Below her odd little shin-warmers, she's wearing sandals, and her single strip of "skirt" is held in place both by a cord above her knee and a large armored plate on her left hip.

Nariko's paint is acceptable. The edges between colors aren't perfect, but neither were there any glaring errors on the ones at the store: you'll need to compare versions, but there's no need to be super picky about it; just pick the one you like best. Her skin is unpainted plastic, so she looks waxy. Think of it as a fine sheen of sweat, since she's been twirling about killing enemies all day - that has to get the juices flowing. Still, that's the weakest part of the figure. Even a light coat of pink paint would have helped.

Articulation doesn't look like much, but it turned out to be better than expected. She has a balljointed neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, hinge elbows, swivel wrists, swivel torso, and swivel shins. Most of the joints are hidden by her various straps and other clothing, but even the "obvious" ones aren't terribly ugly. The fact that she has no joints between her ribcage and her shins is fine, since it helps keep her stable - see, there's one more joint we haven't talked about yet.

The defining visual feature of Heavenly Sword is Nariko's ridiculously long hair (though not quite the same way as it is for Bayonetta). As she does her murderous gymnastics the hair swirls around her dynamically, and the sculpt matches that. The hair is sculpted in thick strands, and assembled from several pieces. To maximize the playability, there's a swivel joint for the hair, allowing you to point it in whatever direction you want. Because this makes her wildly unbalanced, the set includes a small black disc base to help keep her standing.

Naturally, the figure also comes with the titular sword. Two swords, really. They're different styles, but have similar details that make them look like part of a matched set. And in fact, they are! the two-sword stance allows for a good balance of speed and power, but the swords can be combined into a double-handed blade capable of slower, more powerful attacks. It happens in the game, and the toy can do it too! The combined form is very cool, and it looks entirely natural. The feature isn't called out at all on the packaging, so the only way you'd discover it is by playing around, but it's very cool that they included it.

As a DC Direct Unlimited release, Nariko costs a little bt more than she actually should. The nice thing is that she and Sweet Tooth are available at Toys Я Us, so you might have some coupons to use on her. The figure isn't quite up to NECA's standard as far as videogame figures are concerned, but she's close, and she'll make a fine addition to those ranks.

-- 12/16/10

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