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Castles and Carnage

Nariko, the feisty fighter of “Heavenly Sword,” is extra motivated to kill lots of nasties, while she’s on her journey to punish their evil King Bohan. The king has kidnapped Nariko’s father; there’s nothing so wrathful as a warrior with daddy issues.

PlayStation 3’s “Heavenly Sword” has piqued the interest of many male gamers because this heroine is a lovely young redhead whose dress seems to have made up its mind it will not cover the sides of her hips or the upper reaches of her chest plate.

Nariko is prophesied to save her kingdom. Here she is a female, and everyone in her village thought their savior was going be a dude.

“They said I was a portent of doom. Maybe they were right,” she says in voice-over narration.

No, I bet “they” were wrong. Nariko slices and dices rival clan members of the king’s allegiance. She bloodies them using a “Heavenly Sword” that must weigh what she weighs. It’s enormous.

King Bohan wants to gain possession of that big bad blade, because it’s magically powerful, like a “Lord of the Rings” ring. The point of the game: Can she defeat his majesty in all his jerky glory?

“Heavenly Sword” has been compared to the masterpiece “God of War” games, because it’s a deliciously pretty action-adventure set in a grand, fantasy past of rope bridges and ornate castles.

But “Heavenly Sword” isn’t nearly as fun as “God of War” titles. “God” games beg you to run quickly across vast lands, while sleekly slaughtering evil underlings, one or five at a time. However, “Heavenly’s” journey is paced slower. Plus, she’s constantly killing 20 people at a time, too quickly.

In other words, “Heavenly” blurs its beautiful action too much while standing still, and the hacking and slashing resembles “Ninja Gaiden” more than “God of War.” “Ninja Gaiden” games are fun, but they suffer the same problem. Killing becomes routine button-mashing. Monster mashes are entertaining for a bit but they glaze the eyes.

Fantasy heroes in such games are always in search of a perfect sword, a doomed romance and a prophesy that proves they are The One.

Ergo, “Dragon Blade: Wrath of Fire” for the Wii also stars a prophesied hero of a guy who is poorly named Dal. His betrothed was killed by villains he seeks. (How romantically tragic.) He must slay six dragons and steal their powers, including their red fiery fists. Along the way, he beats up a forever-series of giant spiders, ram-headed bipeds wielding huge axes, and other nefarious scumbags.

The promise of “Dragon Blade” is in its Wii remote, not in the Wii’s subpar visuals and sounds. You the gamer swing the wireless remote as you would a sword or fist, and Dag swings his weapons thusly.

But “Dragon Blade” settles into even more repetition than “Heavenly Sword” does. I sit passively on the couch, twirling the Wii remote in circles at all times to beat up devil dogs.

So, yes, I’ve slain dragons and laid waste to men whose faces resemble lizard skulls. But I haven’t broken a sweat or felt an ounce of excitement. In gaming, that kind of redundancy is the real portent of doom.

(“Heavenly Sword” retails for $60 for PS 3 — Plays alternatively fun and repetitive. Looks great. Moderately challenging. Rated “T” for blood, language, suggestive themes, violence. Three stars out of four.)

(“Dragon Blade: Wrath of Fire” retails for $40 for Wii — Plays repetitive. Looks OK. Easy to moderately challenging. Rated “T” for fantasy violence. Two stars out of four.)

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