Review by CrimsonGear80
"Hey, that's the same thing I said after playing the last Wii *Medal Of Honor* game!"
It also happens to be the name of the new stylish, ultra-violent Wii action title from Grasshopper Manufacture, who is headed up by insane crazy person Suda 51. Don't get me wrong though, I mean insane in a good way, as I loved Suda and Grasshopper's last effort, Killer7. No More Heroes continues the tradition of Grasshopper games being in leagues of their own in storytelling, style, and gameplay. Hardcore gamers who own a Wii are in for one hell of a blood-soaked, head decapitating, and body-mutilating treat.
NO MORE STORY
Unlike Killer7, NMH's story is much more straightforward and much easy to follow and understand. You play as Travis Touchdown, an Otaku and a huge pro wrestling fan. Residing in Santa Destroy, California, Travis leads the typical life of an Otaku and wrestling fan: he's dirt poor, lives alone in a run down motel room with his cat, and rents porn from the local video store and makes illegal copies of them for himself. With what I'm guessing is the last of his funds, Travis wins a light-I'm sorry, I mean, BEAM saber from an internet auction site. While drinking heavily at a bar and wondering what the hell went wrong with his life, Travis meets a beautiful woman name Sylvia Christel, who just happens to be an agent for the United Assassins Association. She suggests that Travis takes his new toy and become an assassin. Travis agrees, and Sylvia sets him up with a fight against the 11th ranked assassin in the world, Helter Skelter. Travis, with beam saber in hand, manages to violently relieve Skelter of his rank and claim it for himself. Travis, enjoying his newfound passion, decides to go for the gold and become number one. However, the top-ten ranked assassins in the world stand in his way from immortal glory (and possibly getting some tail). So with Sylvia helping him out, Travis begins his blood-soaked journey to greatness.
Unlike Killer7, which took itself a little seriously at times, NMH doesn't take itself seriously at all. Travis's story is at times a laugh riot, with great dialogue, references to various pop culture items, and insane characters. When the top ranked assassins in the world include a singing cowboy, a dude who shoots lasers from his crotch, a magician named Harvey Moiseiwitsch Volodarskii, and a beer swilling spoiled brat, you know you've got something special on your hands. As long as you don't take this game's story seriously, you should love it. This action comedy made me laugh more than Rush Hour 3. Come to think of it, I didn't laugh at all during Rush Hour 3
I must repeat: Don't take this game seriously.
NO MORE GAMEPLAY
No More Heroes is split into two different gameplay types: awesome hack-n-slash combat and GTA style free-roaming around the city of Santa Destroy. Guess which one of those two styles is NMH's weakness
You see, Travis can't just go off willy-nilly and find the assassins himself; the Assassins Association needs to set up the matches for him. In order to do that, Travis need to pay them the big bucks. Travis, being the hopeless broke loser that he is, need to go out into Santa Destroy and make all the money he can so he can continue on his quest. In between ranking missions, money can be made in a few ways: by taking part-time work helping the community, doing various assassination missions that basically consist of killing many, many people, and by beating various free-fighting challenges scattered throughout the city. I don't mind these. Some of the part-time work is actually pretty cool and fun to do (like clearing a beach of land mines), and although the assassination missions and challenges are all pretty much the same thing, the great battle system makes them very fun to play. You can even do these missions over and over again to make extra money and use it to train at the local gym to get Travis's strength up, rent pro wrestling videos at the video store to watch them and gain new moves, buy new clothes to customize Travis's look, and finally to upgrade and buy new beam sabers at Dr. Naomi's lab. So, I don't mind all of that. What I do mind, though, is the horribly designed free-roaming city that you have to go through to do it all.
Everything about free-roaming Santa Destroy in NMH is totally ripped off from the GTA games, straight down to the mini-radar in the left-hand corner of the screen with icons on it pointing out points of interest. Unlike the GTA series though, roaming around the city is a boring, pointless choir. First off, Santa Destroy isn't really that big, it is MAYBE about half the size of one of the two land masses in GTA: Vice City. Vice City has been ported in it's entirety to a PSP game folks, remember that. Secondly, Santa Destroy has no life to it at all. Buildings look generic, there are hardly any pedestrians walking around and other cars seem to disappear and reappear out of thin air. Oh, and good luck interacting with anything in this lively world, cause you can't. Thirdly, Travis's only means of a faster way of getting around other than walking is his monster motorcycle that literally controls like a freakin' tank. You use the nunchuck's analogue stick to steer the thing and the A button on the Wii-mote is the gas. The B trigger brakes and reverses, however some genius at Grasshopper decided that you have to press the trigger once to brake and the LET IT GO AND PRESS IT AGAIN to reverse. Wait, what? Can someone name me one other game involving vehicles where you had to press the brake button twice to reverse? Cause in good vehicle game programming land, you press the brake button once and continue to hold it to reverse. The same genius probably decided that pressing the A button to go right after you reverse makes Travis's bike do a wheelie then shoot forward at uncontrollable speeds. Don't you just love it when you back out of a tight spot just to see your vehicles crash right into that spot again at 1000000000 miles per hour? I loved it when it happened in GTA, oh wait
You'll be reversing away from walls and such a lot too, as the motorcycle can't turn for jack and crashing into anything that isn't a telephone pole or tree will sent Travis flying off of it. Also, great job on having no retry option if you fail a job or assassination. That's right, fail and you have to go all the way back to the job center or assassination building, accept the mission you failed again, and drive all the way back to where the mission takes place AGAIN! The only real reason to actually search the city is to find Lovikov balls, which you give to this drunken Russian dude who will teach you various techniques in exchange for them, however I don't see how anyone would want to spend extra time running around such a crappy world. This game would have been soooo much better if they just forgot about free-roaming and just made Travis's hotel room the central hub, giving him a map of the city and just letting you choose on it where you want to go and Travis would automatically go there. But no, Suda 51 figured that kids today loved their free-roaming cities, and sloppily put together one in the last minute. Ugh!
Thankfully, the second part of NMH's gameplay almost wholly makes up for the crappy free-roaming. NMH's combat system is simple, deep, effective, over the top, and fun as hell. While doing an assassination mission or trying to get to a boss fight, Travis is confronted by a plentiful amount of goons just waiting to be sliced and diced. Why do the world's top ranked assassins need hired goons to protect them? Who cares! Holding down the Z button on the nunchuck will have Travis lock-on to his closest target, and you can unleash your best beam saber combos on your enemy by rapidly pressing the A button on the Wii-mote. Travis holds his beam sabers in two positions depending on which way your tilting the Wii-mote. Tilt it upwards for the high position, which allows Travis to do quicker but less powerful attacks, and tilt it downwards for the low position, which allows for slower and more powerful attacks. A good combo-ist can mix these two positions up and make some killer custom combos that can be useful against the bosses. Whittle down your opponents health and you will be prompted to swing your Wii-mote in a certain direction by an on-screen arrow, delivering a very brutal and violent end to your enemy's life. Travis can even hit multiple enemies with a death blow if they crowd around him, offering up one gruesome spectacle to behold. Travis automatically guards against enemy attacks when locked on to them, but he can also perform evasive rolls with the Wii-motes d-pad, and can Dark Step enemy attacks with the right timing, allowing him to get multiple free hits on their backsides. Some of the lower level goons who use what looks to be brass knuckles can be pretty easy to destroy, but as you get further into the game and into the stages, goons will start wielding beam sabers of their own, and can be quite tough to put down. Travis will even enter sword locks at times with his enemies, which require you to swing the Wii-mote in a circle to break and hopefully give Travis the upper hand.
However, Travis can do more than just swing his saber. Suda 51 happens to be a huge pro wrestling fan (and who can blame him), so Travis just happens to be a better pro wrestler than John Cena, The Great Kahli, Kevin Nash, and Scott Steiner combined! Those are all good wrestlers, right? The B trigger on the Wii-mote causes Travis to throw punches and kicks at his enemies to break their guards and hopefully knock them into a dizzy state. After that, you press the B trigger again and Travis will grab his enemy, then all you have to do is follow the on-screen Wii-mote/nunchuck prompts to perform killer wrestling moves such as DDTs, German Suplexes, Brainbuster Slams, and Tombstone Piledrivers. Travis can also learn even more moves as you progress through the game. Finally, performing a death blow on an enemy causes three slots to start spinning at the bottom of the screen. If you match three icons, Travis will enter one of five different dark side modes. These modes include Strawberry On The Short Cake, Blueberry Cheese Brownie, and Cranberry Chocolate Sundae. That's right, Travis gives his enemies various desserts to make peace with them
NAH, just kidding! These are just the humorous code names for super powerful, enemy obliterating death states that Travis can enter into for a short period of time. Keeping with the humor, Travis's beam sabers are powered by batteries that lose their power the more the sabers are used. A gauge on the right of the screen shows the current charge of the saber, and you charge it by pressing the 1 button on the Wii-mote and then shaking the Wii-mote left and right very fast. Good to know that deadly weapons won off Internet auction sites are very reliable in tight spots. Finally, we come to the boss fights that pit Travis against the world's top assassins. In a word, these boss fights are great, as each assassin has their own unique and wacky styles to them and can lead to some intense battles. While some of the assassin's can be pretty easy to beat one you get their patterns down, others can give Travis a run for his money and may cause players to retry quite a bit (you can retry boss fights, but not missions in Santa Destroy. Wow). I don't want to really spoil the fights for people, so I'll just say that they are definitely some of the best to come around in a while. If that's not enough, Suda 51 and Grasshopper threw in some gameplay surprises that should sweeten the deal. Combat, at least for me, made up most of my gameplay time with NMH, so thankfully it almost cancels out the horrendous Santa Destroy crap.
NO MORE GRAPHICS
For me, a mixed bag. NMH is done in the same cel-shaded type style that Killer7 was done in, and in some way is even more stylish. Character models and designs are very good, with Grasshopper games showing that they have some very active imaginations on staff. Animations are top notch. Combat is, as I have said, one very gruesome sight to behold, as Travis decapitates his foes, slices them in half, and plays beam saber baseball with the top half of their bodies. All of this is of course followed by gallons and gallons of blood just raining down in every direction. Let me take this time to express my condolences to European and Japanese territories, which unfortunately get an edited version of No More Heroes free of blood and gore. I believe when you kill enemies, they disappear in a cloud of sunshine, happiness, and love. Anyway, cut-scenes in the game are also impressive and well done, especially ones involving Travis and the assassins that usually end with even more gruesomeness. Also, Suda 51 pays homage to games of yesteryear by making things like the mini-map, pause screen, and health indicators pixilated and looking like they came from an 8-bit NES game. My favorite retro design has to be after you kill a top-ranked assassin, and a high score list from Space Invaders circa 1984 is presented with Travis's name penciled into the rank he just earned. The game also runs in 480p and supports widescreen.
Now the bad. The environments you will run through killing enemies in are mostly bland and unexciting. Hell, one level in the game is nothing more than a long, gray colored corridor! Done on purpose perhaps, but still bland as hell. Then we have the town of Santa Destroy pretty much proving that free roaming was quickly added into this game, as it looks terrible. Buildings look like crap, pedestrian and car models don't even look like they were finished, and there are jaggies galore. Worst of all, there is terrible, terrible pop in, worse than any GTA game on ANY platform. The framerate also sporadically drops down to a crawl, usually when performing death blows on tons of enemies at once, but thankfully it doesn't really last that long.
NO MORE SOUND
Overall, sound in No More Heroes is great. Sound effects are great and the music is mostly a combination of punk, rock, surfer, and dance music. Voice acting is also good, with funny dialogue and lots of cursing warping your fragile little minds. I also like the lines goons shout out as you kill them, like that didn't hurt! or AHH! MY SPLEEN! NHM also makes very good use of the Wii-mote speaker, as copyright infringing beam saber whoosh sounds echo out of it, and is used as a cell phone with Sylvia calling Travis with words of encouragement before a ranked match with an assassin. Nothing really to complain about.
HEAD INTO THE GARDEN OF MADNESS!
No More Heroes is a good-sized game, taking about 10-15 hours to complete. Afterward, you'll unlock the extra hard bitter difficulty that lets you play the game with all the equipment, techniques, and money you earned in your first playthrough. You can also replay all the side missions in the game multiple times to earn higher scores and extra cash. If you can stomach it, you can also search Santa Destroy for all those Lovikov balls. All in all, decent replay value and the awesome combat should have players coming back for more.
So despite a gameplay flaw and some graphical issues, No More Heroes is a very fun, stylish, and one of the most original games to come out since Killer7 and Portal. The combat, un-serious and funny story, and over the top violence should have Wii-owning hardcore gamers adding this to their collections. It's too bad that 99.5% of Wii owners are either waiting for Smash Brothers, having their fifth Mario Party party of the week, or paying $60 to do push-ups on a plastic board to give this unique title the time of day.
Sucks for them.
+Stylish and original
+Story that is interesting, funny, and doesn't take itself seriously
+Extremely fun combat system
+Over the top violence
+Excellent boss battles
+Some nice graphics
+Some gameplay surprises
-Free-roaming. Oh god, the free-roaming
-I hate Travis's bike
-Some bland and lifeless environments
-A sometimes erratic framerate
-George Lucas is gonna sue somebody!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/31/08
Game Release: No More Heroes (US, 01/22/08)
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