No More Heroes
Review by Robot_Freak_Out
"New school controls meet old school action"
No More Heroes is definitely a unique offering for Wii owners. The concept seems odd at first: a man who bears more than a striking resemblance to Johnny Knoxville, and happens to be a fan of Japanese Anime, purchases a light saber (or beam katana, for legal reasons) on an internet auction and decides to become a professional assassin. He then seeks out the lairs of the ten assassin's who are ranked better than him by the game's arbitrary ranking association, and kills them.
The game's brief intro tells the player that much and then thrusts Travis into the first dungeon. I use the term loosely because, to me, dungeon connotates exploration, puzzle solving, and turn based battles. In contrast, NMH's dungeons involve killing masses of enemies in real time, playing the occasional minigame, and then fighting a boss. It all feels more like Final Fight than Final Fantasy. The execution is simple, but fun. A is for attacking, you can change your stance by raising or lowering the remote, and when an enemy dies you are prompted to swing the wii remote in a random direction to deliver a death blow. These death blows can kill multiple enemies and result in satisfying fountains of blood and coins. If you get tired of swordplay, the B button in conjunction with some wii remote movements allows you to perform a variety of over the top wrestling moves. The use of the motion sensor isn't perfect, but it works well enough to never signifigantly interrupt gameplay. In spite of the simplicity, there's enough variation and challenge involved to keep you on your toes, especially during boss fights.
The combat and these dungeons form the core of NMH game play, and they are undeniably fun. There is, however, plenty of strawberry on the shortcake, so to speak. Between assassinations Travis is free to cruise around the city of Santa Destroy on his gigantic motorcycle. This motorcycle is the only vehicle you have access to and is the worst part of the game. It handles like a Best Western and has the sort of hit detection that I would criticize in a Nintendo 64 game. It is quite likely that you will find your bike stuck on a pole at least once during a play through of NMH. Luckily, the motorcycle is only for transportation around Santa Destroy, and with a little finesse and a lot of power sliding, it can be mastered, somewhat.
Santa Destroy is, unfortunately, underdeveloped compared to a city in a free roaming series like GTA. The city is little more than a hub for the player to access various shops and side missions. That's not to say Santa Destroy isn't an interesting element, though. If you want to increase your stats, you head to the gym for some wii remote waggling minigames. To learn new wrestling moves, you need to rent old wrestling videos. You can take on jobs at the temp agency which amount to playing motion sensor oriented minigames such as lawn mowing. There's also an advertising agency that offers short side missions that basically involve killing lots of guys within a time limit, with the occasional stipulation. The strangest distraction involves finding a drunken Russian basketball coach's lost balls in exchange for new special moves.
These side quests are sweet but short. Maybe a bit too short. Some last less than a minute, and the longest don't exceed five minutes. It's obvious that they exist only to break up the pacing between killing the other assassins, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. What I do find bothersome is that every time you beat a mission, or if you fail a mission, you have to drive all the way back to the place where you got the mission from to take on another mission or to take another stab at the same mission. Since driving isn't very fun, this just feels redundant.
It's worth noting that the art design is excellent. Particularely, Grasshoppers trademark empty landscapes, broken comic book dialog boxes, and bosses with individual and over the top art styles really stand out. There's a consistent illustrated feel throughout the game, and while the cell shaded graphics may not have the polygon count gamers are used to, they're nice to look at on my old RCA tube. A downside is that with componant cables and an HDTV, the textures can become overemphasized and look weird.
All in all, though, NMH is a solid package. The combat is fun, and there's enough new swords, new missions, new shirts, and new game play elements to keep you keep interested. And just when you think the newness is about to wear off, the game ends. It's short by modern standards, but there's really no dull moments. The plot is bizarre, but humorous, the whole way through and offers a satisfying conclusion that won't leave you scratching your head. NMH is basically an inside joke for people who grew up playing Mega Man and watching Voltron. It's also the best single player experience on the Wii yet.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 02/07/08
Game Release: No More Heroes (US, 01/22/08)
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