Review by zeshin_reloaded

"A Touchdown for Suda 51"

Goichi Suda, also known as Suda 51, is certainly one of the most creative and unusual minds in the video game industry. After his State-side introduction with the critically-acclaimed Killer7, hopes and bars were set high for his Wii-exclusive, action project of No More Heroes. Does No More Heroes exceed the expectations we've come to expect of his genius, or has Mr. 51 become the next American McGee?

No More Heroes throws you in the shoes of Travis Touchdown, a character who will most assuredly be long remembered on par with characters like Marcus Fenix, Frank West, and the like. Travis is a late-20's American otaku with a penchant for Spanish wrestling and the ladies. Travis acquires a type of lightsaber called a beam katana, which then uses alongside his wrestling knowledge as a means of making money as a professional assassin. Guided by the lusty Sylvia Christel, Travis makes it his goal to eliminate the top 10 ranked assassins and become number one.

The story can be quite unusual at times and, like Batman and the Joker, has a taste for the theatrical. Crazy things will occur throughout the game, such as crotch lasers, grannies with laser cannons, insane cell phone conversations, and much more weird happenings. The game is frequently humorous, though in a pitch-black tone, and makes several fourth wall breaks. While the ending lacks some resolution, it feels right because it mocks itself about it. The story takes and gives it all in good fun.

What really needs to be discussed are the characters, particularly the bosses. Every character in the game truly looks unique and has distinct personalities, all with their own quirks. Travis himself is a bit of an enigma, however. While I enjoyed him for the most part when fulfilled the role of an energetic loser yet strong-willed fighter, he acts somewhat too anti-social at times that can unnerve more conservative gamers.

The game is repetitive in design, but it's not that bad. You'll pretty much repeat the same formula for each ranked fight you participate in: Get job, earn cash, pay entry fee, fight waves of baddies, kill boss, earn more cash, rinse and repeat. Still, the delight that comes with interacting with new bosses provides ample motivation to continue through.

Aside from the grinding, the big problem with the side missions is the fact that, should you fail the mission, must go all the way back to the job/assassin center, re-apply for the job, and travel all the way back. This is an incredible annoyance, and begs the question of why a “retry” option wasn't readily available.

A big flaw with the game, however, is the arm twist with which it makes you do tedious side quests for cash. Some of the jobs can be downright boring, especially when you'd rather be killing assassin goons than picking up coconuts. This problem is lessened later when you gain access to jobs that earn significantly more cash for less effort, but the first half of the game can really try the patience of the audience.

Another problem is the practically deserted town of Santa Destroy Travis inhabits. The game has an open “sandbox” design, allowing you to traverse a city with your modified moped. Unfortunately, nothing ever really happens. There's no worry about police, random enemies, pop-up missions, or much else. Anything that does happen will only happen when you activate an icon. The city is more of a hub than anything else, but the size of it makes it seem much more than what it really is. It would have been nice to be able to fight some enemies out in the city, but that never occurs.

That said, the city has its share of content. Travis can visit locales such as clothing stores, video rental shops, and garages that sell beam katana weapons and parts. You can also find hidden balls and T-shirts scattered around the city while looking for assassination and part-time job gigs. Despite its lack of interactivity, Santa Destroy has enough bits and pieces around to keep you occupied.

The gameplay, aside from the quirky story and fantastic setting is another great asset to the game. As you earn cash, you can buy upgrades and whole new katana with which to brutally slaughter a vast number of opponents. During fights, you'll wield your trusty beam katana and rip apart through enemies, finishing them off with Wii-motion prompts. The game is mostly about learning the proper patterns of when to guard and strike, particularly during the boss fights which you will usually just barely survive. This prevents the game from being just another hack-and-slash title like Dynasty Warriors and forces you to think and strategize on the fly during heated combat.

However, the sword has a weakness, namely the need to recharge the sword by shaking the Wii remote up and down after the battery has been depleted. This recharging scene is rather humorous to watch due to how Travis recharges the blade in-game.

As well as swordplay, you're allowed to use wrestling moves you learn from dropped masks and videotapes you buy. This is where the Wii-motion controls get their moment to shine, and they shine brightly here. Response to your movements is faultless and your efforts result in not only high damage to your enemies, but some snazzy eye candy as Travis implements the moves.

Perhaps the greatest failing of No More Heroes, aside from the aforementioned side-quest grinding, is the technical level of the graphics. In all honesty, it looks like an average Playstation 2 title most of the time. The game renders blandly and textures pop in sometimes. Invisible walls make an ugly return here as well, being of particular annoyance during driving sections.

What it lacks in rendering and pixels, it more than compensates in artistic style. The game is virtually a kaleidoscope of colors, texture imagery, and interesting character designs. There's also an element of retro stylization present in certain parts of the game, the pause menu, and a good portion of the music. It's a nice nod to the roots of gaming.

Another warning about the presentation is about how the game earns its M-rating wholly so. There are gallons, no, oceans of blood in this game. Every enemy defeated by your blade becomes a literal fountain of blood and coins. It fits with the rest of game's over-the-top, dramatic nature but some people might feel uneasy about the ridiculous amount of red liquid spilled in this game.

No More Heroes is one of those games that will be remembered for a long time. Featuring not only a memorable cast with excellent writing and voice acting, but also fun and intuitive gameplay, Suda 51's latest masterpiece is a must play. I can't say “must-buy” because the game only lasts about 12 hours in one average run through. The game artificially lengthens itself with a New Game + mode, which allows you to carry over your old stats and items, and a Hard difficulty setting (Bitter). Some people may not feel inclined to keep the game after one playthrough, since there is no extra modes or multiplayer. Still, give No More Heroes a try at least. It's an artistic piece about love, lust, vengeance, and mass bloodshed. If that's your poison, then take a swig from the bottle of Suda 51's imagination and get lost in the chaos of No More Heroes.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/10/08

Game Release: No More Heroes (US, 01/22/08)


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