Review by Crofty
"Bizarre, but fun. Very fun."
Before you ask, and generally speaking many of you will, the game isn't like GTA. If you saw trailers of the game and were expecting something akin to Saints Row then look elsewhere, because this game really isn't that type of game. On the other hand, if you're expecting a game with crazy characters and story, along with solid but fun combat, then this game is most certainly for you.
But let's not simplify the overview to that, No More Heroes deserves much more attention. For one thing, there's not any game I know of on the Wii which is similar in near-on any regard, but then, same can be said for the 360 and PS3 too. Is it a good thing that a game like this is a somewhat rare experience? Personally, I'll say I dunno.
Because No More Heroes is something of a unique experience, we can get the best from it without having anything else to compare it to. See, the game does have quite a few flaws, and if it were a game of a genre filled with rivals, then we'd probably shun it aside.
What I'm basically saying here is that, while the game is a great game under the current circumstances, there are plenty of areas where it could have been better. If there were other games similar then we'd surely expect to see those improvements implemented in No More Heroes, but at the moment the developers can get away with it. In fact, if the future is anything to go by, the developers can get away with it as long as they want, as games like these unfortunately don't gain as much attention as the likes of FPS. It'll not be surprising if this is the first and last game of this type, which is a shame. But let's be grateful the game has been created at all, otherwise we'd be very upset indeed.
Anyway, the game itself is broken down into two main areas: combat and making cash. The former is most certainly the best aspect of the game, offering extremely addictive and enjoyable gameplay. While the game doesn't push the boundaries with the Wii-remote (instead offering the player the opportunity to swing the remote to finish off an enemy or execute a wrestling move) it still allows for a form of fluid combat not seen in other games. You do use the Wii-remote physically for other functions of the game, but in-general it's not used to a huge degree which suggests to me that No More Heroes could have also been released on another console to boost sales. I doubt many gamers would hurt too bad using a PS2 controller to play the game instead of a Wii-remote.
Alas, the times the combat is at its best in No More Heroes is when you face off against any of the ten assassins you must destroy. These serve as the main boss battles of the game, and as you'd expect each boss has his/her specific strengths and weaknesses. What adds to these battles, though, is the superb cut-scenes before and after the action which serve to elevate the game beyond the pointless story leading to boss battles in other games.
If anything, the general layout of No More Heroes is similar to Shadow of the Colossus on the PS2. While that may sound bizarre (perhaps even more bizarre than the game itself... okay, that's probably not possible), the games share a similar angle in that the player's main goal is to hunt down and eliminate a set amount of strong foes. The difference with No More Heroes is that you have to earn cash to progress to the next hunt, which can be a good or bad thing depending on your stance.
Like I said, fighting the bosses is easily the highest point of the game, but taking part in any of the many sub-missions simply isn't as good. So if you're expecting the game to be running at 100% quality all of the time then you'll be disappointed, but personally I was okay doing sub-missions. Sure, they're not as good as fighting bosses, but they're still enjoyable for the most part, and serve to make you not only better at the game, but also to allow you to explore and enjoy the environment around you.
One missed opportunity that could have made the environment better, is the prospect of assassins ranked below you trying to take you out. Driving down the road from your motel only to be attacked on the street in a showdown against an assassin after your rank would have been pretty cool.
Fortunately there are plenty of things to do, which extend the lifespan of the game greatly. Any game that's not an RPG but can last 20 hours gets an immediate plus point from me. I'm sure people are sick of paying their hard earned cash to play a game which can barely last 5 hours offline. So with No More Heroes you're guaranteed a long and enjoyable adventure, but just remember that you'll only enjoy it if you can deal with lesser but still good quality side-missions.
The missions themselves vary from things such as merely killing a room full of baddies, to collecting litter from the streets. The downside to these is that if you make a mistake or want to try again, you can't press start and try again, instead you have drive all the way back to the quest-giver, then all the way back to the mission again. This is especially annoying if you're aiming for gold medals, though to be quite honest you're not missing out on much if you decide not to be a perfectionist. The game offers little in the way of incentives for gaining highest scores or collecting all the secret stashes of money and T-Shirts littered about the place. So it's just as well that the game doesn't allow for mission restarts.
As I mentioned, you'll drive to quest-givers and quest areas. You'll do this by using a bike-like vehicle that can use a speed boost and jump over other vehicles. The area your character lives in Travis Touchdown is quite large, so using the bike is preferable, although it is rather clunky to use at times, and not really a hugely enjoyable experience.
You can, however, use currency and red balls (think Hidden Packages') to help boost Travis' abilities, one of which allows him to run faster, so if you really hate the bike then running around on foot is somewhat acceptable. Besides, finding hidden stashes of cash and T-Shirts will be easier on foot anyhow. But being able to boost stats adds a nice layer of depth to the game, and helps give further incentive for taking part in the sub-missions for more cash.
Shame there's no incentive to want to explore the land just for fun, as the game does tend to look pretty bad when you're driving about. Textures load very slowly, and so can be visibly seen changing, while buildings and other objects pop-up in the distance and make the whole experience look ugly. Maybe it's to be expected when the game doesn't use loading while exploring, but it still doesn't make you feel better when you see the visuals all over the place. The only thing which looks particularly good in the game is the character models. They're akin to the cel-shaded look of characters in Killer7, and have all the animations and sounds to help the player relate to them more.
As for the overall sound, the game sounds pretty good most of the time. The voice-acting is particularly excellent, which again makes the boss battles even more enjoyable. The music gets the job done, and the sound effects emanating from Travis' weapon vent fond pictures of Jedis in combat.
The whole tone of the game is weird, bizarre and actually quite funny. It's not one which all people will understand or get (not that I think you're actually supposed to get what the game is), but it can be fully appreciated if you allow yourself to absorb into the experience. It's the overall tone, partnered with the excellent combat, which keeps the game from the slightly above average stature.
On the other hand, had the game made better use of visuals, side-mission functionality and gaming incentives, then we'd be looking at a definite 9/10 effort here. What we have though, is a game that probably won't see a sequel or indeed anything similar at all. With that in mind, No More Heroes achievements are displayed at a greater level than one would expect, and allows for me to say, without any hesitation, that it's most certainly worth owning.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/16/08
Game Release: No More Heroes (EU, 03/14/08)
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