Review by horror_spooky
"Heads Will Roll..."
If you are familiar with the developers' previous title, Killer7, you probably have guessed that No More Heroes is one of the weirdest games of all time. A lot of people mistake it for being a sandbox title (ala Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row), but in essence, it really isn't. In fact, the open world of Santa Destroy works more like a hub to get to your missions and that's where the focus is. Your exploration is very limited and there isn't much you can do in town, but that's not how the game is supposed to be played anyway. If you can get passed the fact that the game isn't really a sandbox title, you will definitely love No More Heroes.
Starting right off, the point of the game is become the number one assassin by killing all of the other assassins on the list, using a list similar to that of old arcade high score lists. During these missions, you'll first have to get to the assassin (they work like bosses) by, usually killing a whole bunch of dudes, going room-to-room as you do this. Sounds bare bones? Well, the awesome combat definitely livens things up, not to mention the amount of carnage that happens on screen is just amazing.
While No More Heroes is definitely a button masher, it at least makes the aspect of button mashing a little more interesting by providing the player with a weapon that seemed like a no-brainer to include in a video game ever since the Wii was introduced: a light saber. As you progress through the game, you are given the opportunity to purchase new models of your light saber or extra parts that give it special abilities like beeping when you're near some hidden coins.
If you hit an enemy enough times with your light saber, then an arrow pops on the screen. By swinging the Wii remote in the direction the arrow is pointing, you'll perform a rather grisly finishing move that most of the time bisects your opponents! If an enemy ends up on the ground, you are given the opportunity to finish them off with one hit, and if an enemy becomes woozy you are given the chance to do a new type of attack that I believe really gave the game the extra boost it needed to become one of the must-have Wii titles: wrestling moves.
Similarly to using finishing moves with your light saber, wrestling moves are done by utilizing the Wii's motion-control capabilities. You swing your Wii remote, and the nunchuck, in the direction the arrows on the screen instruct you to. A wrestling fan will really appreciate the moves they bring into the game, which range from a standard suplex to a DDT to a Tombstone Piledriver.
Since you can buy new light sabers, can you buy new wrestling moves? Well, not quite you get them for free! Usually before a boss, you'll find a wrestling mask with a note inside. By picking the note up you will learn a new wrestling move. Wrestling moves can also be learned by purchasing videos at the video store that focus on the subject.
Not only is there a video store in No More Heroes where you can buy a variety of videos, but there is also a clothing store so you can also dress Travis (the protagonist) in your choice of clothing. A lab can also be visited (this is where you purchase a new light saber), a part-time job center, the K-Entertainment building (where you are given assassination missions), Thunder Ryu's building, and a pub.
The part-time job center is one of the biggest parts of the game since you need to earn money in order to make a payment at an ATM to challenge the next ranked assassin. These part-time jobs are rather simple tasks, which include lawn mowing, wiping graffiti off the walls, collecting lost kittens, and putting gas in cars. While some people may feel that this doesn't really fit in the game, in a way, it does. These weird jobs add to the quirkiness of the title and provide a mini-game feel since a lot of them utilize the Wii remote, nunchuck, or a combination of the two.
Before you can do assassination missions, you'll have to complete a part-time job. This is true for all the assassination missions in the game. While the concept of an assassination mission sounds pretty cool, in reality, the part-time jobs are way more fun to do, especially when you're later in the game and you get used to the amazing combat.
Thunder Ryu is, apparently, an ex-professional wrestler who is Travis's trainer. By going to his gym you can pay in order to upgrade your abilities; this is pretty much essential to getting through the game without too much frustration. You may have to do squats (while you can cheat the system, it's more fun to actually do the squats), bench-press (by rapidly pressing the A button), or lift dumbbells (which is done by lifting the Wii remote and nunchuck). I actually found these little mini-games to be quite fun, although the price to do them gets ridiculous later on.
Sorry Grand Theft Auto IV fans, you can't get drunk at the pub. On the other hand, there is a Russian man there who will teach you new, and very useful abilities, if you collect some dodge balls that are spread out across Santa Destroy. No, this isn't like a hidden package system because the balls actually appear on your map, making your life much, much easier. Does this detract from the game's challenge? No, but it does make it more enjoyable because you'll never be in the situation where you find all but one and you end up searching for the last one for hours upon hours.
You can't just walk around town all day can you? Available for your traveling needs is a pretty cool motorcycle-looking vehicle that has a variety of features. You can jump with it, do donuts, or use a nitrous-like boost to get somewhere fast. That's all fine and good, but when you're driving the thing, it feels more like you're controlling a jet-ski than a bad ass motorcycle, and on top of that, the stupid thing gets stuck on everything. While it can mow down lampposts and trees with no problem, it does get stuck on corners for some reason and it's impossible to get out until you either a) start another mission or b) call your friend to bring your bike to you. Another problem I have with the bike is that if you park it too close to a mission marker it's impossible to start the mission because Travis will just jump onto the bike instead. It's kind of like the developers just tacked this thing on at the end or they didn't take the time to polish it enough.
To test your skills, there are also side-missions that are called Free Fights. In these missions, you have to kill all of the enemies while never getting hit once. Sounds hard, but it's actually pretty easy, unless one of the enemies shoots you. Since all of these side missions are like these, and since they aren't really that fun at all, trying to get some cash by doing these becomes very repetitive and sucks some of the fun away from this amazing game.
Travis Touchdown stays at the No More Heroes hotel, and this is a very useful place. You can watch the movies you've purchased, play with your cat, change your clothes, save (by going to the restroom), and check out your trading card collection. Trading cards can be found in the missions that are a party of the main storyline in treasure chests and they feature the likeness of famous luchadore masks.
Even though I did say earlier that the game really isn't supposed to be played like a sandbox title, it is disappointing that the town wasn't expanded on more. You can kick open dumpsters to find t-shirts and money, stab the ground in some places to find some hidden cash and that's about it. You are very limited to where you can travel, you can't find any new weapons, there are a virtually no secret areas in Santa Destroy, there's essentially one ramp you can take your bike off of, and the town is void of life. Sure, people walk around, but they are few and far between and they just walk forward. I'm serious they just keep walking forward forever. You can't wreck people's cars, but they can sometimes cause you to crash, and you can't steal them, meaning the game limits you to one vehicle that doesn't even control like you would want it to. Another thing that may disappoint some of you sociopaths out there is that you can't go around town killing people with your light saber, so the killing-spree replayability value of other sandbox titles (even though the game really isn't one, it tries to be one) is taken away.
However, dealing with the repetitive side missions and the disappointing open world leads to far greater rewards. The story is freaking amazing, shocking, hilarious, and a ton of other stuff all at once. You'll feel like you're watching a Quentin Tarantino move some of the time, and the cut scenes are very imaginative, bloody, and just plain awesome. The basic plot is that you are an assassin trying to become the number one assassin in order to get laid, but the game is actually much deeper than that, and there are twists all over the place. I know you'll just love this one.
The character models in No More Heroes are very stylish and the use of shadowing throughout the game is a little more advanced than what you'd expect in other Wii titles. During big battles, blood spurs everywhere; so much that you can barely see what's going on (which is awesome, believe me). However, the environments lack much detail and pop-up in the game is annoying and inexcusable. The Grand Theft Auto games, while having some pop-up, don't have nearly as much as in No More Heroes and they have way more content packed into them. After Super Mario Galaxy, it's pathetic that the game's graphics weren't brought up to standards because we all know that the Wii can do much, much better than this.
Voice-acting, while sometimes a little cheesy, is actually pretty good and I'm sure you'll recognize a lot of the voices in the game. The background music is pretty sweet and will get you into the action and all of the sound effects synch up rather well. My only problem is that sometimes the voices don't match with the character's mouths and it's sometimes hard to understand what the characters are saying.
A cool feature with the sound utilizes the speaker on the Wii remote. Before boss fights you will receive a call from Sylvia (the woman who introduced you to the assassination rankings in the first place). She talks through the speaker on the Wii remote so you have to put it to your ear to hear what she says. Sounds simple, but it's actually very, very cool.
While the game isn't that long, completists will have a ball collecting all of the t-shirts and getting all of the gold medals for the missions. There are three modes of difficulty (though, oddly, it seems that the game is always hardest at the beginning and gets easier as it goes weird), but there really isn't much to unlock, which is a shame. It is possible to unlock everything and see the real ending with one play through (which I did and you probably will), but No More Heroes will still last about twelve hours. I really wish that there were more modes of a play, though, and maybe a multiplayer battle mode or co-op.
No More Heroes is one of the weirdest games you will ever play, but it's also very stylish and neat. There are so many cultural references that any fan of anything can appreciate the game, not to mention the writing is great, and the battles are amazing. If only the open world of Santa Destroy was more expansive and free, the graphics were brought up to standards, the game were longer with more replayability, and there was an option to replay missions quickly (a minor annoyance, but it did make the game more annoying), then No More Heroes would have been the perfect game for your Wii.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 06/02/08
Game Release: No More Heroes (US, 01/22/08)
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