Review by PeachKid
Kill your way to the top and become the #1 ranked assassin.
This game is rated M for mature and is not for anyone under the age of 18 or those who are offended/disturbed by sexual content, adult language, or extreme amounts of violence and blood.
If you've played Killer 7 then you know to expect a wild ride from Grasshopper's second game for a Nintendo home console titled, No More Heroes (referred to as NMH from now on). Director, Suda 51, is known for his over-the-top style which is applied heavily to NMH. The game features cel-shaded graphics, a violent beat'mup type of gameplay, and a straight forward yet interesting plot. It's taken a long time for the Wii to get a great mature game more geared towards the hardcore audience, but the wait is final over:
Travis Touchdown is an assassin trying to become #1 and is the main protagonist. He is a fearless badass. As soon as you start a save you are given a briefing of the events that lead up to Travis Touchdown's decision to reach for the top. After killing an assassin named Helter Skelter you are informed by a beautiful women, Silvia Cristel, that you are now officially ranked #11 assassin by the UAA in the United States. Silvia is willing to help Travis become #1 by setting up each ranked fight for him. Travis makes a deal with Silvia that if he becomes number 1 her and Travis will have sex. Their deal combined with his will to be the strongest are the only motivations Travis needs. This is pretty much the bulk of the story for the entire game. You can expect things to get stranger and more interesting as the game goes on, but in order to keep this review spoiler free those details will be left to the gamer to discover.
Just like with Killer 7, Suda 51 decided that cel-shaded graphics would work best for NMH. I agree completely. At first look many gamers compare the graphics to that of the PS2 and GCN. Let me just clear things up a bit for anyone who feels this way. This game is not trying to look "realistic." It is a common misconception among gamers that graphics aren't "good" unless it looks as realistic as possible, which is impossible with cel-shading. Characters, facial expressions, and shadows all look very nice. Regardless of how I defend the graphics though, there are short comings. The city that you will be traveling in is rather bland. Buildings and landscapes lack in much detail and all look fairly similar to each other except for buildings that you actually enter.
Presentation and Style: 10/10
Possibly the best part of the game is the style and uniqueness. Cel-shaded graphics combined with a punk style make this game stand out from anything else on the market. NMH is filled with references to Anime, Star Wars, and pop culture in general. Character designs for the protagonist, supporting cast, and ranked assassins are all very original and nice to look at. Each ranked assassin has his/her own peculiar personality. Travis Touchdown is a badass with punk style. His outfit is almost completely customizable as there are a wide variety of clothes that you find and buy throughout the game. It's really the little things that make this game so interesting. Just to give a few examples: Saving involves taking a dump, your master asks you to get naked before you train (don't worry it doesn't show Travis getting naked), and Travis's room is filled with anime and wrestling periphinalia. Music ranges from techno to punk to j-pop, all of which are really enjoyable. Voice acting is easily understood and can be very humorous at times. There is a lot of swearing and several strange, vulgar topics discussed throughout the game as well.
Gameplay and Controls: 8.5/10
The easiest way to describe the gameplay is to break it down by the overworld map. The name of the town is Santa Destroy. There are many locations to visit and many things to do but none of them are actually done on the main roads that you travel on in Santa Destroy. In fact the overworld is probably the worst part of the game as the only thing you can do in it is travel from location to location, kick dumpsters to find money and clothes, dig for money, and collect balls that you trade in for abilities. You travel around the city on your motorcycle. On the motorcycle you can pop wheelies, do donuts, and use your boost to gain speed. Unfortunately you will find yourself running into a lot of walls and weaving in and out of roads because of the poor mini map. You will find yourself doing a lot of traveling so this part of the game should have received more focus by the developers than it did.
Anyway, lets get the locations that you travel to out of the way before I get into the main gameplay and controls. First there is your motel room. From here you can change you weapon, wardrobe (including jacket, sunglasses, pants, belt and t-shirt), view map, save, view cards you collected, and play with your kitty, Jeanne. Area 51 is a store where you buy new clothes. The Job Center is where you can except part time jobs to earn cash. One job is unlocked after each assassin you defeat. These are typical jobs such as mowing lawns, collect trash, and wiping spray paint off buildings. The majority of these jobs are completed by using simple Wiimote gestures. They are pretty enjoyable for the most part. K-Entertainment is where you can except side Assignments to earn cash. These assignments involve scenarios like "defeat all the enemies before time runs out", Kill the CEO of Pizza Butt, etc. You earn cash for each assignment completed. You can also visit the gym to train, the bar to trade balls to get new abilities, and a weapon shop to get new swords. You will also find location that offer "Free Fights." Here you will have to defeat all the enemies before time runs out.....without getting hit a single time. If you happen to get hit then you are out of luck as the mission disappears for a short period of time. There is no retry feature if you fail a part-time job, assignment, or free fight. This can get frustrating, especially for the free fights since one hit ends the fight.
The last location is the ATM. Once you have earned enough cash from free fights, assignments, and part-time jobs you can deposit the money here to start your ranked fight. The concept for ranked battles is pretty simple; slice and dice your way through a bunch of generic enemies to reach the boss at the end. Sounds kinda boring right? WRONG! The gameplay itself is addicting. To defeat your enemies Travis combines his sword swinging skills with some good ol' wrestling moves. The A button is for your sword and the B button is for punching/kicking. If you charge your B attack or use it at the end of a combo your enemy will be stunned. Press the B button one more time to grab you opponent. From here you will use the motion controls from both the nunchuck and Wiimote to slam your enemy to the ground with some cool wrestling moves. The other alternative is to slice your enemies down with your sword. Get their health low enough with sword attacks and an arrow will appear on the screen directing you to swing the Wiimote in a certain direction. Complete this action to slice your foes in half or decapitate them. These kinds of finishing moves cause the enemies blood to spray everywhere. There will be times when your vision is temporarily impaired because of so much blood, its not a bad thing though. After each one of these kills there will be a slot machine that spins at the bottom of the screen. If all three symbols match up Travis will enter what is called Dark Side Mode(::cough::starwars::cough::). Depending on which symbols match up Travis will gain special powers (for a short period) for quick, bloody kills. Each attack is named after a dessert for some reason. You can also used charged attacks by holding down the A button. Travis holds his sword in either a high or low stance which is determined by how you are holding the Wiimote. Locking On to enemies with the Z button and being in a high stance will allow you to block most attacks. While you are lock on you can also do a quick dodge with the d-pad to roll left, right, or backwards. All of this may be a lot to grasp but the tutorial in the beginning of the game explains all of it and helps you get the hang of it. Once you do learn the ropes of fighting it's hard to stop. The fights are fast-paced. There is so much satisfaction to be had by cutting enemies down one by one or even five at a time.
The bosses in NMH are another thing that make this game great. At the end of each stage you will fight a ranked assassin in order to move up in rank yourself. In order to get you in the mood to fight Silvia will call you right before the final save point of each mission. Her voice comes through the Wiimote speaker so you will have to hold it like a real phone to hear it. Although it has been done in other games (Zak and Wiki) the effect is no less enjoyable. In fact I would say NMH does it best. The boss fights in NMH are similar to most games meaning you have to memorize their pattern of attack and learn how/when to strike. Some of these fights can pose quite a challenge, which is just what I like.
Replay Value: 6.5/10
The first playthrough can take anywhere from 12-22 hours depending on how much you do in the game. Personally I bought every weapon upgrade, almost every article of clothing, and got pretty close to getting gold rank on every assignment. I completed the game in 20 hours. After beating the game on Sweet(easy) or Mild(normal) you can unlock Bitter(hard) mode. You start off with everything from your completed save which, again depending on how much you collected in your first save, can add several more hours of entertainment. Even though its Hard Mode the game is actually a breeze to get through the second time around if you have the best weapon. Its still worth a go for another 6-10 hours of fun. There isn't much after that except sheer enjoyment of playing the game. No alternate endings, no extra features, nada.
NMH is a great addition to Nintendo's Wii. Although the overworld stinks the rest of the game is fun, fun, fun. The fighting is addicting and gory, the style is like nothing you've seen before, and the side missions are pretty entertaining as well. Suda 51 has already stated that he would love to do a sequel. If enough attention is given the the minor flaws of NMH and the gameplay is just as addicting we could be enjoying the best title on the Wii.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: No More Heroes (US, 01/22/08)
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