Review by SuperPhillip
"If I become number one, will you do it with me?"
Welcome to beautiful Santa Destroy-- a lower Californian town right on the edge of the Mexican border. You're now in the world of No More Heroes-- a "mature" open-world action game for the Nintendo Wii. Sound interesting? That's because it is. Developed by Grasshopper Manufacturer and under the lead of one of the most original developers out there in Suda 51, and you have a package that's hard to pass up. Is No More Heroes the mature game Wii fans have been clamoring for, or is it yet another third-party massacre?
Enter Travis Touchdown. He's an Otaku-loving, beam saber wielding, smart-mouthed punk living in a sleazy dive known as the No More Heroes Motel. I already love him. His problem? He doesn't have any money. When he meets a girl by the name of Sylvia Christel, she offers to enter him into a world, of cold-blooded assassins and high-packed action. Who could resist? Sure as hell not Travis Touchdown. The goal now is simple-- there's eleven assassins ahead of him. He has to take them down one by one. The game begins with Travis entering the villa of the number eleven ranked assassin, Death Metal, or as he's otherwise known as, the Holy Sword. Travis busts into the joint, pulls out his patented beam katana, and you're placed right into the action-- taking out guards with ease.
At first I was bewildered because I was used to how The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess had you making swipes with the Wii remote to attack, so for about thirty seconds I was waving around the remote like I was signaling airplanes to dock at the airport. Once my intelligence caught up with me, I realized that the motion controls for this title were a little more subtle. Simply pressing A causes Touchdown to attack. You use the nunchuck obviously to move around as well as lock onto the many ruffians you need to take out. Here comes the truly gratifying part. When a goon's health bar is all the way down, you'll be prompted to move the Wii remote in a direction for the finishing blow-- either up, down, left, or right. After striking the finishing blow, you'll be treated to your enemy erupting in a glorious fountain of blood. No worries though-- fend Jack Thompson off with a hatchet. All of the violence in No More Heroes is extremely over-exaggerated. From enemies flooding out blood from their wounds to bodies exploding copious amounts of blood. The violence is almost comical in a sense.
Just attacking with your beam katana though won't work forever. The katana runs on energy, and when the battery gets low through repeated attacks-- you'll need to take the Wii remote and start shaking it to charge the battery back up. There's also non-katana attacks Travis can use such as various wrestling maneuvers-- all performed through nunchuck and Wii remote motion controls. Unfortunately they don't register all the time, but thankfully you're not penalized in any way for a mistake.
The flow of the game starts simple. You gotta kill the next ranked assassin, but... you gotta get to the assassin first. Most of the bosses employ a large assortment of goons for you to slash through, so you'll be killing a bunch of lackeys so a door will unlock, and then killing a bunch of lackeys so a door will unlock. Rinse and repeat throughout the linear levels, but much like the game itself as you move on in rank you'll be treated to much more creative levels as well as boss battles. This is a game that make you think one way and then get thrown a curve ball to something completely unexpected.
After the Death Metal goes the way of Quiet Riot's career, you're going to find out the hard way that you'll need to come up with the money in order to pay the entry fee for the next ranked match. What's a broke assassin to do? Well, around the open-world confines of Santa Destroy, you'll discover plenty of jobs both legit and lethal to partake in. These range from filling up cars at the local gas station and collecting lost kittens to washing away graffiti and carefully scrounging up scorpions in the waste area. There's also less legit jobs to take such as killing as many foes as possible in a certain amount of time or taking down a target as fast as you can slice. Having to do jobs to pay for the next ranking match may irritate some players wanting to immediately jump into the next fight. No one said the way of the penniless assassin would be easy.
Then there's Santa Destroy itself. The city is not meant to serve as anything but a hub to get around from place to place, so those expecting a fleshed-out GTA-inspired metropolis will surely be disappointed. Fear not though because there are dumpsters to ravage sometimes containing money or even a new shirt for Travis to wear. There's also collectibles sprinkled throughout the city in the form of Lovikov balls which can be exchanged for new abilities such as running. When running simply won't do, your main mode of transportation around Santa Destroy is Travis' trusty motorbike. Sadly though, this is a part where the game begins to lack polish. The bike controls are okay, but they could feel a lot more refined. Collision detection in the city is mediocre at best, and the visuals are the worst you'll see in the open-world portion of the game. Thankfully though if you get too far away from your bike you can call your old pal from the video store to pick up for you and drive it to your location. There's many locales to visit around Santa Destroy as well. Head to the gym to tone up, become employed at the Job Center, pick up new tapes at the video store to learn new wrestling moves, or grab a new wardrobe at Area 51.
Or if Santa Destroy isn't cutting it for you, relax at Travis' hotel room where he can interact with his cat, Jeane, watch the tube, take a dump and save (seriously, that is how you save the game), or change your appearance by selecting various shirt styles, jackets, jean colors, and stylish shades. You'll need to get used to Travis' digs as you'll be returning to his place after each entry fee is paid.
And paying the entry fee as fast as possible is recommended because by far the best part of No More Heroes are its incredibly thrilling boss battles. You'll come across the weirdest, most eccentric characters that have ever come out of Suda 51's mind (Killer7 doesn't count because the entire game was one huge mind-#$@^). Simple button-mashing will get you know where. You have to have patience as well as smart-timing in order to win the day. Don't be surprised if some battles have you fighting for fifteen minutes-- especially on later difficulties.
The world of No More Heroes is heavily stylized. While there's noticeable graphical troubles on the hub, the indoors portions run smoothly at a steady framerate. However, sometimes you'll run across a wonky camera angle here and there. Nothing game-breaking, but it's a problem nonetheless. The voice acting is top-notch. Travis' quips are uttered perfectly as well. It's just extremely well-done. Most of the music is enjoyable also though the main theme is played way too often. The nine note phrase will get annoying after awhile.
Overall, No More Heroes is a fantastic action game only limited by the inclusion of the city overworld. While it's not horrible as some will lead you to believe, it is an easy-to-see error. The motion controls are subtle and for the most part work well. Your first run-through will most likely take you upwards of 10-15 hours. Then there's alternate difficulties that are only there for those who wish to play on and nothing more. No More Heroes will take your mind and make it explode-- in a good way. Just have someone clean up afterwards.
Story: Travis is ranked 11 in the UAA, and he wants to become number one? Will you do it with him? ...No, not like that. Jeez...
Graphics: Pretty good cel-shaded work, but there's a noticeable difference in quality in the expanses of Santa Destroy.
Gameplay: The assassination missions are fantastic. The overworld? Not so much.
Audio: Awesome voice work. Not a too shabby soundtrack either.
Replay Value: 10-15 hours initially. There's cards, shirts, and other things to collect, but they don't really do anything to keep the player interested.
Overall: 8.5/10 - Great. Why haven't you purchased this yet for Suda 51?
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: No More Heroes (US, 01/22/08)
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