Review by ShadowGuardian9
"Hack, slash, and suplex your way to #1!"
Let's face it: there haven't been too many mature titles on the Wii. Aside from some games like Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition and Manhunt 2, Nintendo's newest console has taken their family name and cavorted around with it, showing it off at gaming convention after gaming convention. Not very many publishers or developers have really made a really good mature title for the Wii. Until now! After the love-it-or-hate-it debut of the Gamecube/PS2 classic Killer 7, video game mad genius Suda 51 searched around the gaming circuit for a brand new title to deliver his sick and incredibly adult sense of humor on. The Wii is released, and a new Suda 51 title appears. Under the odd title of No More Heroes, Suda 51 releases his latest game to the Wii-owning audience. As with Killer 7, this one is full of blood-explosions, decapitations, cel-shaded plasma, and, oh yeah, a whole lot of violence. Is No More Heroesthe Wii's golden set of brass knuckles?
No More Heroes follows the trials and tribulations of Travis Touchdown, easily one of the most anti of anti-heroes. Instead having amnesia or something like that, Travis is your typical anime fan. He loves porn, collectable cards, and simply being the number one assassin in his ruffian-filled city of Santa Destroy. Armed with the Beam Katana, Travis begins his journey of achieving the title of the top assassin in the city. He's led along cryptically and seductively by Miss Sylvia, a French girl who is part of the organization meant to challenge Travis. The battles and entire story for that matter is ridiculous and filled with adult humor, so anyone of appropriate age will get a kick out of the story, especially since using the toilet is your method of saving in No More Heroes.
A major portion of the game is devoted to learning and executing the combat system, which isn't your traditional hack-and-slash venture. Travis's Beam Katana is his weapon of choice and it also brings an interesting and new approach to what the Wii can do. Instead of simply swinging the Wii Remote, you attack using the A button. Combos can expectedly be strung together with repeated button presses. A unique twist is the high/low stance system. Holding the Wii Remote with its tip pointed down lets Travis move into a low stance, and holding it up lets you use high stances. Switching on and off between two stances adds a degree of depth; Travis's moves will coordinate well and show some interesting quirks for each battle. When you're about to finish off an enemy, you must wave the Wii Remote in a specific direction to execute a finishing blow. Pressing the B-Trigger lets Travis penetrate guards and execute a strange wrestling minigame where you must wave the Wii Remote and Nunchuk accordingly to literally take down an enemy. You can also lock-on using the Z-Trigger to block bullets and guard against attacks. After playing Wii Remote-waving adventure games like Twilight Princess, you'll no doubt need to get used to not waving the Wii Remote around all the time to attack, but the combat is deep and unquestionably stylized. There's a degree of repetition involved for sure, but there's enough slashing, kicking, and suplexing to satisfy the most jaded action gamer.
The motion controls and gameplay quirks don't end there. Holding the 1 button and shaking the controller lets you recharge the Beam Katana's battery; when the battery dies, no more stylish defensive tactics, no more attacking, no more combat. Travis can also play casino, where finishing moves trigger a slot machine that can deliver unique power-ups in battle. These can range from a souped-up slash targeting from second-person, to a full transformation not unlike the guys from Dragon Ball Z. As you can see, No More Heroes is refreshingly complex, though simultaneously unique in its methods of gameplay. You won't guess what happens next, most of the time, so there are plenty of surprises to keep gamers guessing.
A majority of the game takes place on the streets of Santa Destroy. Before Travis can topple the assassins on the leaderboard, he needs to make payment to set up each assassination appointment. To earn the cash, he needs to complete different missions in-game. You start out with odd jobs: mowing lawns, picking up trash, etc. Later on you get access to extra assassination challenges. The earned cash can also go towards new clothes, videos to learn more wrestling moves, or just to get to the next ranked challenge faster. These missions can be pretty fun and they take good advantage of what the Wii Remote and Nunchuk are capable of doing. What is annoying is that you need to go back to the Job Center or Assassination Building after each challenge, and since Santa Destroy isn't filled with a ton of action, the door-to-door traveling can be a bit monotonous. But if you can persevere through the work, you'll be rewarded with some of the best sequences the game has to offer: the boss battles. The boss battles are incredibly complex and bizarre: every crazy assassin under the sun is out to stop Travis from his ultimate goal, and their methods of battling are full of rich melodrama and hilarious writing. You'll want to revisit the boss battles over and over; they're so much fun to fight through and each one consistently challenges your twitch skills to create some thoroughly entertaining moments. Although you need to do a bit of work to find them, the reward well outweighs the work in the end.
Suda 51's Killer 7 was an odd mix of bloody action and cel-shading, and if you experienced it, you'll find the graphics and sound in No More Heroes to be exactly as expected: completely unique and out there. Travis isn't your average meathead with a gun, nor is he an emotionally driven swordsman with a troubled past. He's your everyday anime fan who's just out to score (both literally and figuratively) and he doesn't mess around. It makes otaku fans proud to see a man so dedicated to his lifestyle and with such action-packed visuals, Travis's adventure is one of the best and stylistically-unique adventures on the Wii. The game is also well-voiced. Although there are times when Travis can sound a bit like a dork, his devil-may-care attitude is spot on. The rockin' soundtrack includes solid 8-bit renditions, victory music and all, and the atypical guitar riffs make every battle a good time. There are some issues with the frame rate, though; exploring Santa Destroy can drag down the graphics a bit (which is a shame, considering that there isn't a ton of environment interaction), and there's the occasional clipping. Regardless, No More Heroes delivers in its presentation in the over-the-top, action-packed and violently stylistic way that Suda 51 is known for.
+ Beautiful and vivid action graphics
+ Combat is interesting and isn't a simple Wii-waving nightmare
+ Story is rich and bizarre
+ Soundtrack is full of good music and voice acting
+ Boss battles are weird and fun to complete
- Sandbox-style gameplay isn't as deep as other games
- Combat has its degree of repetition, especially in the mission structure
- Odd jobs can be a bit monotonous
No More Heroes doesn't do everything right, but between each blood-explosion, Beam Katana slash, and crazy boss battle, a bit of a real gem begins to shine on through. Santa Destroy isn't the most involving city,and it pales in comparison to the insanity seen in the Grand Theft Auto series. The combat has a degree of repetition and the overall story is presented in such an obscure and alternative manner that it may be hard to follow for the casual gamer. If you can overlook these issues, No More Heroes can be crowned as the first really good and really adult title this side of the Pacific. Suda 51 has a nasty sense of humor, and Travis Touchdown is proof. The combat is bloody and insane to play, but there's a refined sense of priority in each battle. It makes up for the fact that the sandbox style of play is pretty bare. The game will make you stay for the boss battles, which are hands-down some of the best boss battles seen on the Wii, even against such big names as Mario and Zelda. Mix in a beautifully stylistic presentation and you get an insane game that manages to outclass every other slasher on the Wii. If you're of appropriate age, you owe it to yourself to at least see what Santa Destroy has to offer. Come for the blood-explosions, and stay for everything else. That includes the blood-explosions too.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 02/25/08
Game Release: No More Heroes (US, 01/22/08)
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