Review by HailToTheGun
"Those looking for a raw, entertaining, wholly satisfying and brilliantly delivered mature game for the Wii, look no further than No More Heroes."
You There, Holding The Wii Remote
What do you get when you mix together Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill (Volume 1 and/or 2, your choice), anime, outrageous dialogue, a little bit of 70s-style Kung Fu movies and the brilliance that is SUDA-51? In three words: No More Heroes. And the culmination of that unholy concoction is known as Travis Touchdown. Travis is a uniquely original character created from the mind of famed developer Goichi Suda (more commonly known as SUDA-51); Travis is a typical Japanese Otaku, though he is by no means Japanese. His obsessions include anime, sex, and violence - in no particular order. What makes Travis so endearing, if I may use that word lightly, is that he's such a likeable guy. He's got charisma, he's got personality, he's got heart. And he frequently breaks the fourth wall, directly acknowledging the player. How can you not love that?
No More Heroes' premise is simple, traditional, but oh so addicting. Being the Otaku that he is, Travis orders a beam katana (think: lightsaber) via the internet. A chance encounter at a bar one night, at which time Travis may or may not have been under the influence, accepts a proposition from a beautiful stranger. What does she ask him to do? Kill someone for her. Simple enough. The thing is, the person he kills is an Assassin - the 11th ranked member of the UAA - United Assassins Association. As a result, Travis is now officially a member of the UAA. So what does he do? He vows to become the number 1 ranked Assassin. Comedy, violence, and pure awesome ensues.
STRAWBERRY ON THE SHORTCAKE
No, that was not a random comment - although in a sense, it's entirely random even in the context of the game. No More Heroes' combat is purely a visceral hack-and-slash. But it strays from repetition with the small intricacies of the Wii Remote. You press A to swing his beam katana and B to use wrestling moves - yes, wrestling moves. Depending on the angle you're holding the Remote when you press the A button, Travis will perform a series of low or high attacks, respectively. The motion controls don't end there, however. When you get into a deadlock against an enemy's weapon, an icon will appear on screen which prompts you to swing the Remote frantically so as to gain the upper hand. For the Wrestling moves, you'll be required to perform simultaneous movements with both the Nunchuk and The Wii Remote. For example, to perform a Tombstone Piledriver, you swing the Nunchuk and Remote Sideways first to flip the opponent over, and then swing the controllers downward to drop the enemy on their head.
And for the coup de grace; the beam katana operates on a battery mechanic. The more you use it, the more the battery is drained. But fret not, for you can easily recharge the battery at anytime via picking up battery power-ups, or the more important way - rapidly swinging the beam katana up and down in between your legs in a very suggestive manner. And of course you simulate this by doing a similar motion with the Wii Remote. How's that for absurd?
Now, let's get to the question you probably asked yourself when you first got to the combat section. What the hell does strawberry shortcake have to do with anything? Well, No More Heroes features an automatic slot machine device that spins after killing an enemy. Matching certain symbols earns you specific rewards, but the most ludicrous ones that occur take the form of special moves available to Travis. Bullet-speed movement, shooting fire from your beam katana, and various others. The interesting thing to note about them is that when activated, Travis will randomly shout various pastries and desserts. Strawberry on the shortcake! is one of them, as is Blueberry Cheesecake Brownie! Performing the moves is just as entertaining as hearing Travis scream these absurdities.
Oh did I mention that when you kill an enemy, Travis performs a specialized beam katana-swing which decapitates them and sprays a fountain of cell shaded blood over the entire battlefield? Tarantino, eat your heart out.
Cell Shading At Its Bloodiest
Cell shaded graphics are an artistic brilliance in my opinion, and games that use these types of visuals are usually the ones that catch my interest over the realistically-rendered, high-definition nonsense. That's not to say the latter is bad - not at all. But here's not the time to debate the two. No More Heroes is a spiritual follow-up to SUDA-51's prior success, Killer7, for the Gamecube. The two feature similarly-stylized visuals with a touch of more color and flair present in No More Heroes. The game uses a uniquely nostalgic, though obviously visually-dated mechanic to display health points, locations on the map, and the entire pause menu in general. They're all rendered in tiny, separate cell-shaded squares like a mural. It looks cool, but it's definitely not the most appealing feature. That award goes to the game's pre-rendered cutscenes with the various assassins. They're both a breath of fresh air and a gory sight to behold.
Taking The Exploration Out of The Sandbox
No More Heroes is only partially a hack-and-slash; in fact, a larger majority of the game's time will be devoted to being spent in between each ranked Assassin match. To enter into the next ranked match, you need to fork up a large sum of cash. To get that cash, you'll continually perform various odd-jobs in the form of mini-games around the semi-open world (a la Grand Theft Auto). One such game will have you mowing your lawn, another looking for missing kittens, and another cleaning up graffiti around the city. Each of these mini-games will utilize the Wii Remote and Nunchuk's motion capabilities in various ways, and they can all be repeated as many times as you like. The reward for these are minor, but they are fun enough to justify a second attempt. The real cash comes in the form of secondary-assassination missions excluded from your Ranked battles in the UAA. These will have you battling hoards of bag-wearing, baseball-throwing, pizza-delivering assassins. There as fun as they are bloody, but they can get very repetitive by mid-game. Every assassination side-mission is virtually the same as the one before it; kill a lot of enemies before the time runs out.
As I mentioned before, No More Heroes is a somewhat open-world game. You can explore the town of Santa Destroy (awesome name, I know) using Travis' high-speed motorcycle called the Schpeltiger; you can visit various shops to purchase different attire for Travis, buy VHS Tapes from the local rental store (which allow Travis to learn new wrestling moves), work out at the gym to increase his stats, and various other mini-games related to Travis' overall performance. But that's where the sandbox end. The exploration aspect is merely there to allow you to get from point A to point B. You can't interact with other people in the streets, you can't interact with cars (crash into them). If the only point of the open-world was for transportation, it could have just as easily been done with a simple menu selection. It would've saved a tremendous amount of time. Of course, driving around the city could have been fun if it weren't for all of the technical issues. The collision detection is skewed; Travis will consistently crash into invisible walls surrounding cars and other objects, clearly a good distance away from it. The town itself isn't particularly remarkable looking, either.
The game offers very little on the side of replay value. There's no incentive to start the game over except to try it on a new, harder difficulty which is unlocked upon the first completion. No More Heroes also offers two slightly varied endings (with one admittedly being more satisfying then the other), but you can easily witness either ending of the game after the last assassination mission by visiting your bathroom. Which brings me to my last point, possibly the best part of the game, and the single greatest implementation of a save feature ever. Just visit a bathroom and Travis will squat down on the toilet, prompting you to save your progress.
SUDA-52 Strikes A Perfect Note
The sound of the game is brilliant, and stands toe-to-toe with the game's raw, visceral, exhilarating, combat. The music is a fresh blend of Techno cyber grind with a tiny bit of orchestrated classical thrown in every once in a while for good measure. It's really as diverse a soundtrack as you could imagine for such a unique game. Hitting those slot-machine power ups to fast paced techno while decapitating enemy after enemy after enemy has never been more enjoyable. Aside from the music, the voice acting is exceptionally well delivered given the game's outrageous dialogue. Travis will oft respond to one of the assassin's bizarre catch phrases with a little wit of his own, and when Travis speaks, it's blissful. I think the only thing more satisfying than impaling enemies with a makeshift light saber is hearing Travis say, If I become number one, will you do it with me? to the game's foreign female lead. Ah, Travis. What a guy.
And The Verdict Is
No More Heroes is one of the most unique games to come out in a long time; it's also one of the most violent ones, especially gracing Nintendo's usually-family friendly console. But to those looking for a raw, entertaining, wholly satisfying and brilliantly delivered mature game for the Wii, look no further than No More Heroes.
Pros: Brilliant voice acting and music; exceptionally well - albeit extremely exaggerated - dialogue; a simple but very satisfying and gory combat system; entertaining mini-games in between the story-driven battles
Cons: Open-world lacks the exploration part and the fun of being open-world; sub-assassination missions can get repetitive, despite the game's great combat; little replay value; sometimes the visuals can feel dated
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 04/24/08
Game Release: No More Heroes (US, 01/22/08)
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