Review by Platyphyllis
"While it won't appeal to everyone, No More Heroes is full of action and delivers a lot of fun"
Lately, the Wii hasn't exactly been on the good side of many long-time gamers. Nintendo continues to churn out stuff like Wii Music, Wii Play, and other Wii (insert name here) games that many uninformed people buy. This unfortunately, gives Nintendo the wrong message and is gradually making the Wii a console that lacks the first-party shine that its predecessors had. Luckily, some 3rd party developers are stepping up to the task of providing some great games to this console which really needs them right now. With the recently released de Blob and other examples like Boom Blox and Blast Works, certain developers have showed that the Wii is definitely capable of delivering good games and one of the earlier developers to show this was Goichi Suda (more commonly known as Suda 51) and his team at Grasshopper Manufacture when they announced No More Heroes. While people were definitely sceptical about it first, the game was finally released after a relatively long wait and ended up being a very bloody, unique, and fun game which broke the trend of family friendly simple games by delivering lots of fast-paced action.
In No More Heroes, you play as Travis Touchdown, an ordinary otaku (someone with obsessive interests) who pretty much dedicates his life to anime, video games, manga, and wrestling. He lives in the No More Heroes motel in Santa Destroy, a fictional town located in California. Since he's running out of money quickly, he ends up taking an assassination job after he wins a beam katana on an online auction. He kills his first victim Helter Skelter right at the beginning of the game and unfortunately for him, this makes him the 11th Ranked assassin in the United Assassins Association which means he is constantly under threat from other assassins wishing to claim his place. Now, the only hope for him to secure his life is to make it to the feared 1st rank to become the top assassin in the nation.
Fans of Suda51 may remember his Gamecube/PS2 game killer7 which was renowned for its story. While No More Heroes' plot isn't boring, it certainly isn't impressive and mind-blowing. Nevertheless, it's still solid and the way it progresses gives enough incentive for players to keep playing. Before and after each ranking battle against the 10 assassins you have to beat before becoming No. 1, you're treated to a variety of cutscenes. These cutscenes can be humorous and light-hearted (these ones mainly involve Sylvia, the woman who hosts all these assassin battles) while others reveal more of the overarching story (because things are never what they seem), progress character development, and are sometimes full of fast-paced action. The dialogue also makes many references to pop culture and other real-life entertainment titles (Star Wars, Duke Nukem Forever, etc.) which was a nice twist and keeps the player glued to the screen during the many action and dialogue sequences.
While the plot is definitely great, an action game can't really stand up too well if it doesn't have a fun and interesting gameplay system. Thankfully, No More Heroes provides just that. A large amount of the game is spent hacking your way through enemies using Travis' Beam Katana. This may sound rather uninviting to those who think you'll be swinging the Wii Remote for each attack, but luckily, attacks are carried out by pressing a button. Instead, deathblows (finishing moves that you perform after depleting an enemy's health bar) are performed by swinging the Wii Remote in the direction indicated on the screen. These deathblows are incredibly satisfying to see, especially when you end up cutting through multiple enemies at once and its simple to do. There are also a variety of wrestling moves available to Travis which can be used to deal huge chunks of damage to normal enemies and do significant amounts of damage to bosses. Of course, the action game standards like rolling dodges (known as Emergency Evades in this game) and blocking are also present.
There's more to the game than just fighting though. Once you beat the first boss and you're allowed to roam around the town of Santa Destroy, you learn that there's a rather large expanse of other things for you to do. You can make Travis ride around town on his motorcycle to reach different destinations quickly, collect hidden treasure, take up side jobs like cleaning up streets full of garbage and cleaning up graffiti, or even collect Lovikov Balls in order to learn new helpful skills. Simply put, there's a lot to do in No More Heroes as it's a rather open-ended game.
The pinnacle of the gameplay experience for this game is the bosses. Since Travis is the 11th ranked assassin, you can only expect that you have to run into the other 10, and when you do run into one of them, you'll probably end up having one of the most incredible gaming experiences ever. The bosses in this game are over-the-top crazy and difficult. By the 8th ranked match, you'll be engaged in intense fights with the other assassins complete with really awesome cutscenes and a rather high level of difficulty. Regardless of the difficulty, even if you lose, the amount of excitement that these bosses give you keep making you try again until you finally learn their patterns and win, at which point you're treated to an extreme (and usually very bloody) cutscene in which Travis finishes off the enemy.
Despite the amount of praise I've given the game so far, this doesn't necessarily mean that the gameplay is perfect. There are a number of minor flaws which add up to bring the experience down slightly. The controls for Travis' motorcycle are really iffy at first (which is why this game could have benefitted greatly from an area select system where you can instantly go to places you've been to which is a feature it unfortunately doesn't have), there aren't really that many places to go to, and the map can be very hard to navigate because of it's old school 8-bit style. They don't even give you a retry option if you fail a mission. Instead, you have to drive for a minute or so all the way back to the job center, pick the job again, and drive back which can get quite annoying. Simply put, the gameplay experience could have been improved significantly if only the game was given an extra amount of polish. Regardless, these problems are all minor and can be overlooked by those who are patient and in the end; they don't fully get in the way of the fun and satisfying experience that this game offers.
In terms of graphics, this is one game that puts style over detailed. The graphics are cel-shaded which gives off a very comic book like feel to the game. Even though cel-shaded has been featured in other light hearted games like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, that doesn't necessarily mean that this game's graphical style is bright and colourful. While the surface of Santa Destroy is pretty lively and bright, he game is full of dark, grim, and strange environments like a creepy high school and a mazelike forest. The game also features a lot of blood (you'll see blood pretty much every time you perform a deathblow) which adds to the gritty feel of certain areas in this game (and sometimes there's so much blood, that you even begin to get used to it like you would after getting halfway into an extremely violent comic book). While the graphics don't exactly feel polished and impressive, they're still full of style to the point where it's easy to overlook that fault and enjoy the dark and comical feel of the game.
The game is pretty solid too in the sound department. While it may not to be to everyone's taste, the game's sound design resembles an anime show. There are some iffy voiceovers, lots of cheesy, corny dialogue, and very solid sound effects. While to some people, this may seem like a fault, I personally thought that it made the game feel more unique and stylish. Together with the gameplay and the graphics, the sound department helps in bringing together the whole feel that you're playing some sort of interactive anime/comic book.
While the game offers a lot in terms of content and replayability, many players probably won't end up playing this game more than once after finishing it. There are a variety of optional skills to get, upgrades for your beam katanas, and all sorts of different outfits to get for Travis (I was actually really impressed by amount of customization options you had when it came to his appearance). Unfortunately, people will have a hard time getting motivated to complete everything because of how repetitive it can get to get money. Basically, the routine is that you go to the job center, pick the mission with the highest pay, take a relatively long drive to the mission area, complete the mission, drive all the way back to the job center, and repeat. This was probably one of the more tedious parts of the game (except for the part where you actually take on assassination missions, but you still have to drive all the way there) for me and was one of the major reasons why I only played the game until the end and stopped there which is really a shame because the game offers quite a lot of content. To those who are patient enough to get through that though, then you can expect to be glued to this game for a long time.
Overall, No More Heroes succeeds at what an action game like it should be delivering. It provides a lot of fun and that for me is enough reason to buy this game. It doesn't necessarily stop there though with its over-the-top style, interesting graphics, and loads of content. No More Heroes is definitely a game to look out for. Be warned though, that doesn't mean everyone will like it because there is an obvious lack of polish and not everyone will have the patience to get through the somewhat repetitive job sections of the game. Nonetheless, I give the game a wholehearted recommendation to any Wii owner who doesn't feel satisfied enough with the Wii's current library of games which seems to be overrun with shovelware lately as No More Heroes is incredibly unique and more appropriate when it comes to difficulty for the normal gamer crowd.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 09/25/08
Game Release: No More Heroes (US, 01/22/08)
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