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No More Heroes Review

Review; Apr. 12, 2012; Channels: Video Games; By Kyle James Hovanec
A look back at one of the Wii's most unique titles

No More Heroes was Nintendo's effort to show Wii's legitimacy to its fans, who already knew that Nintendo would support the console with their favorite franchise titles such as Mario and Zelda. Casual fans were also satisfied with Wii Sports and the promise for more family-friendly titles on the horizon.

No More Heroes

NMH is an open world/third-person hack-and-slash made by Grasshopper Manufacture, the studio behind the Gamecube and Playstation 2 shooter Killer 7 and the recently released Shadows of the Damned. Anyone who has played a game created by Goichi Suda will know that his creations stray far from the norm, mixing in bizarre, almost borderline archaic gameplay choices, eccentric and memorable characters, and storylines that provide equal parts surrealism and satire.

This title is no different. You play as Travis Touchdown, an otaku infatuated with wrestling and moe anime. Touchdown, like many other otaku, needs cash fast in order to fuel his ravenous appetite for all things 2-D. So he orders a beam katana (think lightsaber) off the Internet and enlists in the United Assassins Association where he fights his way to the top.

Along the way, he receives orders and target assignments from the sexy and mysterious Sylvia Christel, weapons maker Dr. Naomi, former pro Thunder Ryu and town lush Randall Lovikov. While the amount of time that Touchdown spends interacting with these characters is short, their dialog and actions makes them very memorable.

Along with his allies, Touchdown has to face 10 other assassins in one-on-one boss fights. These are the highlights of the game, as each boss is both incredibly unique and innovative.

No More Heroes Screenshots
Click the image to view game screenshots

From a gunslinger in a baseball field, to a masked wrestler who shoots lasers from his crotch, to a giant brain on a pedestal, the boss fights are challenging and a lot of fun. Each boss requires a very different approach and thought to defeating them, which isn't very common in a genre mostly associated with hammering attack buttons until your enemies die. Each boss fight begins and ends with back-and-forth dialog between Touchdown and the bosses. The grandiose fashion in which each boss introduces himself is reminiscent of the Metal Gear Solid series. In an age when boss battles are becoming less common or entirely forgettable, this game keeps them fresh and real.

You fight each of these bosses with a simple control scheme using the Wii-mote. Instead of using it as a form of 1:1 sword fighting, you control your strikes through the A button and by holding your Wii-mote higher or lower, changing your attack stance. Your beam katana runs on batteries, and when the batteries start running out after prolonged use, shaking the Wii-mote up and down will get your katana fully juiced again. Occasionally during combat you can access special abilities and moves by matching a series of three similar symbols in a row, much like a slot machine. While rare, it makes these massively overpowered attacks even more enjoyable and fun to use against your hapless enemies.

For a console as underpowered as the Wii, the visuals and character designs are fantastic. Each character is entirely unique -- with the exception of the stock enemies in the levels before the bosses -- and memorable in looks and personality. Even the main character himself is an odd mix of sexually deprived anti-hero loner. Combat is also visually arresting with enemies exploding into fountains of blood and coins, shouting profanities as their bodies split apart. It’s impossible not to draw comparisons to Kill Bill as you slice your way through the game’s enemies.

No More Heroes Screenshots

It’s a shame the negative bits are so strong and persistent in the overall design because the game as a whole is memorable. While wholly unique, the boss fights are only half of the game. The other half is participating in some of the most boring and lame activities I’ve had the unfortunate experience of playing.

When you’re not fighting bosses, you will be spending most of your time completing repetitive activities to earn money. It’s not a simple matter of finding a boss and choosing to fight him -- you have to pay your way in. You do this by completing errands for the people of your home town, Santa Destroy. You mow lawns, pick up coconuts, and remove graffiti. They all earn you a little more cash to buy entrance into boss fights, upgrade your beam saber, or buy new clothing for Touchdown.

Slightly more exciting opportunities await in the form of assassination missions in which you fight a group of enemies in an enclosed area until you reach your target. These are some of the most enjoyable activities, but like everything else, they become very repetitive after only a few playthroughs.

No More Heroes Screenshots

The town of Santa Destroy is an open world -- with absolutely nothing interesting to explore or see. You navigate your way to each boss fight or side job by riding your tricked-out motorcycle through the town. It’s not that the controls are difficult or the environment confusing, it's just that there's simply nothing there. There's only a few hidden items to be found. There's no interaction with the world or its inhabitants -- it's an empty world meant to extend the time traveling from one task to another. A small part of me suspects this is Suda’s way of satirizing third-person open-world games -- but even if that's the case, it's still boring as hell.

For the first in the series, No More Heroes is a fun and memorable hack-and-slash that fits very well on Nintendo’s waggle-based console. While the flaws are pretty significant and take away from the overall enjoyment, this is still a solid title worth picking up. It’s entirely different from any other title on the market today. Suda's lack of compromise in his titles makes it a very inviting or polarizing experience depending on what side of the fence you're on. For those who can handle the experience, you’ll be treated to an uneven but memorable experience.

Comments

Review Score
7.9

Mature

Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

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