Title: No More Heroes
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: Marvelous Interactive, Ubisoft, Rising Star Games
Year: 2007 (JP), 2008 (NTSC-U), 2008 (PAL)
No More Heroes: Because you should wear shirts you find in dumpsters. Every once in a while, a videogame comes along that makes the videogame industry sit up and say "Hey, that looks interesting". Three years probably equates to "every once in a while" for Suda 51, who broke into the mainstream videogame market with killer7 in 2005 and now hits back with his charming action-adventure for the Wii, No More Heroes.
In No More Heroes you play as Travis Touchdown, a stereotypical otaku who wins a Beam Katana from an online auction and sets out to kill people. Upon killing a man (who just happens to be an assassin), Travis is approached by Sylvia Christel, a representative of the United Assassins Association (UAA). Telling him he is now ranked 11th, she encourages Travis to continue rising through the ranks to reach number one.
For sure, No More Heroes's storyline is different compared to most modern day videogames. It's simple, but simple doesn't necessarily equate to boring. Those who downed killer7 may see it as a godsend (the twists and turns in the aforementioned game being a huge headache for most). The characters are quirky and colourful and Travis really stands out in the bucket of videogame protagonists as an anti-hero who learns that his assumptions may not be all that is out there. The only real complaint I have is in regards to the lack of backstory for some of the characters Travis meets along his journey. While some characters reveal enough of their pasts to satisfy the player (without turning the game into a complete angst-fest), others left me curious and wanting to learn more.
Overall: Suda 51 has proved that he can make storylines uncomplicated without making them boring. For the most part, the story and the characters work extremely well, but is somewhat let down by the lack of depth in some of the of the characters's backstories.
No More Heroes's cel-shaded graphics are gorgeous in actual battles and cutscenes, the colours rich and bright. However, the same can't be said of the world map, the city of Santa Destroy. Driving around causes lag that shouldn't actually occur - given that Travis can take on more than a few enemies without any slowdown. It's not as though Santa Destroy is densely populated either.
Overall: Say hello to my friend, Lagmeister. He's usually out of town, but when he's back, I just want to punch him in the face.
As the player may expect, the main objective of the game is to kill the ten assassins ranked above you, which all occur as boss battles. The bosses are never boring and have attacks that really keep you on your toes. There's nothing more frustrating than chipping a boss's health down to a sliver, only to be caught in a attack that kills you instantly. Believe me, it will happen at least once. When you're not gaining ranks, you're off earning cash so you can register for your next battle by doing one of two types of side mission. You can either get a part-time job or go on a quick killing spree (as an assassin, of course). Part-time jobs range from coconut collecting to kitten catching and assassination missions are, well, all about killing.
I found the part-time jobs to be infinitely more interesting, mainly due to the way the player is directed to manipulate the controls. For example, the graffiti scrubbing job requires you to wiggle the Wiimote left and right and shake it up and down while the rubbish collection job requires you to 'flick' the Wiimote upwards to simulate putting trash in the bin. On the other hand, the assassination missions are uninspired and aren't really any different from the pre-boss killing sprees Travis has to fight his way through; the enemies are still generic and the objectives are typically time limit-based.
Being a Wii title, I expect many people thought it would utilise more of a 'swing the Wiimote around to swing the Beam Katana!' approach. I won't say that I wasn't slightly disappointed when I found this wasn't the case, but mashing the A button while swinging the Wiimote around for context-sensitive actions feels like a much better control scheme than the other option available.
Overall: The gameplay is polished and interesting, but not without its flaws.
The music in No More Heroes lives up to the reputation Masafumi Takada earned after his work in killer7 and God Hand. From the electronic harmonies of the main theme and its remixed counterparts, to the rhythmic percussion of the final boss's background music, it all fits well and there's sure to be something that will stick in your head. The voice acting is wonderful as well, with many well-known names in videogame voice acting lending their talents to bring the characters to life.
Overall: The quality of the audio in No More Heroes is by far, the best aspect of the game.
Not being a title for the masses (and the sales figures reflect that) has probably allowed No More Heroes to be that quirky cult game that some gamers have been waiting for. It's one of the more unique games currently out on the market and despite displaying some technical flaws, is a must-have for any mature Wii owner.