Review: 'No More Heroes'
Directed by Suda 51(Killer 7), No More Heroes puts you in the leather jacket of Travis Touchdown, an anime obsessed gamer who finds himself strapped for cash and in need of some serious funds. Apparently his choices were either work retail or become an assassin. Since retail simulators aren't big sellers you can assume he chose the latter path. Starting at rank 11, you must kill 10 ranked assassins until you can claim the top spot, plenty of cash and possibly some loving from your handler, a sarcastic French woman who never misses an opportunity to put you down. The story has a few twists in it regarding Touchdown's family and past love, but I'm not going to ruin any of it for you. Let's just say that each meeting with your targets ranges from hilariously bizarre to just plain dirty. Oh, and save points are handled by going to the bathroom - yep that's the kind of game this is.
Gameplay in No More Heroes is an experience of highs and lows. Combat is satisfying as you wield a lightsaber-esque weapon thar slices through enemies, leaving satisfying fountains of blood in its wake. Rather than waving the wiimote around like a spastic monkey, the A button controls the swings while the position of the controller puts Travis in a high or low stance. The game is a button masher, but you will never get tired of slicing your way through the hordes of enemies. The bosses are old school affairs where you memorize their attacks and find ways to exploit their weaknesses. Leading up to each encounter is a cutscene where the boss explains their motives, or just sings karaoke. Not once did I grow wary of the battles, and in fact couldn't wait to see who my next victim was going to be.
While combat leaves you satisfied, the rest of the gameplay grinds enjoyment to a halt. Between stages you are free to roam around the city of Santa Destroy, an open world you can explore on foot or on a motorcycle straight out of Akira. The problem is when you're in the city there is simply nothing to do. Sure, you can collect new t-shirts but you'll find yourself just following your mini map to your next objective, which between killings is actually getting part time jobs to pay your entrance fees. These jobs include collecting coconuts, picking up litter, and mowing lawns. Most of these involve some sort of gimmick like twisting the wiimote, and their only true function is to extend the life of the game. I'd rather the game gave me some more combat, though to be fair some of the side missions require you to kill a room full of baddies without getting hit.
Considering most of my gaming is done on a 50-inch HDTV using a PS3 or 360 the visuals in No More Heroes really bugged me, at least at first. The art style is very much in the vein of a manga, with simplified lines, but plenty of cell shading to make the characters unique and memorable. This might be why they chose to make the backgrounds dull and repetitive. Even the city itself has no distinct characteristics, which make navigating it a mess. Cut scenes are handled with the in-game engine and do an amazing job of telling the story, but I can't help but wish there was a little more under the hood. We've seen games like Mario Galaxy and Zelda look amazing on the Wii and No More Heroes could have used that same polished. The art direction on the characters is the game's saving grace though and while the visuals are muddy, in the heat of combat you really won't mind at all. Gameplay over visuals, right?
In the end, No More Heroes is one of the best experiences currently out on the Wii that isn't published by Nintendo. Suda 51 has created a cast of colorfully offensive characters and set them all up for the gamer to knock down. Like Assassin's Creed, the structure of the game is repetitive but unlike the Creed No More Heroes is engrossed in gameplay and not just the story. Let's just hope this will set the stage for more mature titles Nintendo's little white moneymaker.
Final Score: 8 out of 10
Story by Dan Chruscinski
Starpulse contributing writer
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