Wednesday, July 4, 2012

No More Heroes Review

-------My Rating System-------

A(-)(+) A top notch experience all the way through. It may not necessarily be perfect, but whatever flaws it does have won’t take you out of it or make it any less worth your time. (Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2)

B(-)(+) A very fun experience bogged down by some significant problems, whether they’re related to the story, gameplay, or both. However, it’s still a good or even great game and worth the price of admission. (Kingdom Hearts: Recoded)

C(-)(+) A mixed bag. Generally fun to some extent and may shine in some areas, but is either too flawed to fully recommend or far too short for its price. Conisder it for a reduced price, at least if you’re a fan of its genre. (Rayman 3D)

D(-)(+) Subpar. It may not be terrible, but it is severely flawed and whatever it does well ultimately fails to save it. Even if you’re a fan of the genre, this is barely a bargain bin purchase. (Sonic Heroes)

F Insipid, disgusting, despicable, and insufferable. It is a scar on the face of human accomplishments that time shall never heal. The best thing we can do is avoid playing it at all costs. It is the only way to prevent its parasitic disease of awfulness from spreading. (Shadow the Hedgehog)


Well…how to begin? I recently played through No More Heroes for the first time, and since I don’t really have anything else to talk about and it seemed like a pretty unique game, I thought that I may as well write a review of it. No More Heroes is brought to us by Goichi Suda – nickname Suda51 – whom I didn't actually know about before playing this game, but apparently, he’s responsible for killer7 and a lot of games that I’ve never even heard of. But after playing this one, I am kind of interested in his other work. Thus the review begins.

Oh, and happy Fourth of July, since that happens to be the day I'm posting this.


The story of No More Heroes focuses on the wonderfully named Travis Touchdown, a pro-wrestling-obsessed otaku living in poverty in a motel after winning a beam katana off the Internet in an auction. After meeting with a woman named Silvia Christel, he takes on a job to kill a man named Helter Skelter and succeeds at doing so, and so the United Assassins Association ranks him as the 11th-best assassin the world. Wanting nothing more than to be the best, Travis sets out on a quest to brutally murder the other ten assassins and reach rank 1.
How classy.

The main plot does actually get a bit interesting towards the end thanks to some well-done plot twists, but what really stands out is the writing. No More Heroes doesn’t take itself seriously in the least; in fact, it’s intentionally cheesy (in an enjoyable way) and it knows that the main protagonist is just as despicable of a human being – well, almost as despicable, in some cases – as the people you’re fighting against. There is no fourth wall to speak of, either, and a lot of the dialogue is really funny. All of the characters, from the main protagonist to the other ranked assassins to the Travis’s designated foil are very well-written, and it all makes this a very fun – and funny – story to watch play out.

No More Heroes has a very unique cel-shaded art style that looks something like a comic book. It did have to grow on me for some reason, but the more I played the game, the more I fell in love with it. The soundtrack is far from the most diverse you’ll ever hear; in fact, boss themes aside, it’s mostly just remixes of the same tune, but it is pretty nice and the credits theme is just amazing.

Now, let’s move on to the gameplay, and let me just say that if you ever wanted to play Kill Bill rather than simply watch it, No More Heroes may just be for you. The majority of the game is played as a hack-n-slash…with a freaking beam katana. Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. You can slash high and slash low depending on how you’re holding the Wii Remote, and all slashing is done with the “A” button. Once an enemy’s health bar is completely depleted, swing the Wii Remote in the requested direction and you will kill the enemy, resulting in massive amounts of blood and guts bursting out and raining down on everything. Since I prefer to keep the content of this blog relatively PG, I am not going to show any screenshots of this.
Instead, enjoy this picture of a ridiculously adorable puppy.

Of course, slicing your enemy to bits isn’t the only way to deplete their health bar. By pressing “B”, you can perform an attack that has a chance of stunning the enemy, at which point you can press “B” again and take the enemy down with Travis’s pro wrestling moves, which you gain more of throughout the game. These are performed by swinging the Wii Remote and Nunchuk in various directions. You can also lock blades with enemies, at which point you must shake the Wii Remote into oblivion; win, and you will get to slice in the enemy into gory chunks, regardless of how much health said enemy had left.  Of course, you will have to defend yourself, but blocking is automatically done when you are locked on to an enemy and if an enemy is using an unblockable charged attack, you can simply use the D-Pad to roll out of the way. Each time you kill an enemy, a slot machine appears at the bottom of the screen, and if you get three matching slots, you will be able to use other moves with some…rather interesting names. “Cranberry Chocolate Sundae” allows you to respond to button prompts for one-hit kills, “Strawberry on the Shortcake” allows you to deliver a killing blow after hitting any enemy only once and "Blueberry Cheese Brownie" allows you to shoot sword beams at enemies. 

The gameplay is a bit “style over substance”, but that’s not always a bad thing. In fact, combat in No More Heroes is actually a lot of fun. Even if it is simplistic, the combat feels awesome and satisfying, especially when you deliver that gory killing blow, which can also take out or knock down other enemies in its vicinity. Of course, this is no doubt in part thanks to the fact that Travis’s weapon of choice is a freaking beam katana. The wrestling moves are a lot of fun to pull off as well, and the required motions for each of these actions are, for the most part, pretty responsive. I did notice that it sometimes wouldn’t respond properly after the first try and when it did, I didn’t always have to be particularly accurate – I recall several occasions where I swung the Wii Remote in the exact opposite direction of the one I was told to and it still worked – which is a bit of a flaw, but not one that severely drags the game down if only because I almost always got it to work the second time.  And, of course, you’ve got to keep in mind that this game was released relatively early on in the Wii’s lifespan. What was a bit more annoying was the lock-on system, which seemed a tad erratic and didn’t always lock on to the enemy that I meant to lock onto, even if he was directly in front of me. In the end, though, these are pretty minor faults.

The game also isn’t without challenge. You will have to mind the battery charge of your beam katana as you take down enemies, and if it runs too low, you will have to find a safe spot and attempt to charge it, done by shaking the Wii Remote repeatedly. Some of the larger enemy groups can be a bit tough as well, and you will face off with some more durable enemies as the game goes on. And then there are the bosses. Yes, while a lot of No More Heroes is spent taking on various grunts, the game places heavy emphasis on its boss fights. The main “levels” of the game, accessed when you’ve paid a stipulated entry fee, are the ranked matches with the other assassins, although you have to fight your way to said assassins first. There is plenty of diversity between these areas, which keeps the gameplay from feeling too repetitive. As for the bosses themselves, they’re also pretty diverse and generally very challenging; each one will require you to use different tactics to avoid their attacks and find openings for you to attack yourself. They are quite fun to fight, but what did annoy me about a few of them was that they have attacks that always kill you regardless of how much health you have. You are not going to see this coming the first time this happens to you, and it’s pretty insulting besides to be taken down immediately by something like that after spending an hour (figuratively) whittling away at a boss’s health bar. Of course, this only applies to a few boss fights in the game, and all of the others are quite well-designed.

This is one of the bosses. No, really.

But like I said, to access these ranked matches, you have to pay a rather large fee. Thus, part of the game consists of driving around the city of Santa Boring – oh, excuse me, Santa Destroy – looking for various ways to get money. True, that joke was lame, but still, I’ve got to say, the overworld is probably the worst part of the game. Aside from some stores and more or less compulsory missions taken from the two exact same places, there is very little to do. There are side missions of sorts, but they’re rather few and far between and are all exactly the same…and, from my experience, nigh-on impossible to boot. The only collectible items were seven balls scattered around the city, but the place was so needlessly huge that I felt no motivation to get them and after playing through the game twice – once on the highest difficulty level – I obviously didn’t suffer for it. Aside from that, the city just feels really lifeless and dull. Nothing changes over the course of the game aside from stores opening up early on and the NPC’s and other such objects are only there for you to run over – no, really. Oh, and it’s not very polished, either; there were several moments where the bike actually got stuck due to bad collision detection and I had to fight with the game for a few seconds to get it free. It’s pretty annoying, quite frankly.

But as for the missions themselves, which most of your time in the overworld will be spent doing, they fare quite a bit better. There are two types of main missions, both of which will get you tons of money, depending on how well you perform. These types are part-time jobs and assassination missions. Part-time jobs are mini-games in which you do, well…part-time jobs. These include such riveting activities as collecting garbage, filling up cars with gas and wiping away graffiti. All snarking aside, these missions really aren’t as boring as you would expect; they’re far from the most substantial mini-games you’ll ever play, but they are well-executed and fairly enjoyable and they help to give the gameplay a bit of variety. Assassination missions are basically timed missions in which you kill people for money. Some have little twists and such, but that’s really all there is to it. Since the combat is still fun, though, I won’t count off for it.

The Good:

+ Enjoyable story with funny writing
+ Great art style
+ Nice soundtrack
+ Very fun combat
+ Great bosses for the most part
+ Part-time job mini-games add variety

The Bad:

- Motions can be slightly unresponsive or inaccurate at times
- Some bosses have instant kill moves
- Generally boring overworld
- Occasional collision detection issues in said overworld


It’s far from perfect, but ultimately, No More Heroes is a very fun game that’s definitely worth experiencing. It’s true, there isn’t much substance to it, and in fact, to an extent it could even be called mindless at points. But hey, sometimes, that can be fun. It’s comparable to Crazy Taxi in a sense; no, there’s not much to it, but it’s so over-the-top and so crazy that you can’t help but enjoy it relentlessly. It’s a “popcorn game”, so to speak, and the fun story and great writing only make it that much better. No More Heroes is a very good game and I intend for the sequel to find its way into my ever-growing collection soon.

Grade: B

Hey, I actually remembered to copy the grading system this time!

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