First off, I have to admit… I am way, way behind in getting to this game. Originally released for the Wii when real gamers kind of still cared about the Wii, I actually had the game in my possession. I just couldn’t motivate myself to turn on my Wii and waggle around like an idiot no matter what people said about the game. Thankfully, my anti-Wii agenda and patience paid off and Suda 51 brought his game to a real system for me to play…. In Japan. That might deter others but I wanted to try it so I imported the title and gave it a whirl. Did it live up to the amount of hype it got? The answer there is a heavy mix of yes and no. This is a game that could be put into some sort of textbook as the definition of style over substance. Thankfully the style is so cool and the substance is just good enough to make this a pretty awesome title all around.
For any of my fellow gamers out there who don’t know what this is, I ask… What rock do you live under and do you get cable there? Seriously, this title was hyped enough that even non Wii owners should have some idea what this is. If you don’t, it’s OK, I’m going to give a quick run down on what this is about. The game takes place in Santa Destroy, the hometown of one Travis Touchdown. Travis is an assassin and he wants to be the best. Thankfully for him there is the UAA which just so happens to track and rank all of the assassins across the globe. All Travis has to do is kill the 10 people ranked in front of him and, viola, he is number one. That’s a bird’s-eye view of the story which ends up being pretty cool. The real draw is the great characters on both the good and the bad side. The game is obviously Suda 51′s (the lead developer) love letter to American Culture. Try to imagine that Quentin Tarantino is Japanese and he is remaking Kill Kill from that perspective and you have an idea of what No More Heroes is about.
The game was released earlier in 2010 for the PS3 without the Wii’s motion controls. The game is currently in Asia only but will get a stateside release in 2011. Because the game was first made for the Wii, the easy thing to do was to just port over the code and give the game a nice HD makeover. Here is where one of the games first major flaws appears. Porting games over from other systems works, to a certain extent, but it’s always very (VERY) obvious when the content that is carried over is from another (weaker) console. That’s certainly the case with No More Heroes. The game’s main characters are well animated and have very nice textures. The problem is that nothing else in the game looks as good as the main characters do. There is an open world element to the game in between boss battles and the open world is straight up ugly. It has no life to it (you are lucky to see 2 cars or people on-screen at once) and the textures of the buildings are pure mud. When inside of assassination missions the game environments don’t look much better either. The developer really had a chance to fix the horrible texture work and add more life to world but choose to be lazy and just slap a new resolution on an ugly Wii game.
You know what another problem with ports is? Control issues. For the most part this game has to be seen as a massive control upgrade because it removes the Wii’s waggle controls and maps things to actual buttons, d-pads and analog sticks. You know, the way games were meant to be played. So overall I can’t complain about the controls as they are solid for fighting, something you will find yourself doing about 85% of the time in your playthroughs. The control issues pop in on the open world navigation. While walking, it feels like Travis is being drug through mud. While riding his motorcycle, you can’t help but wonder what Suda was doing when he mapped the controls. The thing handles like a tricycle. It’s not fun to use at all.
Now that I got the big complaints out of the way, I have to get to the good stuff, of which there is plenty. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the game focuses on lots of battles. Travis is equipped with a Beam Katana which is more or less a light saber. This leads to a lot of smashing buttons like any other brawler but the game does something interesting to keep you engaged in every enemy you take down. To finish an enemy you must click the R3 button when the screen prompts you to and then press the right analog stick in whatever direction the game tells you. Some people might find this annoying but I liked the mechanic as it was constantly paying attention to my fights which I can’t say is true for other button mashers. One other cool thing about the battle system is the wrestling moves. Instead of finishing your opponent with your Beam Katana, you can daze them and then grab them for a wrestling move. This will knock them out on the ground where you then finish them with the Katana. It’s a nice addition to keep from the same old button mashing that so many other hack n’ slash games are guilty of.
The game might get repetitive because it does have a rinse and repeat aspect that might bore some people. The game works the same way in between all of the ranked assassination missions. You need to earn a certain amount of money to open the next battle. You earn money during the assassination missions but rarely do you get enough to open the next UAA fight right away. This is where you get involved with the side jobs and assassination missions from a dude in a hoody and K-Entertainment respectively. Side-jobs consist of random tasks like saving kitties, removing graffiti from walls, collecting coconuts and killing scorpions. All the jobs are mindless and kind of boring but they all have a very short time span so they never felt tedious to me. The assassination missions are all pretty straight forward. Most of the time you have to kill a specific target or just kill a certain number of enemies. There are variations like missions where you are only able to kill people via wrestling moves or missions where the screen flips upside down. The last open world aspect is the Free Fight missions which pit you against a group of baddies and you only have 1 pixel of health. Get hit once and it’s mission over. These are the most difficult missions but offer a nice challenge to those interested. Once you have earned enough money you open the next mission and then you rinse and repeat.
So with all this repetition I bet you are wondering why I think this is a good game. First off, I just really enjoyed the battle system. It’s different enough to set it apart from other hack n’ slashers and always kept me involved. The second aspect of the game that really made me love it was the style. As I mentioned earlier, Suda 51 packed this game with such a unique style that it will keep you wanting to play. You will want to get to the next boss just to see what kind of crazy stuff Suda packed into their levels and the bosses themselves.
When I say I love the style, I’m not just talking about cell shaded characters here. I am talking about the midi music when you learn a new wrestling move, the pixel art HUD, the reference to movies like Pulp Fiction and Star wars, the goofy retro t-shirts you can find/buy and most of all the unique bosses that end each level. Each boss has a style so different and unique from the one before it that you will love working your way to the next UAA fight. While I said this is a case of style over substance, don’t take that as a negative, the style is just that cool.
So is this a game for you, should you import it or wait for it to come out stateside? I would say that if you like brawlers and you want something unique that’s just a little rough around the edges, it’s worth importing. Yes, it has flaws. It’s not the prettiest game, controls outside of fighting are poor and the formula repeats itself over and over again. But none of that matters when you have such over the top characters to look forward to…. and I didn’t even mention the bat-shit crazy ending. It’s a game that is fun, over the top and stylistically amazing. Give it a shot and you might just find that Suda 51 is the genius others make him out to be.
Play this if you like:
- God of War style brawlers
- Quentin Tarantino Movies
Overall Score - 80
A game that has style like you have never seen before with fun fighting controls. Unfortunately the open world aspects really bring the score down. There is no life to the world.
Game Play 85
You will be doing a of fighting and I found that to be quite a bit of fun. The side missions and jobs aren't great, but they are quick distractions to help pace the game. Overall the gameplay is solid, refine some of the open world elements and it's near perfect.
Biggest disappointment to me. The game looks like an upsclared version of a Wii game. I promise you, that isn't a compliment.
Again, the fight controls are great. Navigation the open world is a pain but overall the game has to be seen as solid on the control front.
Sound/Music - 90
I really liked the music, specifically the midi sounds here and there. The main theme is pretty good and played in different variations across the game. The voice acting is perfectly cheesy (especially Silvia, she is supposed to sound like that) and works well.
Replayability - 70
For a single player game this will take a while if we are talking platinum. But most people might be one and done. You should be able to get at least 15 hours out of it in one playthrough.