No More Heroes - WII - Review
If you own a big enough shovel, you could conceivably plough through all of the mini-game collections and PS2 ports on the Wii - chances are you’ll come up with about two or three games worth your time. To kick off the new year, a year hopefully of higher quality Wii games, Grasshopper Studios has released No More Heroes - a quirky, Tarantino-esque button masher with more style than a truckload of GTA clones.
Grasshopper Studios is led by famed designer Suda 51, who led the team in making such cult hits as Killer 7 on the GameCube and Contact for the DS, which is one of my personal favorites. No More Heroes follows in the same vain as Killer 7, using cell-shaded graphics and a bizarre sense humor, but departs from it in the best ways. What Killer 7 did with dark humor, No More Heroes plays to a more mainstream crowd, while still retaining a style of its own. It’s packed with inside jokes on games and movies, most which are not meant for the young. The cut scenes are an absolute joy to watch, with a quality of direction and writing that rivals Suda 51’s idol, Quentin Tarantino.
The main character, Travis Touchdown, is a guy just like you and me. Well, give or take, because he is lives in the uber male fantasy. The beam sword (not light-saber) you see him twirling in the trailers is something he won off of an Internet auction. He’s seemingly obsessed with Japanese anime, while action figures, Mexican wrestling masks, and video games adorn his small room. And because of a girl he met at a bar, he is out of money and is forced to become an assassin … Well, at least the beam sword came in handy after all.
Travis ascends the ranks of assassin-hood in Grasshopper’s bizarre-O version of LA, called Santa Destroy. As you play, you’ll unlock new stores like Area 51, a hip clothing store for your character, or a training gym. And to get around, Travis can rip through the streets on his oversized motorcycle. The open world, where all of this rebel rousing takes place, is probably the most disappointing aspect of No More Heroes. The city is frankly bland and empty. Aside from the handful of buildings you can go into, there’s really nowhere to go – not to mention you’ll only see a person about every couple of blocks. The car models look like they were ripped out of a N64 game, and the physics when you run into another car could have been in Cruisn’ USA.
In a game with such a rich cast of hilarious characters, it’s a shame that you can’t meet more of them! The few stores you can go into made me wish I could experience the rest of Santa Destroy. Contrasting against the in-depth characters you see in cut scenes and boss fights, the characters that populate the ho-hum world of Santa Destroy are brief sketches. In particular, with the strong retro games theme, it would have been nice to visit an arcade and play some old school games – and meet some of Travis’s surely bizarre friends. But, an open GTA-like world is not what this game is about at all.
This game is successful in two facets: gameplay and style. The first is a milestone for button-mashers on all platforms, not just for the Wii. The majority of your time will be spent banging on the A button, but, I assure you, it is the best gameplay you’ll find anywhere. After an enemy’s life is depleted, you can do a finishing move, which is activated by a swing of the Wii-Mote in the direction shown on screen. The visceral thrill of putting that final smash on your enemy is unparalleled, especially when your enemy explodes into blood splatter and coins.
You can also execute wrestling moves, if you get them stunned. Arrows will flash onscreen, telling you how to throw your arms to take down your weary opponent. The Dark Side is a slow-mo, kill-all mode that initiates after you get enough kills. There are variations of the Dark Side, each with hilarious names that Travis yells out, like Blueberry Cheese Brownie, or Cranberry Chocolate Sundae. When fighting, you can occasionally lock your sword against an enemy, like in a Star Wars duel, which requires you to make a swirling motion to fight back. Of course, as you fight, your beam sword loses its charge; let’s just say that in order to recharge it, you have to make a pretty suggestive gesture. Lame jokes aside, all of the motions are really well integrated and make the action very rewarding.
The latter facet I mentioned is style, and NMH is gushing like a decapitated assassin with personality. From the toys of Travis’ room to the hilarious messages that the local video rental leaves for him everyday (he’s got a few questionable movies that are late), the game is pulsing with originality. The many retro, 8-bit game references throughout, like the pixilated heart container or the score tally screen that flashes “MARVELOUS,” is icing on the cake. When you complete a mission or charge up your beam sword, you’ll hear a little Galagian 8-bit jingle that will put a smile on your face. I don’t want to spoil any of these moments, but there’s a great part where Travis falls asleep and you’ll see he even dreams in pixels. As I mentioned, the game relies heavily on toilet humor – but literally, you save the game while Travis is on the toilet.
For me, Travis’ obsession with retro games and his idea that, in order to make a few extra bucks, he’ll just become an assassin, makes this a gamer’s game. It’s one of the first games, along with Grasshopper’s Contact, to comment on the elements that actually make up a game! The story and the visual motifs really are the most extreme male gamer’s fantasy; and honestly, I think it’s great that a game like this can find its place on the Wii. The humor and the gameplay fuse so well into a pure, visceral action game that I recommend this to anyone who is even slightly interested.
Review Scoring Details for No More Heroes
The most visceral, intuitive gameplay you’ll find on the Wii. The motion is intelligently restrained, and only kicks in at the most thrilling moments.
The choice to stylize the graphics is smart – and should be done to all Wii games. But the city is very bland and uninteresting. Thankfully the story and gameplay are so rich.
When you start a mission and the NMH theme kicks in, you’ll feel a rush of adrenaline. From the great tunes that play in the clothing store to the 8-bit jingles and sound effects, your ears will be pleased.
It’s a very accessible game, but the boss fights offer a real challenge.
This game is off the charts in style. Aside from a great story and raunchy humor, the retro-game references will alone melt any cold-blooded assassin’s heart.
It’s too bad the open-world element wasn’t fleshed out more, because this game could have been spectacular. NMH is the Wii’s first third-party classic and anyone with a Wii should seek it out.