No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise
I first played the original No More Heroes on the Wii in August of 2008. I was instantly drawn to the game's over-the-top style, Japanese-influenced ultra-violence, and ridiculous protagonist. It was everything I could ever hope for in an M-rated Wii game, and thanks to its unique design direction and storytelling, it was much, much more. Here we are, almost exactly three years after I played through the game for the first time, and the PlayStation 3 is now host to its very own HD upgrade. No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise comes to Sony's console sporting HD visuals, added content, and everything featured in the original (flaws included).
You play as Travis Touchdown, a pathetic otaku with an affinity for professional wrestling, anime, and porn. At the beginning of Heroes' Paradise, Travis finds himself absolutely broke. Having just won a beam katana in an online auction, he decides to put it to use, joining the United Assassins Association and attempting to climb the ranks to become the organization's top killer. This isn't exactly a story for the ages, but it is delightfully absurd and incredibly comical. After all, how many protagonists do you know that become assassins just because they need the money and have nothing better to do?
Heroes' Paradise puts you in the otaku shoes of Travis, and it is your job to guide him to the number one spot in the UAA's rankings. For the most part, the game follows a lot of the fundamentals of classic hack-and-slash titles. You enter an environment, kill a bunch of bad guys, and progress to another area, where you're greeted by more waves of enemies. Even on the lower difficulty settings, these baddies are pretty tough and resilient, so you can expect a good fight every time.
You can deliver high and low attacks with your beam katana, as well as kicks and punches. This is all done using the face buttons, but there are also special finishing maneuvers that Travis can perform to end his foes' miserable lives. Depending on whether you're using the DualShock 3 or PlayStation Move, performing these moves comes with a varying degree of satisfaction. Using a traditional controller is, for all intents and purposes, very functional, but it just doesn't offer the same rewarding results that a motion controller does. There's just something really awesome about using a swift gesture to chop off your enemies' heads or slice them vertically in half. If you're sticking with the DualShock 3, however, you have to click down on L3 and R3, and then move the analog sticks accordingly to an onscreen prompt to dish out some cool beam katana attacks and wrestling moves. It works, but it doesn't feel very natural.
It is your job to utilize basic and finishing attacks to take down thugs and ultimately battle the game's ranked assassins. These fights are the most enjoyable aspect of Heroes' Paradise, and they're incredibly memorable. Each of the game's assassins is interesting and colorful, and they all have their own vendetta for being a part of the UAA. For the most part, these characters are really over-the-top, and they don't seem like your typical cold-blooded killers. That said, as you watch the game's cutscenes unfold and listen to the dialogue between the assassins and Travis, it quickly becomes apparent that these individuals are for real. As far as the actual battles go, the ranked assassins in Heroes' Paradise deal a ton of damage, defend appropriately, and can be tricky to defeat, especially on the game's high difficulty settings. Once you manage to kill them, you can't help but feel like a true badass.
As impressive as the main gameplay in Heroes' Paradise may be, a lot of the issues that plagued the first game are still alive and kicking in this enhanced remake. For starters, the game's open world is far too barren and devoid of activity to really enjoy. After playing the much more streamlined No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, I immediately found myself missing the simple overworld map from that game. Driving around the city of Santa Destroy is pretty cool at first, but once you realize that there's not much to do (with the exception of finding hidden cash and clothes), it quickly becomes a chore navigating the large open environment.
This free roam area is host to a couple of employment agencies, both of which offer work so Travis can earn some extra dough. A lot of these side jobs aren't all that great, and you'll soon grow bored of collecting coconuts and mowing lawns. Other jobs allow you to take on groups of enemies in a designated amount of time, take out the head honcho from a small organization, or test your mettle against enemies with a single hit point to keep you going. These extra jobs are fairly decent, but it's impossible to enjoy them for very long. In order for Travis to enter ranked fights, he must collect an increasing amount of cash to pay an entry fee. It doesn't take long for these fees to reach ridiculous amounts, and you'll find yourself constantly grinding for cash in between assassination missions. Simply put, this quickly becomes a hassle; after a short period of time, working for cash stops being fun.
It's easy to see how the developers may have wanted to keep the game accurate to the original, but by leaving the flawed entry fee requirement and empty sandbox environment untouched, Heroes' Paradise comes packed with gameplay elements that were never great to begin with. Had the developers removed the entry fee system, Heroes' Paradise would flow a lot smoother and provide a fitting no-nonsense action game experience. At the very least, smaller fees would have helped, too. Additionally, a world map like the one in No More Heroes 2 would have provided a much more free-flowing adventure.
From a presentational standpoint, Heroes' Paradise looks notches better than the original version. That said, there are still a few hiccups that keep the game from looking as awesome as it should. Screen tearing is still prominent, and there are a few less-than-pleasing textures in the game. Additionally, loading and saving are dreadfully lengthy. Given the power of the PlayStation 3, none of these issues are understandable, nor are they really that acceptable. Thankfully, the sound design in the game still rocks. The voice acting is pleasant, and the music is really cool. Unfortunately, the awesome track "Heavenly Star", by Genki Rockets, isn't anywhere to be found. Yeah, feel free to insert a sad face emoticon here.
Though it certainly comes with its annoyances--many of which were present in the original Wii version--Heroes' Paradise shines through as a solid game. If you have a penchant for crazy action games, this title is definitely worth your time. There's a lot to like in Heroes' Paradise, and the addition of Score Attack mode as well as battles from No More Heroes 2, though not amazing, is a nice touch. If you already played No More Heroes on the Wii, I wouldn't suggest buying this version. That said, No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise is an excellent buy for those gamers who missed out on playing the original. The gameplay is awesome for the most part, the boss battles are great, and the narrative is hilarious, as you would expect from a Suda51 game. This is a game that's worth playing for its satisfying hack-and-slash mechanics and unique style and attitude. Just be sure to play using PlayStation Move.