Wii

North America

No More Heroes

by Jonathan Metts - February 17, 2008, 11:23 pm PST
Total comments: 21

8

Tend to the Garden of Madness.

No More Heroes starts off with a bang, as Travis Touchdown glazes over the past few days of his life and then drives his motorcycle right into the estate of the #10 assassin in the world. Travis has just one goal in life: to become the top-ranked assassin, which will in turn get him laid by the beautiful and possibly psychotic Sylvia. This is an in-your-face action game with buckets of blood, more swearing than a typical R-rated film, and a garish blend of Japanese and American cultural references. There's nothing else quite like it on the Wii or any other system, and for older, core Nintendo gamers, No More Heroes is a rare treat.

Not many games are so upfront about their structure and length. The best comparison is Shadow of the Colossus, a game that prides itself on a total lack of filler content between boss battles. No More Heroes does have normal enemies leading up to the ranked assassin fights, but they are good preparation for the big battles. These enemies are contained in short action levels, though the natures of these levels vary dramatically. One of the great thrills in this game is experiencing a new ranked mission, because the boss battles are so unpredictable and always interesting. Between these missions, there is a significant amount of filler content. The strange and somewhat funny part is that the game gleefully acknowledges that this content is filler and nothing but. Travis needs to pay fees to enter each ranked fight, and most of the required money is earned by completing odd jobs and small-time assassinations. The odd jobs play out like mini-games, and although they aren't much fun and don't pay well, they do unlock unranked assassinations. These events are also short, but they are entertaining and tend to pay big bucks.

Whether it's in small-time fights or ranked assassin missions, most of the game is spent fighting. The combat is simple and repetitive, yet very addictive. Travis fights with an upgradeable beam sword that looks and sounds very cool, and it slices through bad guys with exaggerated blood sprays as your reward. The game cleverly avoids motion fatigue by using standard button presses for regular attacks and reserving simple gestures for killing blows and wrestling moves. The combination of control styles and the pacing between the two is strangely satisfying. Motion control is utilized in one more, very subtle way: Travis changes his stance depending on how you hold the Wii Remote, so you can quickly switch between high and low attacks in the midst of a combo. Doing so looks cool, adds variety to the moves, and helps you break stalemates with the occasional blocking enemy. There are three main swords in the game, and they are all quite different and viable, so you can choose the one that best suits your style.

One combat feature that seems awesome but never goes anywhere is the Dark Side mode, wherein Travis may randomly gain a super power for several seconds after a flashy kill. There are several abilities, all pretty cool and potentially very useful, even though you can't control when they will be activated. One ability lets you shoot energy balls for instant kills, while another makes Travis super fast to catch enemies off-guard. Unfortunately, I found that the Dark Side feature just disappeared halfway through the game, right about the time it could have been strategically useful on the more difficult enemies. Even later in the game, normal enemies rarely pose much of a threat, and they always go down in just a few hits. The ranked bosses are starkly different – they have huge life bars and often do massive damage with their combos. They are pattern based, though, so it's usually easy to predict their next moves and take advantage of attack opportunities if you pay attention and remain patient.

Suda 51, the writer, director, and game designer of No More Heroes, has populated his game with many funny and mysterious characters. The eccentric ranked assassins are prone to giving speeches before and after you hack them to bits, and they all wear outlandish costumes and take on hilarious names like "Letz Shake". Travis himself is a snarky guy with plenty of idiosyncrasies, and it's never really clear why he has chosen this career path. There is an underlying story somewhat deeper than "kill people to get laid", but it develops very slowly and is often confusing because characters are introduced and then suddenly removed. With all of these crazy assassins running around, you'll probably wish that you could learn more about them before Travis starts lopping off their extremities. At times, Travis develops deep bonds with other characters for seemingly no reason, and the lengthy end sequence is packed with abrupt story revelations that feel totally out of context. In short, the game's story is a complete mess, packed with bizarre cultural references, unfulfilled promises of character development, and plotting that makes Akira seem reasonable. The fact that it pokes fun at itself and frequently breaks the fourth wall doesn't make up for the fact that the story goes nowhere. Still, it's a fascinating and subversively funny train wreck.

No More Heroes takes place in the fictional city of Santa Destroy, which sounds satirical but really isn't. The city is large but mostly empty, and there are big chunks of real estate that you will never have a reason to visit, much less explore. The emptiness is most pronounced at the beginning of the game, when you may wonder why the city was included at all. After you go up a few ranks, some interesting new locations are activated, and you can start to earn more money to upgrade Travis's equipment and stats. Unfortunately, the tools for getting around Santa Destroy cannot be upgraded. The mini-map, a deliberately pixilated facsimile of the one from Grand Theft Auto, is hard to read and doesn't line up properly with your actual location or direction. The main mode of transportation is a motorcycle, and for traveling any significant distance, it's the only real choice. You will learn to hate the motorcycle before long, as it controls like a wheeled albatross and gets caught on everything, thanks to some terrible collision detection. Some of these flaws carry over into the otherwise solid combat engine. For instance, the targeting system is crude at best, and it is broken by any obstruction whatsoever–even low-lying debris between you and the enemy. The camera flips around spastically in tight spaces, and you'll frequently need to reset its position even in large areas.

There is one aspect of the game that pushes the Wii farther than any other game has attempted. No More Heroes is, unquestionably, the best example of how the Wii Remote's speaker can be used to enhance a game. Of course, the beam katana makes all kinds of convincing lightsaber-esque sounds come out of the Remote's speaker, but even better is its use during phone calls from Sylvia before every ranked battle. The Remote rings like a mobile phone, and then our hero's would-be girlfriend begins teasing and taunting Travis (and you) directly from the Wii Remote. The sound still occasionally clips beyond the tiny speaker's range, but the quality and quantity of recorded voice coming out of the Remote is very impressive. Sure, it's a gimmick, but it draws you into the story and will have you holding the speaker up to your ear like a real phone. Knowing that the speaker can be used to this extent opens a floodgate of potential ideas for this obscure controller feature.

No More Heroes is the weird result of a Japanese man obsessed with American culture who has created an American hero obsessed with Japanese culture. It's a reflection of a reflection, and both mirrors are distorted and covered with graffiti. In terms of gameplay, it's a relatively standard brawler with some attempts to stretch that formula. The unique style and primal action combine for a compelling experience that is definitely worth a look from any Wii owner in need of another "real" game. It's a hearty chunk of game that lasts 10-15 hours, depending on the severity of your OCD tendencies, and a "New Game +" feature provides some additional replay content for obsessed fans. Despite some technical deficiencies and disappointing story development, No More Heroes is a stylistic tour de force and, underneath the pretense, a fun and satisfying action game.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
7.5 5.5 7 8 8 8
Graphics
7.5

The amazing art style and detailed characters never get old, but the technical problems can be distracting. There's plenty of clipping, pop-in, and frame rate slowness. Some elements of the game world seem to have been ignored, like the totally static sky and the overall blandness of Santa Destroy.

Sound
5.5

Uneven voice acting in cut-scenes is accompanied by repetitive one-liners during combat. There are a couple of cool songs, but most of the soundtrack is boring—or worse, annoying. Retro sound effects are everywhere, adding charm to the otherwise failed sound design. Innovative use of the Wii Remote's speaker is a positive in this category.

Control
7

Attacks have just the right amount of waggle. There are many undocumented moves that you'll probably discover by accident. The camera can behave poorly, and the targeting system is archaic at best. Motorcycle controls are on a whole other level of incompetence, but you'll learn to deal with them.

Gameplay
8

The shallow but fast-paced combat manages to stay satisfying throughout the game. Bosses are challenging and very old-school, and the huge variety of ranked missions keeps the game fresh and engaging right up through the last levels. Things tend to drag between missions, as the part-time jobs and Santa Destroy itself are lame. Small-time assassinations work better, but you'll have to replay them numerous times to earn enough money for upgrades and story progression.

Lastability
8

The game is just the right length for its depth, although you may wish that less of the playing time was spent on filler material between missions. There are a few collectibles for those players who can't get enough, particularly during the replay mode in which you start over with all of your weapons and stats from the first time through.

Final
8

With solid gameplay and a pervasive style that you just need to experience, No More Heroes is a fun romp through anime histrionics that provides more gory killing than you can shake a lightsaber at.

Summary

Pros
  • Brilliant use of Remote's speaker
  • Fun, satisfying combat
  • Great art style and character designs
  • Weird and funny premise
Cons
  • Annoying music
  • Horrible radar/map
  • Poor camera and bike controls
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

DAaaMan64February 18, 2008

Do not read further if you do not want to read ranting

I loved the music and all the voice acting was good too.  I thought the sound was really good, but your right, the one liners in game did get old.  But come on, we got great voice acting, that is a HUGE step. The radar wasn't bad, you need to get all the radar upgrades.

The camera on the bike is terrible.  The controls on the bike don't bother me, the environment does.

This game is a must have for it's innovative style alone.

I probably would have given this game a 9.2

GoldenPhoenixFebruary 18, 2008

I think this review is fair, I would probably give it an 8 or 8.5. While the game is a blast, it is hard to ignore the lack of polish in places and such an empty, uninspired over world that seems to be pre GTA3.

NinGurl69 *hugglesFebruary 18, 2008

I believe the city is an intentional parody of GTA.  But people complain anyway cuz they want their GTA fix.

GoldenPhoenixFebruary 18, 2008

Quote from: Professional

I believe the city is an intentional parody of GTA.  But people complain anyway cuz they want their GTA fix.

Haha, well any amateur could have made that GTA parody. Get your head out of the clouds people, it was afeature put into a rushed game without much of a budget. Parody my butt, I suppose the crappy framerate, and lame repetitive tasks were parody too? It hurt the games pacing as well. Face it there are aspects of the game that were rushed or unfinished, it isn't some brilliant plan by Suda51 to parody GTA3 (Not to mention if it was, it was a dang poor one). I'm sure Suda51 was sitting with his team and said:

"Let's create a bland, empty, poor framerate, clipping galored city to parody GTA! Not sure how it really parodies it, but we'll do it anyway!"

I agree, it wasn't a parody of GTA. Instead, the overworld is a thematic contrast to the zany levels. The levels and characters are so crazy, so out-there, and in contrast the overworld is so sun-baked, empty, and drenched. There's a real contrast going on there that's more than just the contrast between a low-budget game and a big one.

thatguyFebruary 18, 2008

I agree.  To me, it brings down the entire game to a point that's nearly unplayable.  When you spend over half the game playing a mode that's tiring after only fifteen or thirty minutes, that's a major design flaw.  I really don't know why Suda51 would have let Santa Destroy be so terrible, and I don't know how it even made it past testing.  It was terrible.  Absolutely terrible.

However, this game is lucky it got everything else right.  If it hadn't, it would have been in the bargain bins and traded in by many people very quickly.

NinGurl69 *hugglesFebruary 18, 2008

Quote from: GoldenPhoenix

Quote from: Professional

I believe the city is an intentional parody of GTA.  But people complain anyway cuz they want their GTA fix.

Haha, well any amateur could have made that GTA parody. Get your head out of the clouds people, it was afeature put into a rushed game without much of a budget. Parody my butt, I suppose the crappy framerate, and lame repetitive tasks were parody too? It hurt the games pacing as well. Face it there are aspects of the game that were rushed or unfinished, it isn't some brilliant plan by Suda51 to parody GTA3 (Not to mention if it was, it was a dang poor one). I'm sure Suda51 was sitting with his team and said:

"Let's create a bland, empty, poor framerate, clipping galored city to parody GTA! Not sure how it really parodies it, but we'll do it anyway!"

Despite what you say, you still managed to call it a "feature".



Countless people talk about the fact the city's broken and such.  But what strikes me is it sounds like players wasted time in it, with the continued expectation that aspect of the game actually aspired to be something greater.  Nah-haw, all I saw was a cardboard hollywood set that resembled a sandbox game.  I noticed there wasn't anything of interest between major maps spots/icons early on, so I didn't waste my time looking at what wasn't there.  To them I'd say get back to fighting and/or making money.

typical approach,
- Get to the next ranking mission (or get some upgrade), ASAP.
- but first, get enough cash, ASAP.  And if you picked your assassination gigs carefully, you could get away with less fight visits and shorter fights.
- but before that, you had to travel between the job offices and the mission locations, which is typically 30sec tops of bike time, if you knew how to drive, and where.

I dunno what kairon's on about, looking for depth in a waggle game.

Parody maybe was a bad word choice.  A bad joke is more appropriate. maximum laffo at gamerz expense

The city was just scenery I WHIZZED BY between loading screens, and not much more.

"When you spend over half the game playing a..."
I rest my case.

KDR_11kFebruary 19, 2008

The score doesn't look like what the review conveys to me (a 6.0). So is this game unbearably bad or is it good? I was deciding between this and Ace Attorney: Justice For All but between the negative review and the high pricetag I think I'll skip NMH. (or maybe I should look into Zack & Wiki instead?)

DAaaMan64February 19, 2008

Quote from: KDR_11k

The score doesn't look like what the review conveys to me (a 6.0). So is this game unbearably bad or is it good? I was deciding between this and Ace Attorney: Justice For All but between the negative review and the high pricetag I think I'll skip NMH. (or maybe I should look into Zack & Wiki instead?)

I honestly believe that which is fun in this game wildly out ways the negatives mostly centered around the pretty bad over world.

Quote from: GoldenPhoenix

Quote from: Professional

I believe the city is an intentional parody of GTA.  But people complain anyway cuz they want their GTA fix.

Haha, well any amateur could have made that GTA parody. Get your head out of the clouds people, it was afeature put into a rushed game without much of a budget. Parody my butt, I suppose the crappy framerate, and lame repetitive tasks were parody too? It hurt the games pacing as well. Face it there are aspects of the game that were rushed or unfinished, it isn't some brilliant plan by Suda51 to parody GTA3 (Not to mention if it was, it was a dang poor one). I'm sure Suda51 was sitting with his team and said:

"Let's create a bland, empty, poor framerate, clipping galored city to parody GTA! Not sure how it really parodies it, but we'll do it anyway!"

I agree with this.

I would call this game a must have and give it a 9.2.  Minus .8 for the over world.

MorariFebruary 19, 2008

THIS POST HAS BEEN CENSORED FOR YOUR PROTECTION

--Bureau of Internet Morality

Smash_BrotherFebruary 19, 2008

Once you A) get the ability to dash and B) master the 90 degree turns, the city will never bother you again.

People do realize that your bike's turbo bar recharges completely every time you do a 90 degree turn, right?

I always turboed to and from every location I went to. I'm apparently the minority here, but I didn't mind it at all.

DAaaMan64February 19, 2008

I didn't even know you could turbo for a long time :P

Smash_BrotherFebruary 19, 2008

You can basically hold down the turbo button for your entire trip, so long as you make enough turns.

Also, watch your bar and let off the turbo before it empties completely: if you empty it, there will be a 3-4 second pause before it recharges, but if you let go before it empties, the turbo will refill completely in roughly 2.5 seconds.

I agree with the enemy one liners being the most irritating part of the game, but I liked the music, specifically the boss music, as I thought each boss theme captured the boss it played for pretty well.

Quote from: KDR_11k

The score doesn't look like what the review conveys to me (a 6.0).

There are a lot of intangibles in the game that make me like the game despite its many problems.  That's the only explanation I can give for the discrepancy you perceive.  For instance, the overall style (which bleeds into the graphics, sound, and story) is pretty fantastic, and it gives the game an aura of quality despite some undercooked elements underneath.

GoldenPhoenixFebruary 19, 2008

Quote from: Jonnyboy117

Quote from: KDR_11k

The score doesn't look like what the review conveys to me (a 6.0).

There are a lot of intangibles in the game that make me like the game despite its many problems.  That's the only explanation I can give for the discrepancy you perceive.  For instance, the overall style (which bleeds into the graphics, sound, and story) is pretty fantastic, and it gives the game an aura of quality despite some undercooked elements underneath.

Good point Johnny, I feel the same, the game is alot of fun despite some of its big short comings.

MorariFebruary 19, 2008

THIS POST HAS BEEN CENSORED FOR YOUR PROTECTION

--Bureau of Internet Morality

CalibanFebruary 19, 2008

Quote from: Morari

Dash? You mean the bikle's turbo thing?

I think he meant "Dash" as in the technique you learn from the drunk russian.

zakkielFebruary 19, 2008

I wasn't too bothered by the overworld; it seemed a necessary contrast with the craziness of the main game, though I do wish it had been more compact. The main part of the review I disagree with is "The fact that it pokes fun at itself and frequently breaks the fourth wall doesn't make up for the fact that the story goes nowhere." First, the game more or less advertised itself as having no story whatsoever from the getgo ("I'm going to be the top assassin cause this girl I met last night suggested it!") . If you expected epic plotting, you picked up the wrong game. Second, it is entirely satirical, especially the end with its tongue-in-cheek hairpin turns. The whole bit before Boss #10 was the funniest sequence I've ever seen in a game. If you're at all familiar with the particular narrative failures of bad anime, you'll definitely get a huge kick out of it. That, and the one boss that never happens due to the intervention of a character that is never explained.

thatguyFebruary 19, 2008

Zakkiel, you need to buy all the Tsubakis, then load your completed game file and choose the real ending.

If I didn't know any better, I'd say you missed out on one of the game's most interesting things.

Let's just say that I didn't find the satire worth more than a chuckle.  But then, I'm not a huge anime fan.  There are a few funny lines in the game, though most of them are funny for their sheer weirdness.  I don't think the game is particularly funny overall, especially in the story department, and yet the story has no other purpose except to attempt humor.  No, I wasn't expecting anything epic or meaningful (although the latter might be reasonable, given the game's title and some flashes of philosophy throughout).  But I didn't think the story was very funny, either.

IceColdFebruary 19, 2008

Quote from: zakkiel

I wasn't too bothered by the overworld; it seemed a necessary contrast with the craziness of the main game, though I do wish it had been more compact. The main part of the review I disagree with is "The fact that it pokes fun at itself and frequently breaks the fourth wall doesn't make up for the fact that the story goes nowhere." First, the game more or less advertised itself as having no story whatsoever from the getgo ("I'm going to be the top assassin cause this girl I met last night suggested it!") . If you expected epic plotting, you picked up the wrong game. Second, it is entirely satirical, especially the end with its tongue-in-cheek hairpin turns. The whole bit before Boss #10 was the funniest sequence I've ever seen in a game. If you're at all familiar with the particular narrative failures of bad anime, you'll definitely get a huge kick out of it. That, and the one boss that never happens due to the intervention of a character that is never explained.

Look who's back!

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Wii

Game Profile

No More Heroes Box Art

Genre Action
Developer Grasshopper Manufacture
Players1
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: No More Heroes
Release Jan 22, 2008
PublisherUbisoft
RatingMature
jpn: No More Heroes
Release Dec 06, 2007
PublisherMarvelous Entertainment
Rating18+
eu: No More Heroes
Release Mar 14, 2008
PublisherRising Star Games Limited
Rating16+
aus: No More Heroes
Release Mar 13, 2008
RatingMature

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