Suda 51 turned his back on the "More violent than Manhunt 2" comment (at least for Japan), but does that really change anything?
UPDATE: Here is some off-screen video footage of the game, shot at TGS 2007.
I was very excited about playing No More Heroes, the spiritual successor to the fantastically bizarre Killer7 at TGS. I couldn’t wait to see how it looked and played. I had a lot of preconceptions and ideas about how I thought the controls would play out. Let’s just say I was wrong with pretty much all of them, but in a very good way.
Having played several other sword-based Wii games at the show, my wrist was beginning to ache with the amount of frantic swinging I’d had to do previously, so I was pleasantly surprised at how little there was in No More Heroes. The demo got straight into the action with plenty of sword-wielding and gun-toting bad guys to fight, so I ignited my battery-powered sword and got to it. The standard "beam katana" attacks were performed with the A Button and with no gestures at all. That may make it sound simplistic, but it has some nice touches to mix it up.
For instance, you can raise or lower the remote to waist or shoulder height, or even above your head if you wish, and the game’s protagonist, Travis Touchdown, will mimic the same action. The attacks will then change from low cuts to overhead swings, and it feels very cool to do. You can also charge up your sword attack by holding down the A Button, with a nice electricity effect to complement it. This reminded me of the classic Zelda spin attack move.
The B Button took care of the physical attacks like punches and kicks, which can be linked into combos offering a nice variety of attacks. When in a combo, sometimes you’ll be prompted with an on-screen arrow indicating which direction you should "slice" your Wii remote. This will end the combo with a powerful blow, usually destroying the enemy completely in a shower of coins and pixels. There are several motion-based endings, sometimes involving the nunchuk as well. My favourite was done by moving both controllers inwards, which resulted in a wrestling-inspired suplex move. Very tasty.
Blocking was handled with the Z Button, which doubled up as lock-on, so it was pretty easy to avoid being shot as long as you were locked on to the guy shooting at you. At first I thought it would feel better if I could block using my own Jedi-like gestures, but realistically, in the heat of battle, I think the lock-on idea works better. Some attacks couldn’t be blocked, however, such as one of the boss’s beam attacks, so nimble dodging using the D-Pad was required. It was not ideal, but it worked nonetheless.
One thing that threw me about the game happened during an end-level boss battle – the sword’s blade went "out", like it was just a stick of metal. I was suddenly getting my backside handed to me, with attacks doing nothing more than making a clanging sound.
I was then instructed to hold the 1 Button and shake the remote like a spray can, which lets you recharge the beam katana to full power. You are open to attacks during this recharging period, so you’ll have to keep an eye on the power bar and find suitable hiding places to recharge.
Overall, the controls worked surprisingly well, so it looks like Suda 51 has been doing his homework. He’s a self-confessed Nintendo fan, so maybe he wanted to improve on Nintendo's own sword controls from Zelda?
As you’d expect from the guy who made Killer7, the graphics enhance the craziness of the action They have a great saturated colour style, halfway between cel-shaded and traditional texturing. All on-screen icons and effects look like blocks or pixels, and the characters have intentionally blocky features. One of the enemy’s heads was simply a square brown paper bag, but with the way the game is presented, it kind of fit in It was only later on when I thought to myself how weird it all was. I guess that’s a testament to how sucked into the world I was in such a short time with the game.
Another nice touch was about halfway through the demo when Travis received a phone call. He was not able to attack while this was happening I was instructed by the guy at the booth to hold the Wii remote to my ear, and as I did I was listening in to the phone conversation happening on screen. Granted ,I couldn’t make out a word they were saying due to deafening stage presentation next door, but it definitely made me smile. I hope that there are more interactive cut-scenes like this in the final game.
One thing to note, which you may have already picked up on, is that there was absolutely no blood in this version. But fear not, gore lovers out there, this will be restricted to the Japanese version only. The European and American versions will be full of the red stuff.
Whether or not it’s as gory as Rockstar’s effort in Manhunt 2 is completely irrelevant, as the style is very different. I wouldn’t mind playing either the blood splattered version or the stylised-pixel Japanese edit.
What I saw in this TGS demo bodes well for the final product. If the missions and bosses have the same amount of variety I saw, we could have a stylish, wrist-friendly, sword-based action game. Currently, the game is 90% complete and due out in February next year. I'm looking forward to playing the final product.