If you're not interested in No More Heroes, you probably don't have a Wii. Suda 51's nonlinear, pop-otaku, lightsaber ultraviolence epic has been highly anticipated by both action junkies hankering for something more mature to play on their Wiis, and diehard fans of Suda 51 himself. No More Heroes seeks to integrate motion-controlled lightsaber combat with a nonlinear world, and then wrap it all up in an ironic, over-the-top, self-referential videogaming storyline.
But is it any good?
Does it fall into that unfortunate trap of using gimmicky, unnecessary motion control as so many other Wii titles have? Does Suda 51's brand of surreal, nonsensical storytelling translate well to a nonlinear action brawler? Is the open world city of Santa Destroy awesome, or superfluous?
Jonathan Holmes and I bought the game, played the hell out of it, and answered those very questions. Hit the jump for our reviews.
No More Heroes (Nintendo Wii)
No More Heroes is really goddamned fun.
It’s silly, over-the-top, and by no means perfect, but it succeeds in that most elusive of areas: it is absolutely, positively, hilariously fun.
Suda 51’s latest style-is-substance exercise in gaming surrealism follows the exploits of Travis Touchdown, a super-exaggerated version of your average videogame junkie teenager, as he attempts to become the number one assassin in the city of Santa Destroy. Beam katana in hand, Travis spends the entirety of his 10-12 hour adventure performing small jobs for chump change, motorcycling around the city, and slicing up enemies.
And lemme tell ya -- he slices up a lot of enemies.
During combat, the player controls Travis with a mixture of simple button mashing and the occasional Wiimote gesture. For a game based on lightsaber fighting, one might initially find the lack of 100% gesture-based Wiimote fighting more than a little disappointing. After a few fights, however, one begins to realize just how brilliant NMH’s fighting system really is. Rather than going down the route of Twilight Princess or Spider-Man 3 where the player meaninglessly and apathetically swings the Wiimote back and forth like a fly swatter, No More Heroes prefers to use its motion control much more judiciously.
The A button swings Travis’s beam katana and the B trigger activates shield-breaking physical attacks. You’ll be using these two buttons during 90% of any given fight. Nothing special, right? Well, after button-mashing the enemy down to within an inch of his life, a large, blinking arrow appears onscreen, instructing the player which direction to swing the Wiimote in order to activate a finishing move. Upon swinging up, down, left, or right (ideally while yelling something badass), the player is immediately rewarded with an over-the-top decapitation or dismemberment, complete with an equally, hilariously exaggerated blood spray effect. Motion gestures are also used for sword clashes (spin the Wiimote around in a circle as fast as you can to overpower your opponent) and Travis’s wrestling moves (simultaneously use the Wiimote and nunchuck to bodyslam), and they work really well.
In saving the motion gestures for these high-energy situations, Suda 51 makes them infinitely more satisfying: after thirty seconds of furious button-mashing, it is indescribably fun to finally slice your opponent in half with a quick slash of the Wiimote, sending absurd amounts of blood to all corners of the screen. The Wiimote finishers act as tiny, superviolent cherries to top off every glorious kill, and they make the otherwise standard (and potentially repetitive) combat system far more fun than it really has any right to be. Every single Wiimote move feels consequential, precise, satisfying. Additionally, the sword-charging masturbation gesture may be one of my favorite things in the entire game: imagine cutting a guy in half with one swing of the Wiimote, then furiously jerking off with the Wiimote to recharge the beam katana’s batteries. The combination of alternately violent and sexual gestures makes for a very, very odd feeling, but a hysterically entertaining one (especially if you’re watching someone else do it).
Aesthetically, every aspect of the game positively drips with style. From the 8-bit menus and minimap, to the too-cool-for-school cel shaded graphics, to the hilariously exaggerated bosses (the third boss fires a massive laser beam from his crotch), No More Heroes knows exactly what it wants to be. It is a game made for videogame junkies, about videogame junkies, by videogame junkies: Travis Touchdown’s character motivation doesn’t extend beyond his lust for fame and sex, and he kills bad guys not to make the world a better place, but simply because it is fun. No More Heroes (very appropriate title, by the way) constantly exudes the sort of happy, superviolent-yet-harmless nihilism I haven’t seen since the days of Scud: the Disposable Assassin, and it definitely represents a welcome change of pace. Travis exists just to kill, the bad guys exist to be killed, and Suda 51 has an absolute ball with alternately mocking and showing his appreciation for videogaming culture.
This isn’t to suggest No More Heroes is all wine, roses, and dismemberments, however; while the game’s linear aspects work quite well, the open-world city of
The game’s currency system is similarly problematic. In order to unlock ranked assassin matches, Travis must perform a variety of odd jobs and assassination missions, all of which are fun to play exactly once. This is fine, assuming you don’t want to upgrade your beam katana or buy new clothes or training; however, should you want any of those things, you’ll have to play some of the same minigames over and over. “Want a new sword?”, the game asks. “Fine, but you’ll have to replay this little assassination sidequest five more times before you can afford both the sword and the entry fee for the next story mission. Idiot.” Forcing the player to dick around with sidequests before unlocking the next part of the story has been done before (Saint’s Row), but No More Heroes actually punishes the player with repetitive gameplay just for wanting to upgrade Travis’s loadout.
However, it’s hard to complain about the faults of the open-world system when you’re slicing and suplexing your way to bloody, over-the-top victory throughout the rest of the game. The story missions do a decent job of switching up the action as you progress through the game -- consider, if you will, a moment near the end of the game when a boss literally throws sex gimps at Travis -- and the game ends at just the right time so the combat doesn’t have a chance to get stale. Still, I couldn’t help but wish for even more variety in the boss battles: a few too many of the assassins can be defeated simply by backing off and waiting for them to attack, then slapping them repeatedly with your sword until victory.
In the end, though, No More Heroes is a must-buy for any self-respecting Wii owner. The open world stuff is lame and the game always seems about a step and a half away from feeling incredibly repetitive, but the Wiimote usage and imaginative, unusual stylistic touches make No More Heroes one of the most unapologetically enjoyable games I’ve played in quite a long time. One cannot play through the game without noticing its various flaws, but by the time you’ve simultaneously decapitated four bad guys in one glorious, motion-controlled sword slash, those flaws will be all but forgotten in the flood of gruesome, wacky fun which No More Heroes has to offer.
Me and the Reverend mostly see eye to eye on this one, but there are few bits of awful he failed to mention, and a few bits of awesome I just can't help but gush about.