When No More Heroes was first released on the Wii back in 2008, I'd never played anything quite like it, and that was a good thing. In fact, Anthony Burch and I thought it was a great thing, and plenty of other gamers seemed to agree.
That game marked the first time that surrealist game developer Suda51 was able to gain some traction with the mainstream. In true Suda style, No More Heroes was extremely strange, with the tendency to try the player's patience at times. Nevertheless, it still had enough raw action, charm, comedy, surprises, and symbolism to win over half a million Wii owners, making it Suda's best-selling original game to date. Neither No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (which mended many of issues present in the first game) nor Shadows of the Damned (released on the presumably more "hardcore-friendly" HD consoles) have managed to sell that well.
I've always thought that No More Heroes would have a good chance at selling on the PS3, as that's the current home of the one current Metal Gear Solid home console title. I figured that if the game were cleaned up a bit and given full HD graphics, then a good amount of the 5 million+ PS3 owners who bought Metal Gear Solid 4 might give the similarly dark and quirky No More Heroes a chance.
Unfortunately, that's not quite what AQ Interactive did with No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise.
No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise (PlayStation 3)
Developer: AQ Interactive
Released: August 16, 2011
On the whole, Heroes' Paradise is a straight port of the original, so I'm going to spend most of our time addressing the game's new, removed, and otherwise altered content. That said, I will give you a brief synopsis of Dtoid's original review of the game, because I really can't pass up the opportunity to talk about No More Heroes.
No More Heroes is a game about a videogame/anime/pro wrestling-loving, motel-dwelling bachelor named Travis Touchdown. Travis buys a lightsaber-esque weapon called a beam katana off of eBay, and it changes the course of his life. The big difference between a beam katana and a lightsaber is that a beam katana runs on batteries, which can only be recharged by holding the hilt of the sword at crotch height and wildly jerking it back and forth. That pretty much sets the tone for the entire game.
Travis's beam katana transforms him from an average gamer to competitive assassin, though his videogame-like fantasy life as a super-killer is often offset by the mundane responsibilities of the real world. Travis lives a life of routine -- he kills higher-ranked assassins to gain more clout, does menial jobs like mowing lawns and pumping gas to make ends meet, pets his cat, buys new clothes, then repeats. As with many young men who simultaneously explore the world of videogames and reality, Travis comes to know adult life, and himself, through dual lens glasses -- one lens tainted by the world he lives in, and the other tainted by the videogame life he lives for.
I gave the original game and 8, because despite its many flaws, it was still one of my favorite games of 2008. That's still true today. In fact, enough time has gone by that I can say that No More Heroes is one of my favorite games of all time. No More Heroes can be a pain in the ass sometimes, but when you get to its finest moments, you'll know that you're playing something unique, something worth remembering for a long while.
This largely hasn't changed with this HD remake, but sadly, some of the smaller details that made the original No More Heroes special are gone. For instance, in the original game, you received cell phone calls via the Wii Remote before each boss fight. Hearing the "phone ring" through the remote speaker and lifting the Wii remote to your ear as though it were a phone was the moment that defined the Wii/360/PS3 era for me. Having that missing from this HD port isn't AQ Interactive's fault (neither the Move nor the DualShock 3 have built in speakers), but it's still an undeniable downgrade.
I also felt the loss of Genki Rockets' "Heavenly Star," an integral part of the original's soundtrack. I'm guessing the song was removed from this 2011 re-release because the band's music was licensed out to Ubisoft for use in the modern trance-shooter Child of Eden. That game is basically one long, playable Genki Rockets music video, so it's understandable that Child of Eden came before Heroes' Paradise on Genki Rockets' list of priorities. Still, it's regrettable and just one more small reason to keep the Wii original around if you do decide to purchase this version.
There are many, many other little alterations to be found. In the original, lackey enemies would run at Travis and nervously yelp, "Are you prepared?" Now, they run at Travis while grumbling, "I don't feel shit." Both lines made me smile, so I can't really complain about the change (thank God that enemies still yell, "My SPLEEEEN," when you kill them). Then there is Travis' unplayable N64 from the first game, which has been replaced by a fully decked out Sega Genesis (complete with Sega CD and 32X attachments), which makes sense given that this is Travis Touchdown's debut on today's black powerhouse gaming console. Most other differences are too small to mention, but rest assured that fans of the original game will find plenty if they bother to look.
Bigger changes come from both improvements made to the game's overall flow and from new bugs that detract from the entire experience. You can now stock your randomly acquired "Dark Side Mode" power ups, which makes the game a little easier but in turn makes Travis seem a little less insane. Watching Travis suddenly yell something like "Strawberry on the Shortcake!" without any warning, then have his hair turn blonde before killing every enemy on screen, did a lot to give the character a certain Goku-meets-Hulk charm. To have those transformations be less random and more controlled makes them just a little less magical.
I have no complaints about the new option to instantly replay failed money-making missions. That makes redoing those "kill all the enemies without getting hit once" jobs a lot less frustrating. What is frustrating is that the game now suffers from screen tearing, more slowdown, and collision-detection bugs. I can't even count how many times I got stuck in a tree, lamp post, or even the sides of a buildings while attempting to cruise around Santa Destroy -- the game's sandbox-esque overworld was already bordering on being too boring to love in the original game.
A glitch that forces you to constantly get off your motorcycle and walk around on foot is a little too much. Here, I expected AQ Interactive to make No More Heroes's overworld (something that Suda did away with completely in the sequel) a more fun place the second time around. I thought they might give the player the option to pick up the game's various jobs around town rather than only getting assignments from the Job Center, granting us a better excuse to roam around the city. Looks like I thought wrong, because if anything, exploring Santa Destroy is even more potentially painful.
Speaking of the game's jobs, AQ Interactive did add a few new ones, and they're... fine. The new non-violent side jobs include Signaling (direct ships in the right direction with semaphore code), Sign Spinning (spin some signs!), Bust a Coconut (again, self explanatory), People Bowling (hit men with your motorcycle like they were bowling pins), and Kitty Race. Most are mildly amusing, but Kitty Race takes the cake. It's pretty much just as much fun to watch as it is to play, but either way, it's worth experiencing at least once. There are also five new assassin jobs, but they are so much like all the previous ones they're barely worth mentioning.
Heroes' Paradise also includes five extra boss fights from No More Heroes 2: Skelter Helter, Nathan Copeland, Matt Helms, Kimmy Howell, and Alice Twilight. Other than the fight with Nathan, which has been altered a bit due to his new dreamlike stomping grounds, these battles felt more or less like they did in No More Heroes 2. It's nice to see these memorable characters rendered in HD, though I wish their appearances were timed better. You fight one of these extra bosses in your dreams while sleeping on the toilet, directly after fighting a boss from the main campaign. Taking on a relatively long boss fight right after taking on another relatively long boss fight isn't really the best of pacing. It would have been better to have these bonus fights available as alternate jobs or at any other time. Like so many aspects of Heroes' Paradise, including bosses from No More Heroes 2 was a cool idea, but it's implementation is a far from perfect.
Graphics are also a mixed bag. If the original No More Heroes was like a live version of "Anarchy in the U.K." by the Sex Pistols, this HD version is like a studio recording of the same song. Sometimes, the extra polish improves the experience, and sometimes it diminishes it. Low-res textures and polygon-based objects rendered in HD sometimes look a little worse because of the increased clarity of detail, though when it comes to lighting and color saturation, there is no denying that they game looks better on the PS3. Travis is also really shiny and bumpy now, both dressed and undressed. He went from wearing standard-looking clothes to having one of the shiniest, wrinkliest jackets on the planet. He also went having a fairly average build to having huge, glistening, six-pack abs and bumpy, semi-anatomically correct muscle arms. If that's your thing then you may prefer this PS3 version. As for me, I think this HD port looks neither better nor worse than the Wii original, just different (especially when factoring in the additional slow down and screen tearing).
There are some aspects of this reissue that I have no complaints about. The PS Move works fine awa Wii remote replacement. I found that the Move sometimes was a little less responsive, but that might just be because I'm used to the Wii remote. Either way, it's nothing that Move owners can't manage. I spent most of the time playing with the DualShock 3 anyway, which also works pretty well, though there are a few minor issues with unlocked additional attacks later in the game.
There is a new option to re-watch previously viewed cutscenes, which helps emphasize some of the game's greatest strengths (voice acting and writing). There is also new boss rush mode that lets you select any of the game's bosses (No More Heroes 2 bosses included) from the title screen for an online-ranked battle. It's a great little feature that is extremely well done. After you beat the game, you also unlock Very Sweet mode, which allows you to replay the game with changes to select female characters' fashion ensembles (read: skimpy outfits). I don't really care how much or how little clothing my videogame characters wear, but it's cool to see some new duds for Shinobu and the gang, and I'm sure that some of the more hormonally motivated ladies and gentlemen in the No More Heroes fan base will more than appreciate Bad Girl's new underboob-flaunting attire.
Beyond that, there is actually even more new content. Too bad I can't play it since it's all DLC, which feels pretty cheap. I know the length of this review may indicate otherwise, but honestly, there isn't that much new to Heroes' Paradise. To have the game's additional new features (four new beam katanas, four new skins for your motorcycle, and a character model viewer that lets you strip some characters down to their underwear) cost extra feels wrong. In Japan, this extra content costs $13! That's way too much, considering that this is the second time that I've bought this game for full price.
As the Wii version is pretty easy to find for around $10, it's hard to recommend this partially improved update, knowing that the less buggy original is $30 cheaper. If you're one of those people who really, really doesn't want to own a Wii for some reason, but still wants to play No More Heroes, then go ahead and give this game a rent. Compared to other PS3 titles, it looks a lot like a Wii game, and anyone expecting a GTA-like overworld will disappointed beyond words with Santa Destroy, but there are still plenty of amazing moments here if you're willing to spend the time and energy it takes to find them. As for those who have played the original, how much you enjoy this HD remake depends a lot on how much you value shiny-jacket and/or abdominal muscle graphics, and how well you can tolerate repeatedly getting your motorcycle stuck in palm trees. That's something you probably can't be sure of until you play the game for yourself.
No More Heroes Heroes' Paradise reviewed by Jonathan Holmes
A solid game that definitely has an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
How we score: The Destructoid Reviews Guide