Get ready for plenty of sex, death and retro mini-games as No More Heroes, the 2008 Wii exclusive, makes it to the PlayStation 3. Surrounded by an insane collection of seriously messed up characters, cold-blooded killer Travis Touchdown once more begins his climb up the rankings of the United Assassins Association. So, charge up your Move controller and prepare yourself for a surreal explosion of pop culture laced slaughter.
From the seriously weird mind of Suda51, the man behind the enigmatic Killer7, comes a game packed with violence, pro-wrestling, and narrative twists. You take the part of Travis Touchdown, a wise cracking fan of comics, movies, and martial arts. After a drunken meeting with the manipulative and seductive Sylvia, Travis decides to become an assassin. Sylvia promises that when he’s the number one ranked assassin, he’ll get some. So with the promise of sex (albeit, contractually obligated sex with a cold and manipulative sociopath – okay, a smoking hot cold and manipulative sociopath) Travis does what we’d all do. He grabs his katana and his sunglasses, and starts killing.
In No More Heroes the killing is stylized, arbitrary and very violent. Between each boss battle there are plenty of minions to hack, chop and slash your way through. There are fountains of blood as heads, arms and legs are lopped off. If your killing blow takes out two or three bad guys, the resulting deluge often fills the screen. But, not to worry, as long as you keep mashing buttons there are always plenty of willing henchmen charging blindly towards a very sticky end. It’s all good fun – cold hearted, cartoonish, and gruesome fun.
Although No More Heroes was originally released on the Wii, the game plays almost the same with either the Move or a normal controller. In fact, the use of the Move controller is limited to button mashing and pointing up, down, or side to side. It feels a little disappointing, with all the actions directly transferable to the standard controller. A strike with your katana is a simple press of the Move button. By pressing the trigger you can do a melee hit or wrestling grapple. Tilting the controller up or down changes the point of attack and, when set to easy, simply standing still gets Travis to block attacks. Once you have stunned an opponent you can finish them off by following on screen prompts. All leading to great showers of blood, heads flying in all directions, and the satisfying rattle of falling coins. While the combat works effectively, and is easy to master, in the end pressing buttons on the Move controller is no different to pressing them on your normal controller.
Also detracting from the gaming experience are the rather limited and bland environments. When you leave Travis’ apartment, and ride around the city on his massive bike, the city of Santa Destroy is kind of empty. Although this makes sense in keeping with the game’s retro aesthetic, empty and boring environments are still empty and boring. Which is a shame because the game’s retro shtick is generally fun and engaging. From the great digital sound track, music that sounds like it has been created on a Commodore 64, to the 8-bit icons floating outside shop doors, No More Heroes has plenty of nostalgic appeal for those on the other side of thirty.
It is of course also packed with stuff for everyone else, as long as they are over eighteen. As with Suda51’s previous games, the story is packed with dodgy sex, violent death, and weird psychological disorders. As Travis you have to challenge and defeat the UAA’s top ten assassins. Each assassin has their own desperate and depraved story. From one-legged supermodel Holly Summers, to postal workers, magicians and the baseball bat wielding Bad Girl, each assassin fight is dramatic and kind of sad. Because of this you can almost forgive the endless flow of identical henchmen you have to coldly slash your way through between the bosses. The emotional impact of the boss fights is all the more emphasized by this contrast. But, that is the Suda51 effect. He’s a story guy, a character guy, and No More Heroes has plenty of both.
When No More Heroes is not moving the story along, Travis is out in Santa Destroy earning enough money to set up a ranking fights with a UAA assassin. He does this with part time jobs and assassin jobs. So Travis can head to the job centre and pick up work pumping gas, mowing lawns or just picking up garbage. But, there are also plenty of - let us say - dirty jobs. You can spend a lot of time killing endless waves of bad guys. There are timed challenges, missions where you can just use wrestling moves, and challenges where you have to kill everyone without taking a hit. All the mini-games add to the retro vibe of the game, they are short and simple, and you can replay them enough to take care of Travis’ growing expenses.
The ability to earn cash is important because, apart from having to pay to fight ranking matches, Travis also needs to pay for weapon upgrades and fight training. Also included in the game are the obligatory costume changes and repayable cutscenes. Also added to the PlayStation remix is a new unlockable ‘Very Sweet’ game mode, extra jobs, the appearance of characters from No More Heroes 2 and the chance to replay ranking battles and boss fights.
When No More Heroes was originally released it received pretty good press but disappointing sales. Thrown into a Wii market dominated by casual games for casual gamers, the decidedly ‘older gamer’ orientated No More Heroes struggled. With No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise being a straight port you get the great original game in full HD, but you still get the things that didn’t quite work. The many identical henchmen start to grate and the boring and awkward free roaming gets also gets annoying pretty quickly. But, you also get and enormous amount of style, strangeness and violence. There’s plenty of fun and simple gameplay, broken up by fairly tactical boss battles and surprising plot twists. And you get to kill a lot of messed up people.