No More Heroes (Wii) review
"But itís when you reach these off-key boss fights that No More Hereos has itís best moments. You meet Dr. Peace, western-style six-hooters and 70ís porn Ďtash, crooning into the empty stadium, telling you it was always his dream to perform on a stage like this and how the money you paid for the fight made it possible. You converse like two old friends, then you try your best to end each otherís life."
Iíve always admitted to being a Wii-sceptic, and have been since the systemís Ďinnovationsí were announced back when the console had a less ridiculous name. See? Even now I canít resist taking cheap digs at Nintendoís little white box, and Iíve been able to happily keep this mindset for a while now. There are so many complaints I could level at the system: how its gimmick is short-lived, how a large percentage of Wii owners will never own any software other than Wii Sports, how the software released is Nintendo-centric with no real look-ins from third party developers. How, when the games are released, theyíre either too reliant on the Wiimoteís motion detecting software to give any lasting appeal once the sheen has worn off or are embedded with token efforts to include it, token enough to make the gamer question the point of it being released on the platform at all.
And I was happy! My ire was up and no amount of actually enjoying the console was going to stop me! Every game I played was merrily pigeonholed into one of these main flaws: itís just another Nintendo spin-off, the wacky controls wane too quickly, thereís not enough here to justify the gimmick. Then I played No More Heroes and I was screwed. It doesnít belong anywhere in my pessimistic check list. Vexed and confused, I was finally forced to enjoy the game, which Iím now only slightly bitter about.
Itís the tale of Travis Touchdown, and heís one of us. When heís not stroking his cat or himself to his extensive porn collection, he spends his time watching Japanese anime, pro wrestling and wasting away hours on the internet. It was on an online auction he won what the game labels as a beam katana, for no other reason then to avoid a lawsuit from one Mr. Lucas, which would go to waste if it wasnít used to slice and dice the less appealing population of Santa Destroy. So this is what Travis does.
The assassination work comes easy to Travis as he cuts bloody swathes through his little townís underworld, but fails to provide the buzz heís ultimately looking for. This only comes after a chance encounter with a gunman sporting twin pistols and flowing white hair just a smudge the wrong side of effeminate. Victory in hand, things started to get a bit interesting. After unknowingly knocking off the 11th ranked assassin in the state, he himself is placed in the void he created. With this comes a certain amount of prestige. It also comes with Sylvia, an agent of the United Assassins Association.
Professionally, this gives Travis the opportunity to meet, battle and kill the top ten ranked assassins in the business, awarding him with better contracts and the guarantee of the adrenaline-pumping fights he craves. Personally, it also gives Travis the chance to ogle the blonde bombshell each meeting and suggest she Ďdoes ití with him if and when he reaches No. 1. Which is motivation enough for our Travis.
But, and there is always a but, these ranked fights donít just happen, there are overheads to pay, advertising to worry over and locations to be hired for the big event. Taking on rank 10 is easy on your wallet: you assault Death Metal in his stately mansion. All you need do to take one step closer to that top rank is see off an army of faceless goons waiting within a sea of repetitive corridors in order to reach the aging killer awaiting you poolside.
That negative within the last sentence stand out a bit? Ignore it, because the simplistic mayhem which No More Heroes revels in makes what would be a game-breaker in more formulaic titles seem fresh and frantic. You start in a spacious hall that quickly fills with sharp-suited swordsmen wanting to slice upon Travisí belly and introduce his guts to the plush burgundy pile carpet. This will not do.
A simple pumping of the A key will launch your protagonist into a smooth combo, slicing the first few waves of opposition to shreds with ease. Once a target has been sufficiently carved, youíll be given an on-screen directional prompt to swing the Wiimote in. Successfully achieve this, and deliver a crushing death-blow, transforming the enemy into an explosion of cash and a shower of ashes (or blood if youíre playing the US version). Youíll also activate three fruit machine reels at the bottom of your screen that, if you come up a winner, will grant you a special skill for a limited amount of time, be it Heroesí version of bullet-time or a over-powered Travis dishing out heavy-handed one-hit kills to all.
Soon after this, you'll face more challenge than basic button mashing can see off. Youíll need to change your stance by tilting the Wiimote up or down, play defensive with the push of a button to slash incoming bullets out of the air and break guards with a thunderous kick before grabbing your stunned foe and delivering unto them any of a number of wrestling manoeuvres to leave them laying flat on their backs, seeing stars. You charge through the house, killing goons and smashing open treasure chests to recover collectable lucha libre trading cards until you reach the scenic, ocean-view gardens where Death Metal, an aging British rocker, awaits you with a seven-foot electrified cut-throat razor and post-surreal eulogies about the meaning of life, killing, and being the saint of the sword.
And then itís back to real life. Turn Death Metal into a charred pile of ash, and itís on to the next ranked assassin, but before you do, you need to pay those overheads. To make up the cash needed to pay for his next ranked fight, Travis needs turn from blood-spilling demon to lawn-mowing handyman, or litter-removing Samaritan. While the game is centred upon a Boss-rush philosophy, your time outside these admittedly epic showdowns refuse to act as time killers. When youíre not pumping gas at the station to make a few extra bucks, you can go on contracted hits to try and fatten up your wallet a little quicker, or spend the cash on anything from gym time to new katana upgrades. Rent old wrestling videos to gleam new manoeuvres from, or search the city for Lovikov Balls to trade with a drunken Russian master for secret upgrades. Toil, train and work, soon enough youíll be battling Dr. Peace in the middle of the night within the silent walls of Santa Destroyís baseball stadium after seeing off a small army of baseball-bat armed thugs and even whacking a few loose fly-balls into their ranks.
But itís when you reach these off-key boss fights that No More Hereos has itís best moments. You meet Dr. Peace, western-style six-shooters and 70ís porn Ďtash, crooning into the empty stadium, telling you it was always his dream to perform on a stage like this and how the money you paid for the fight made it possible. You converse like two old friends, then you try your best to end each otherís life. Fight through a subway packed with goons wearing paper bags over their heads a few fights later, and youíll come across a dilapidated warehouse littered with dead bodies and splashed with fresh blood. Here, youíll find a mild-mannered postal worker who greets you politely before assuming his alter-ego DestroyMan, complete with cape, mask and form-fitting powder-blue suit, and trying to fry you with his groin-mounted laser. No More Heroes' greatest strength is in just how well it blurs so many lines. Itís morbidly surreal, itís sadistically goofy and itís utterly captivating in a way no other game has managed to be before.
It really has quite effectively burst my perceived bubble on how limited Nintendoís latest hardware is. I think by the time I was trying to kill a power-permed ninja in a school-girlís uniform, I was completely taken in by the game, flawlessly diving, slashing and counterattacking blows with a natural control scheme that neither becomes overbearing nor gimmicky and really looking forward to just what could possibly happen next.
No More Heroes didnít once disappoint me in this regard.
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