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No More Heroes (Wii) artwork

No More Heroes (Wii) review

"I've rarely played a game that prides itself on being "punk". Grasshopper Manufacture even revamped their logo with the motto "Punk's Not Dead" to reflect this brand new attitude. Yet it's not like Suda 51 changed styles. In essence, the demented game designer has been making punk games all along with his unconventional fusion of abstract pop art and minimalist game design. The only problem was he never had an image to fit his style... "

I've rarely played a game that prides itself on being "punk". Grasshopper Manufacture even revamped their logo with the motto "Punk's Not Dead" to reflect this brand new attitude. Yet it's not like Suda 51 changed styles. In essence, the demented game designer has been making punk games all along with his unconventional fusion of abstract pop art and minimalist game design. The only problem was he never had an image to fit his style...

until this guy showed up.

However, style means nothing without substance. What No More Heroes does better than Suda's previous efforts is strike a chord between his artiness and the need for accessibility. Unlike Killer 7, this is a game that is tolerable enough to enjoy and at times insanely fun as hell to play!

No More Heroes begins the bizarre tales of freewheeling punk protagonist Travis Touchdown who hails from the trashy town of Santa Destroy. With his outlandish faux-hawk and punkish getup, Travis doesn't look like your typical action game hero. When Travis wins his first Beam Katana at an online auction, not only does he find out what he has isn't just a fake plastic toy, but it actually turns a lightsaber and it can kill! His boring life becomes one surreal adventure suitably made for a video game. Travis' imagination runs amok and so does his ego.

Then again, No More Heroes wouldn't be interesting if Travis wasn't such a cocky, wisecracking bad-ass. His personality is similar to young Dante from Devil May Cry 3, but the difference is Travis is relatable because he is one of us. He's an otaku who loves video games (he's into schmups), pro wrestling and anime (his favorite is the fictitious series, "Pure White Lover Bizarre Jelly" featuring cute girls piloting mechs). He is also a pervert and watches badly-named porn flicks. He's got a foul potty mouth too, but that's okay. Travis Touchdown is quite endearing, in a goofball sort of way.

When you put cool geeky weapons into the hands of an otaku, it empowers them with the belief that they can take on the world! While Travis readies his beam katana in combat stance, pressing 'A' lights the beam up in the same manner as George Lucas' iconic weapon, complete with identical sounding whoosh effects. Don't think for a minute that the designs are blatant ripoffs too. Grasshopper actually put some thought into crafting these beam katanas. There are several to pick up throughout the game. Players start off with the BloodBerry which looks like a cross between a lightsaber and a glowing syringe. Later on you will get the Tsubaki Mk-II with its five lightsaber beams clustered into one.

No More Heroes decidedly takes a stripped-down approach to combat. Jumping is an integral staple in third-person hack n' slash games. However, in No More Heroes you can't make Travis jump. While jumping usually brings an exciting element to combat, its omission ultimately isn't important since there is no platforming like in Ninja Gaiden. What No More Heroes strives to be is pure, straight-ahead hacking n' slashing. The combat mechanics play similar to Ocarina of Time, but on crack.

No More Heroes mixes traditional button pressing and motion-sensing movements. Pressing 'A' button repeatedly swings the beam katana into a flurry of combos. Standard stuff right? Well, the difference lies in the motion controls. As you whittle your opponent's health to almost nothing, Travis goes into Deathblow mode. An arrow on the screen prompts you to simply gesture your Wii Remote in the desired direction resulting in your foes being beheaded or their bodies sliced in half.

As enemies go out in a heaping fireworks display of blood and shiny coins, you will earn money in "LB$" plus the chance to spin and win at the Slots which then enables you to trigger Darkside mode. When activated, Travis briefly turns into an even more invincible, bloodthirsty killer with special powers. Only Travis could get away with saying ridiculous phrases like, "Blueberry Cheese Brownie!" while bludgeoning everyone to death with fireballs!

Even though Travis lacks the fancy gunslinging-to-sword juggling skills of Dante nor does he have the acrobatic finesse of Ryu Hayabusa, what Travis does have are an arsenal of wrestling moves. Similar to Deathblow mode, you're prompted to motion the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk simultaneously. The suplex requires both hands to go up, while the piledriver has hands clutching inward, then downward. Sometimes motion doesn't register well, but it is still engaging and quite satisfying to pull off. While combat may not be as seamless compared to other hack n' slash games, No More Heroes offers enough depth and bloodlusting action.

From the get-go, No More Heroes wastes little time with theatrics, yet makes the most out of it with morbidly desensitizing death scenes and humorous banter in between fights. The cutscenes are entertaining due to the superb voice acting and snappy dialogue. The movie intro skimps on the plot in a short film montage. Like spoken word poetry set to a pulsating Rock n' Roll beat, Travis narrates his predicament about money, lust and a bit of the old ultra-violence. The story is ridiculously campy, sort of B movie'ish without the Metal Gear Solid cheesiness.

Travis' woes begin at his favorite hangout Beefhead Videos when he realizes he is dead broke to buy anything because the previous night he spent all his money at the Deathmatch Bar. It is at the bar where he meets and fancies a sultry, French blonde named Sylvia Christel. Besides getting plastered, he lands his first assassination gig. Travis kills Helter Skelter -- the 11th ranked assassin and unknowingly takes his spot in the rankings. This would make Travis a target for other would-be assassins wanting to surpass him. Sylvia reveals herself as the head of the UAA, which is a professional league for (you guessed it...) assassins. She seduces Travis into joining. Trapped by her schemes, he decides to play along. Ten killers stand in the way in his quest to be #1, but also if he is going to have any chance of getting "some".

The game's schtick requires you earn enough money to participate in these ranked fights by taking on various odd jobs and small-time assassination gigs. In order to get around, you'll be traveling within the lifeless environments of Santa Destroy on your oversized bike, The Schpeltiger. Navigating the streets can sometimes be more painful than necessary with its poor collision detection plus the Schpeltiger's tendency to get stuck in tight places. You'll do quite a bit of backpedaling to free yourself some room. However, once you accelerate again, the bike unnecessarily gets a quick jolt that clumsily makes you prone to another collision.

Besides going dumpster diving for vintage tees, Santa Destroy is hardly worth your time. It barely functions as a hub between your dumpy motel room and the sparse locales you will frequently visit. Entrances for each destination are lovingly marked with a pixelized 8-bit icon. For instance, Naomi's Lab has an icon which resemble an NES version of Link's sword. You could buy wrestling videos at Beefhead to learn new wrestling techniques or increase your wardrobe with new punk fashions at Area 51. Meanwhile, hit the gym for stat improvement. The bench-pressing mini-game is an exhaustive workout in the form of old-school button mashing, but when you hear Rocky's "Eye of the Tiger" soundalike riff in the background, you will certainly try your hardest. Need to raise some dough? Get employed at the Job Center. These jobs range from gathering coconuts to gassing up cars. Mini-games are fun at first, then become menial tasks. Luckily, you won't be working to death to pay these absurdly expensive entrance fees. After spending no more than thirty minutes completing a few assignments, it's time to ditch the shitty GTA3-lite.

"You're the one a body bag"

The other half of No More Heroes are the game's main stages which have you clearing out waves of lackeys room by room in beat-em-up fashion. Before you get to have a showdown with the boss, Sylvia will ring you up on your phone via Wii remote speaker to remind you to take a dump on the toilet to save your game. She will also give you charming pep talks to stroke your ego or deliberately cut you down to size. In other words, she's a bitch and she's got you by the balls. Regardless, her motivational tactics work since you'll need all you can to rile yourself up against the grueling bosses.

Perhaps it is fitting that boss fights are the main draw in No More Heroes. In an obvious nod to the Mega Man games, the top-ranked assassins are awesome enough to have their own introduction screen. Death Metal is one intimidating fucker with his tattoos and huge transforming cleaver. Dr. Peace is a gunslinger who croons before a fight. The rest of the killers are just as deranged, if not moreso. The battles are thrilling as they are unpredictable. From triumphant to disillusioned, you will feed off of Travis' emotion every step of the way. When he's pissed, you will likely feel the same. All of this pent-up agression and relentless battling will weaken the energy of your beam katana. Metaphorically speaking, you'll need to recharge it by jacking it off if you want to keep up with the action.


Like the roar of a Schpeltiger thrusting at full-throttle, No More Heroes goes for maximum impact to the gut, then crashes in spectacular fashion with the whiplash of Beam Katana-induced bloody facials. No More Heroes kicks down doors by channeling the spirit of '77 into its own ferocious concoction of sleaze-filled action, sexually-charged characters, visceral violence, and a punk swagger that is sorely missing from the action genre today. Call it a satire stereotyping modern gaming culture or a psychological case study disguised as art, but this is one of the most refreshing and exhilarating action games I've experienced in a long time.

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Featured community review by jiggs (February 01, 2010)

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