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• No More Heroes

developed by Grasshopper Manufacture/published by Ubisoft, Marvelous Ent.
1 player/1 dvd/Nintendo Wii (PS3, XBOX 360 forthcoming)/2008.01.22

No More Heroes is one of the few M-rated titles on the Nintendo Wii, and with good reason.  It’s a comic-book inspired kill-fest splattered with ridiculous geysers of blood streaming from the enemies you decapitate or cut in half.  Sexual overtones seep into just about every aspect of the game, from the hilarious titles of overdue porno rentals left on your answering machine to the way you jerk your light saber to recharge it.  And like any good action movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously the dialogue is peppered with profanity.  This has director Suda 51′s signature all over it, but is thankfully much easier to get into compared to his last assassin-themed game, Killer 7.

Story

You play as Travis Touchdown, a 20-something horndog with a love of Japanese anime, giant robots, Lucha libre wrestling, and (one can only assume) video games.  After buying a beam katana at an online auction site, he takes a job from the sexy Sylvia Christel of the United Assassins Association.  Once he starts working his way up the ranks of assassins, he inadvertently becomes a target himself, with no choice but to continue killing.  It’s not all bad though, as Sylvia agrees to bang our hero if he makes it all the way to the coveted rank of #1 in the UAA, which is more than enough incentive for him.

Game Play

You attack with the A button, stringing together combos until the action slows down Matrix-style and an arrow appears, prompting you to swing the Wii remote in a specific direction to perform the finishing blow.  This is always fun to do, and every time you pull it off a slot machine will stop, randomly triggering one of several overdrive modes if you’re lucky.  These send Travis into a trance-like state where you can one-shot baddies for a short time.  Some enemies will block your attacks, requiring you to switch between high and low stances, which is easily done by tilting the angle at which you hold the remote.

As you use your beam katana its battery runs out, requiring you to hold the 1 button and shake the remote to recharge it – leaving you vulnerable for a short time.  The B trigger button is used to deliver punches and kicks, which can be useful in these situations.  They don’t do much damage but can stun an opponent, leaving them open to throw attacks.  You’ll learn a variety of Lucha libre-style moves which prompt you (with on-screen arrows) to swing both the Wii remote and nunchuk simultaneously to suplex your bewildered foes.  Like the finishing moves, the on-screen prompts keep you on your toes and help to spice things up.

Thankfully the game does have an auto-target system which locks onto nearby enemies with the press of the Z button.  It all comes together very smoothly and is simple to come to grips with.  An action game is nothing without a good battle system, and No More Heroes has probably the most satisfying I’ve encountered on the Wii that simply never gets tiresome.

Open Linearity

The game has the open world sandbox design made popular by the Grand Theft Auto games, but any semblance of true freedom is illusory.  The city isn’t anywhere near as busy and you can’t really do much, but between missions you’re free to roam on your nitro-fueled motorbike, stopping at locations marked on your map to upgrade weapons, train, buy clothes, or take on side jobs.  Every ranking mission requires an entrance fee, so you’ll periodically do a variety of silly jobs to earn some cash, which play like timed mini-games.  These could be considered a satire of the boring grindy type of work you do in other games, except that these are actually pretty clever and fun.  The open-world aspect of the game received some unwarranted criticism for not being as refined as other games, but it wasn’t much of an issue for me as it is so secondary to what this game is all about.

Conclusion

No More Heroes relies on a simple formula, but thanks to its addictive action, over-the-top story and characters, and  overall stylish vibe, it never gets stale.  Thankfully it doesn’t overstay its welcome, clocking in at around 10-15 hours in length depending on how much time you spend messing around between missions.  Prices have come down, so there’s no reason not to pick this one up now if you think it sounds like fun.  With the sequel recently released, and ports for the PS3 and XBOX 360 on their way, it looks like Travis Touchdown’s career is only getting started.

Quick Run Down

PROs:

  • Simple yet addictive battle system
  • Hilarious characters and dialogue
  • Great bosses similar to Metal Gear
  • Stylish presentation
  • Solid voice work for important characters

CONs:

  • Frame-rate suffers at times
  • Camera has trouble in tight spots
  • City is bland
  • Bad voice acting for unimportant characters

One Sentence Review: Like Metal Gear Solid, the game’s enjoyable story and action constantly propel you forward.
One Word Review: Sweet.

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