|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Grasshoper||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 22, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Matt Cabral
If you've treaded the twisted path of Suda 51 (CEO and mad scientist of developer Grasshopper Manufacture) in the past, specifically in 2005's super-stylized, ultra-violent Killer 7, then you'll at least be partially prepared for the mind-bending blitz No More Heroes assaults you with. However, if your previous Wii-waggling has been limited to cooking with Mama and star-collecting with Mario, then strap yourself in...tight. You're in for one hell of a ride.
Those familiar with Killer 7 will likely recall its love-it-or-hate-it reception; it was impossible not to dig its inspired style, but the unorthodox control scheme drove many to chuck their gamepads in frustration. With No More Heroes, Suda 51 and his team have stuck to their ultra-stylized guns, but have also smartly adopted a control setup that's accessible, unbelievably satisfying, and nearly flawless. Quite a feat when you consider other Wii-mote-as-sword efforts (Soul Calibur Legends, Samurai Warriors: Katana) have struggled to deliver truly intuitive blade-battling action.
More on the slick controls in a bit. We can't ignore No More Heroes' sick style a second longer. Oh, and for you oldies out there, we mean "sick" in the most complimentary way; you know, like when a skinny jean-wearing 13-year-old exits the Hot Topic spouting something about the new Fall Out Boy video being "wicked sick." Sorry for the digression, but after spending a few moments in NMH's wacky world, you'll totally understand. Let's start with the games' protagonist, Travis Touchdown. If Fight Clubs' Tyler Durden and Kill Bill's The Bride had a love child, he'd be just like Travis: super friggin' cool and savvy with a sword. Of course, in Suda 51's world being cool means loving anime, collecting action figures, and cleaving baddies in two with, not a sword, but a lightsaber-like beam katana acquired through an Internet auction. From the flat-out strangest boss battles we've ever encountered to the way you save your game, this out-there approach bleeds into every last crevice of NMH's design. The former includes a battle in a baseball stadium where your target is a gunslinger who greets you with a song from the pitcher's mound, and the latter is a bathroom break; that's right, if you want to save your game, Travis will drop trow and hit the porcelain. These eccentricities don't even begin to scratch NMH's bizarro surface. There's also the video store, named Beef Head, where you can rent movies, Travis' hotel apartment where he plays with his adorable kitty Jeane, and then there's Sylvia, the bra-revealing vixen helping Travis along his murderous path to become the top-ranking assassin. Oh, did we forget to mention Travis' master, Thunder Ryu, who insists you strip naked before beginning training? Don't worry though, we're not subjected to Travis' polygonal private parts.
All of this madness, and so much more, is brilliantly blended into Travis' violence-fueled quest, which is simply to take down the top ten assassins in Santa Destroy, CA, and claim the number one spot for himself. The refreshingly straightforward structure is actually a bit reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus' gameplay where the player's primary task was to take on a series of increasingly difficult boss battles. What NMH adds to the formula is an open-world environment available to Travis between bouts. In this world, he can tool around on his sci-fi-looking motorcycle, picking up side jobs, shopping, training, and running errands for a drunken Russian barfly. It's partially up to the player how they want to spend their between-fight time; if you're an obsessive collector and customizer you may want to purchase new clothing for Travis or rent every last video at Beef Head. On the other hand, if you're just craving the next blood-drenched fight, you'll want to stick to upgrading your weapons at Naomi's Laboratory (Naomi's a hotter-than-hell beam katana maker) and take side jobs to raise the entry fee for your next battle. Earning cash is done through unlockable, non-violent jobs like mowing lawns, collecting trash, and delivering pizza, as well as through more kill-tastic tasks like slaying as many henchmen as you can within a given time limit. Requiring players to raise money could have been a fun-halting grind, but the minigames are mostly fun and you're never forced to do them for too long, as building your bank is pretty easy.