The lights are on
Power Member - Level 10
*Note: There is no section for the Wii version so I am putting this review as a blog
So, I've been planning to buy a WiiU, but before that happens I intend on using as much of my Wii as possible. Why, you ask, when I could play them on the WiiU? Well I try to not be one of those people that buy every single version of the same console, and the more you use one the more it deteriorates. Needless to say, most of my consoles are now in an awful state, if they function at all. My DS snapped in two a while back. It might not be the best habit, but it is one that has saved me some money. Anyway, a franchise that I've had backlogged for a while is No More Heroes. To be honest, I bought it purely because of its high ratings, and since I was unfamiliar with Suda51's previous works, I had no idea what to expect. Since my Wii seems like it is on the verge of sudden combustion, I decided to get rid of the game and move on to its better critically received sequel if it failed to entertain. Thankfully, No More Heroes grabs the player's attention from the very first minute with over-the-top action and gratifying combat. In between ranking battles the game's flow stumbles horribly, nearly falling on its face, but everything else does makes up for it.
The premise is easily explained. Travis Touchdown, the main character, becomes part of a competition in the fictional city of Santa Destroy to see who the best assassin is. There are ten people who are ranked numbers one through ten and it is the player's task to find them and kill them to take their respective positions. It makes little sense that a competition like this would happen, and the game makes no attempt to hide it. If anything, this point is emphasized; No More Heroes is a silly game, loud and proud. Travis wields a beam katana (think light-saber), fights giant brains and survives mortal wounds to the heart. However, as the story progresses there are some darker and more mature themes to be found. It is optional for the player to analyze them though, and they do not interfere with the non-stop action. Every boss (although one or two may be a nuisance to fight) is a fully fleshed out character and steal the show whenever they appear. Suda51 outdid himself at characterization with the limited amount of time that each boss has in the spotlight. Although I loved fighting them, most of the time I wanted to continue the game just tosee who the next assassin was. I don't want to spoil anything about the ending, but let's just say that it is as completely satisfying and balls-to-the-walls as (almost) everything else in the game.
No More Heroes' array of villains is...colorful, to say the least
Nonetheless, the combat is arguably the most satisfying part of No More Heroes. There is simply nothing like slicing your opponents in half and watching the glorious bloodbath that ensues. Surprisingly, the developers made it extremely simple to understand the controls. They had to do it this way because of the Wii remote's lack of buttons and second joystick. Regardless, the end result was phenomenal. The player can attack enemies with either quick or strong hits, dodge attacks, block them, and perform professional wrestling moves on unconscious enemies. To finish an enemy off, the player has to swing the controller in a given direction, and to recharge the beam katana the player has to shake the controller as fast as possible. In other words, this game contains a lot of waggle, but it doesn't break the experience. It feels silly, but only to emphasize the point that you are playing a silly game. Earlier levels contain enemies that are quite easy to beat. As the game progresses, especially when on hard, it forces the player to time their blocks, dodges and attacks. Being new to the genre (though I'm not sure how to classify it), I died an embarrassing amount of times. Nevertheless, I kept on going, and I kept on killing. It would not have been the same without the enemies' and Travis' animations. Every hit that lands feels immediately gratifying. One can see the devastation that Travis brings on-screen with the exaggerated animations of people getting sliced in half and blood rushing out of their bodies. Although I saw these gory scenes innumerable times, it never felt grotesque. The developer purposefully exaggerates the deaths of those that fall in a way that does not make it upsetting.
Nope. Not grotesque.
You know what is upsetting though? Side Missions. To get to the next ranking battle, the player needs money that is acquired in an open world. No More Heroes' story does not lack originality, but the open world is as generic and bland as it gets. Moreover, clunky controls make it impossible to simply enjoy riding Travis' bike on Santa Destroy. Besides serving as a gateway to the player's ranking battles and side missions there is pretty much nothing to do in the city; you can't even kill civilians. It is surprising that so much time is spent in such a boring and horribly designed place. There are missions that require the player to kill a bunch of people in a given amount of time, which is fun for a time, but soon grows old. Moreover, the missions do not give you that much money, and are actually frustratingly hard. If the player is hit once, the mission fails and it disappears from the map. Side jobs do not gain that much money either, but they gain the player access to assassination missions, so they are ultimately more efficient way to get money. However, both types of missions are tedious and usually have the same clumsy controls the open world does. It makes it worse that as the game progresses the player requires even more money to get access to ranked battles or buying more powerful beam katanas. Since there is a lack of these missions, one is forced to re-do the same ones over and over again. Any sense of novelty that was felt is lost after the second or third or fourth time of re-doing those tedious chores. Even I, who adored the combat and story, got my patience challenged. These side missions had me questioning whether or not it truly was worth to move on. Needless to say, I was able to look past it, after many rage-quits, because the good does outweigh the bad.
There are many who were not able to cope with No More Heroes' blatant flaws. Still, the parts of the game that are worth playing are really worth playing. I have not seen combat so engrossing in any other Wii game, and there is nothing like it available for other consoles either. People that really just cannot cope with the open world can now pick up No More Heroes 2, which I have now finished (I started playing it while writing this review). However, there is still a reason to play the original: well characterized bosses, compelling story, and a combat that sets itself apart from its sequel and every other game in the market. This does not mean that the combat is superior from its sequel, which I will address in its own review, but only that changes were made and they are now different experiences, albeit both are enjoyable. In any case, I am glad that my Wii did not explode. That let me play what has become one of my favourite franchises of all time.
But seriously, Santa Destroy sucks