Guest Author - James Shea
A game made by Suda 51, the game maker behind the cel-shaded rail shooter Killer 7, No More Heroes reflects its creator's desire to push boundaries and innovate as much as possible. However, does that mean it stacks up as a game by itself?
In No More Heroes, the player takes the role of Travis Touchdown, a 27-year-old fanboy living in a small apartment in California. After obtaining a Beam Katana - essentially a lightsaber - by winning an online auction, Travis decides to become the #1 ranked assassin in the world. The game is divided into two types: Trying to move up the ranks from #11 to #1 by challenging the ranked assassins above you, or working to get enough money to enter an official petition to go after the next assassin.
The assassin challenges are the combat segments. You run through an area fighting various low-level goons before reaching the boss - the ranked assassin. Travis' beam katana is the main weapon in combat. It is swung with the A button, but will strike differently depending on if it is in high stance (the Wii remote held straight up) or low stance (the Wii remote held to the side). The beam saber can also be charged up for a larger attack. Enemies who are injured enough are "finished off" by waving the Wii remote in the direction indicated on the screen for a final, bisecting slash. The beam saber has a short battery that is drained by attacking and guarding, and drained even more by a charge attack. Once the battery is dead, neither attacking nor guarding is possible with the beam saber. To charge the battery back up, the Wii remote has to be shaken up and down to "get the juices flowing again". Besides his saber, Travis also has an array of unarmed attacks, including punches, kicks, and throws, that can be done without draining the sword's battery. The fighting in the game is fun and decent, with some innovative uses of the Wii remote - it really feels like they're trying to make the Wii remote a part of the fighting and not just a gimmick. However, in terms of gameplay, it's overshadowed by more pure-action games like Ninja Gaiden. On its own, though, it's reasonably fun.
The money-gathering parts of the game are significantly less fun. Later in the game, Travis can use his reputation as an assassin to take assassination jobs (which are combat segments), but for the early parts of the game Travis will have to take regular part-time jobs. Everything from mowing lawns to collecting garbage to sweeping for mines is included in this part. They're essentially mini-games; there's only a few of them (nine total), but you have to keep doing them to earn more and more money. They're kind of a drag to do over and over, and really, if you can just do a repetitive activity like this in a game, you might as well do it in real life and earn some real money. Of course, it doesn't seem like it was meant to be fun, anyways.
Besides submitting challenges, it's also possible to buy various new items with your money. Travis' entire wardrobe is customizable with new clothing, and in addition he can buy new beam swords to increase his performance. Travis' apartment is the main base of the game; Travis can change options and equipment, as well as simply sit back and enjoy himself by watching tv or playing with his pet cat.
The graphics are a neat cel-shaded style, with lots of blood, but in technical terms it doesn't look great. It looks, to be honest, like a Gamecube game more than anything else. Furthermore, the lighting isn't very good, and shadows tend to obscure way more than they should, so it's hard to see things. Overall, it looks really dated, and this tends to detract from the action sequences. The sound is pretty good in voice acting terms but not great music-wise.
Overall, No More Heroes has some interesting ideas, but the creators' desires to push boundaries ultimately causes the game to be less fun overall. It seems more like an experiment than a real game, and despite some neat innovations with the Wii remote (including some parts where the remote is held to the player's ear and used as a radio), it's really not that fun of a game.