No More Heroes Wii
Published by: Rising Star Games
Developed by: Grasshopper Manufacture
Release Date: Out Now
When the Nintendo Wii was first shown back at E3 a few years ago, many were amazed by the direction that Nintendo had taken and with the nature of the controller they had chosen for their new console. As with the DS, Nintendo had given games developers an opportunity to create games that just weren't possible before. It's probably a little disappointing then that few developers have made the most of the unique control system that the Wii has and it says a lot that Wii Sports (the game that comes with the console) is still the game that stands out for its use of the motion-sensing controls. It's rather refreshing then to come across No More Heroes, a game that actually makes an innovative and good use of the unique control system.
Let's make no bones about this; No More Heroes is a weird action game. Even saving the game feels weird because when you reach a save point, you'll see Travis sit down on a toilet to do his business. Designed by the highly acclaimed Goichi Suda (aka Suda 51), No More Heroes is set in the fictional town of Santa Destroy and tells the story of the bizarrely named Travis Touchdown. Travis is a down-and-out who has a thing for Japanese anime. Things begin to change for him when he wins an online auction for a beam katana. He suddenly finds himself under the influence of a mysterious woman called Sylvia Christel who he meets at Deathmatch Bar. When Travis kills a man the woman appears and tells him that he's just killed the eleventh ranked assassin. Under the influence of Sylvia, Travis has made it his aim to work his way to rank number one essentially meaning that he has to kill all ten of those who are in his way.
The game isn't just about wiping out the top ten assassins. In an odd twist, Travis has to pay an entry fee before he's allowed to take on his next opponent and he'll need to do a variety of jobs in order to raise the money. These jobs range from collecting coconuts and picking up trash to exterminating scorpions and people too. Travis gets to pop to the gym for exercise and there are other locations in Santa Destroy that he can visit on his rather bizarre motorcycle. Whilst the game does kind of give the impression that it's trying to be a Grand Theft Auto experience at times (particularly when you can drive around Santa Destroy and carry out jobs to earn money), the game on the whole is a very different experience.
The combat is what really differentiates No More Heroes from other action games you may have played. Travis fights with a blade katana (which as you can see from the screenshots, looks very similar to a light sabre) and you might think that you'd control the katana by simply moving the remote. This isn't actually the case, although you will move the remote to change your stance, recharge your katana and in conjunction with the nunchuk to perform finishing moves. You'll press the A button to swing the katana and the B button to perform a beat attack. The B button is also pressed (when the B button icon appears) to grapple a stunned enemy. During combat you'll have weapon clashes that require you to swirl the Wii remote to knock the enemy back. The control system works really well and it never feels like it's tiring your arms out like some Wii games do. When you perform a finishing move you'll see fruit/slot/poker machine icons appear on the screen. If the three symbols match you'll gain temporary access to a special power that can help make light work of your enemies.
The combat in No More Heroes is undoubtedly strange and to a large extent it's pretty difficult to put the nature of it into words. The quality of it is a mixed bag however. The standard enemies aren't really that intelligent and only become a problem when you're faced with a large number of them. At times it certainly feels as though the AI is pretty poor when you're facing these standard enemies and at times battling them can become a little tedious. The boss fights (the fights against the ranked assassins) are completely the opposite in that they do pose a challenge and they have their unique patterns of attack which means you really have to think about what you're doing. It's only when you're fighting these boss battles that you really make effective use of all of the nuances of the game's battle mechanics.
No More Heroes has its own unique style that works well and adds to the peculiar nature of the game. If you're expecting a game that visually surpasses anything that could have been done on the Dreamcast or PlayStation 2 however, you're going to be disappointed. No More Heroes suffers from an inconsistent frame rate, particularly when the action intensifies, which is surprising given that the game doesn't look that impressive. When you're driving around on Travis' motorbike you'll notice some pretty ugly graphical pop-up which is unfortunate. The game's menus have a rather basic 8-bit look to them (they look as though they have been made for the Spectrum 48k). In fairness though, the menus might not be impressive from a presentation standpoint but they do have a certain charm to them.
Support for deaf gamers is pretty mixed in all honesty. The game does offer subtitles but you can't enable them before beginning a new game. You'll have to watch the introductory cutscenes without subtitles, play through the tutorials (which are thankfully in text) and then once the tutorials are completed, you'll be able to press the + button and enable the subtitles from the configuration menu. The game's subtitles don't have any character names or portraits placed alongside them. The subtitles aren't displayed in a dialogue box or against a darkened overlay and at times it can be a little awkward reading the text. Travis will occasionally receive a phone call through the Wii remote's speaker. Thankfully this is subtitled but as there is no speaker's name placed alongside the text, deaf gamers probably won't immediately be aware that the call is from Sylvia. The game makes good use of visual symbols to display information and deaf gamers will always be aware of how to perform the various finishing moves in the game because of this.
We've already stated in this review that No More Heroes is a weird game and I don't think anyone could argue that it isn't. However, despite the rather oddball nature of the game there's no denying that the game is as enjoyable as it is strange. The game makes great use of the unique control system that the Wii offers and it's a game that will certainly appeal to those who enjoy top quality action titles (something the Wii is currently rather short on). In truth the game is an acquired taste and some may not appreciate the game's departure from normal action game mechanics but there's a lot to admire about the game and it's safe to say that you won't have ever played anything like No More Heroes.