The Weekly Geek would like to introduce Hampson Bonerman, guest writer and No More Heroes enthusiast. If you have a review you'd like to share with The Weekly Geek, email us at email@example.com.
No More Heroes should belong to every Wii owner who considers themselves a gamer. I wasn't aware of who Suda 51 was when I bought it, having skipped the Gamecube and subsequently Killer7, so I didn't really have that good of an idea what I was in for.
You play as Travis Touchdown; slacker, otaku, and wrestling fan. Having won a used beam katana in an internet auction, you find yourself strapped for cash. What's an almost-Kaneda's bike driving, morally bankrupt, moe loving guy supposed to do? I hear the assassination business pays pretty well.
The game starts you off successfully chatting up a seemingly random girl at a bar, who explains to you the steps necessary to join the United Assassins Association, and then helpfully directs you to your first target. Having beaten the #11 ranked assassin in Santa Destroy, you have made yourself first in line for a shot at #10. The gameplay starts out in the first of a handful of boss battle arenas, offering a brief tutorial on the general gameplay mechanics. Once you've taken your place as the tenth best assassin in town, you can start exploring the sparse hub world of Santa Destroy proper, where you balance your time doing odd jobs, going on assassination missions for the UAA, collecting mysterious orbs around town, and earning enough money to pay your entrance fee to the next boss battle.
Most of the time you'll likely find yourself running through the game in a typical hack and slash button masher style, gleefully mowing down henchmen like bloody pinatas stuffed with coins and slot machines. There is a surprising amount of depth to the fighting, yet it would be possible to run through your first time (you can only unlock Bitter mode after completing either of the two easier settings, Sweet and Mild) without getting involved in some of the better game play mechanics. With a little bit of attention to the more elegant elements of the game play, such as dual sword fighting stances, precise counter attacks, and an upgraded beam katana, you'll be dark-stepping your way up the assassin food chain in no time.
The cel shaded graphics and art style in No More Heroes is very reminiscent of Jet Set Radio. There are quite a few areas where style controls the direction of the game, such as the 8-bit game map, arcade style leader board, and juvenile humor. In addition to a high amount of style, there are a lot of pop culture, retro gaming, and anime references throughout the game. Travis' apartment gets stuffed with figurines and posters as the game progresses, and you find luchadore playing cards strewn about town. On a, highly suggested, second run through you can unlock more collectibles and concept art.
The music sets the tone of the game very well, unassuming enough to play constantly without being repetitive or distracting. The voice acting is really top notch, and makes all the many eccentric characters stand out. The use of the Wiimote's built in speaker as Travis' cell phone is a great example of the creativity involved in every portion of this game, expanded even to basic audio features.
While the hub world is made to free roam, that feature is really only necessary as a vehicle to give the story and mini games context, and could have been a bit better. You may often find it frustrating to start a new side mission, fail it, and have to travel back and forth across town to restart the process. As you progress in the game it becomes much easier to drive around town doing a circuit of available missions to raise money, instead of repeating single missions over and over. The reasoning for this quirk is most likely to ensure the game economy isn't exploited by repeatedly doing the same high paying mission over and over, but this frustrating example of game play could have just as easily been avoided by giving someone the option of either retrying or quitting that particular mission, instead of just dumping you back in the hub world. Hopefully they fix this in the sequel. Also, be sure to learn how to drive Travis' bike while in Santa Destroy, skilfully avoiding obstacles while power slide boosting and jumping makes the mostly boring hub world livable.
All in all, I highly recommend everyone with a Wii do themselves a favor and buy a copy of No More Heroes. It is easy to pick up and play as a button masher while giving enough depth to keep the more mature gamers happy. It has a compelling story that will keep you entertained for 12 hours or so worth of playing your first time through. While it has a few caveats I think those get a free pass as not many game designers get to fully realize as much creative influence as Suda51 has obviously been able to infuse this game with, and I wish there were many more games like it. This game has enough fighting, humor, and replay value to earn a spot in any gamers collection.