2.4.08

"Gotta find the exit... Gotta find that exit, to Paradise!"


Travis Touchdown, a detached, unemployed loser, proud owner of a light sabre beam katana purchased in an internet auction, suddenly finds himself the 11th ranked assassin in America. Naturally, he's now bent on getting to number one, in the hopes of amassing fame, fortune and girls - and the only way to do that is to defeat the ten assassins ranked above him. So begins No More Heroes, a unique action-hybrid game about slicing people up with a light sabre beam katana and working in dead-end jobs.

There is some controversy over whether great fountains of blood were inserted into the American version of No More Heroes, or removed from the European and Japanese version - but personally, I can't think of anything more suited to my copy of this game than the way defeated enemies disintegrate into a cloud of black pixels, spurting coins from their severed necks. One of the bravest things that No More Heroes does is unashamedly embrace its gamey-ness.

When every other action game is trying to be the same pseudo-cinematic, over-serious Halo clone, it's nice to see something that's full of beeps and boops, pixellated icons and slacker humour. The characters talk in cartoonish quips, the tone varies on a whim, and those silly little things like 'plot' and 'theme' - while they may be lurking in the background - are happily ridiculed and often sacrificed on the altar of good old-fashioned gameplay. When a useful shopkeeper character dies in the middle of the game, he's still to be found in his old spot, as a ghost, just as able to take your money and provide his services - with hardly a word mentioned about it. No More Heroes is a game that puts more thought into any single instance of slapstick humour than into providing an over-arching sense of emotional progression or resolution. And, hey, why the hell not?

The number one complaint that everyone has with No More Heroes is the attempt to integrate a free-roaming aspect to it. Much of your time in the game takes place in the city of Santa Destroy, driving around its streets on your ridiculously over-sized motorcycle and scouring its alleyways for treasure. And this quickly gets pretty boring. It didn't have to be this way, of course - I've happily spent hours just wandering around Liberty City in GTA3 - but the trouble is that there really are only two things to do in Santa Destroy - drive between established locations and search for treasure. On top of that, the city is completely uninteresting - there are no distinctive building or street designs, no real ambience, hardly any sounds except those of passing cars. If Santa Destroy had any kind of character at all, this free-roaming aspect might actually be pleasant. As it is, it's merely bearable.

Where No More Heroes really excels is in its humorous minigames (trying to work a pump at a petrol station, for example, without setting yourself on fire) and its combat. Great use is made of the wii remote for all these things. In particular, I like the combination of button-bashing to pull off basic attacks and wii-remote waving to perform finishing moves. Still, the battles against hordes of badguys are pretty repetitive, and although they're usually over quite quickly, they do get tiresome after a while.

So, actually, where No More Heroes really really excels is in its boss fights. The ten assassins you have to defeat are all extremely unusual, well-defined characters. The conversations they have with Travis are entertaining enough, but the battles, in which they get up to all sorts of neat tricks, are extremely fun, challenging and more-ish. In particular, I think it's great how the assassins' over-the-top personalities are perfectly integrated into the unique style and ambience of each of these fights. There's the girl who prances around in a pink dress in between trying to brutally beat your brains out with a baseball bat, for example, or the guy who changes into a superhero costume and swoops around a television studio suspended from wires.

So, yes, it's flawed. But that's probably chiefly because this is a game with a strong creative streak, unafraid to take risks. Perhaps the best way to describe No More Heroes is as "Quentin Tarantino meets Super Mario". You'll know if that appeals to you.

4 comments:

tinker said...

It sounds a little too much like L.A. for my taste - it sounds a lot like the news here lately...

Udge said...

I can imagine the bastard offspring of those two being vastly entertaining, in a bitter and twisted way. I'm glad you aren't yet out of transmitting range.

Geosomin said...

...I do believe I need to play this.

I can't help comparing beam katana to freedom fries...

gnome said...

And it so really really punk in a particularly satiric way too... Oh, and loved the write-up Pacian.