by November 23, 2020 @ 8:15 am
Can you believe it’s been just about 13 years since No More Heroes from Grasshopper Manufacture launched for the Wii? That’s insane — almost as insane as the game itself, which has been ported to Switch by Engine Software. Some games age better than others, and thankfully, No More Heroes is one of those games that has withstood the test of time incredibly well. Sure, what was problematic in 2007 is still a bit of an issue, but the game as a whole is just so fun, entertaining, and bizarre.
Now Entering Santa Destroy
For the uninitiated, No More Heroes stars Travis Touchdown, a dumb-as-rocks-but-still-fully-capable assassin who wants to climb the ranks of the United Assassins Association. Travis is governed primarily by his hormones, which is why he makes some questionable and kind-of-creepy remarks toward the unsavory Sylvia Christel of the UAA, who he previously met at a bar. Despite Sylvia’s mean-spirited nature, Travis is bent on both dealing with her and hitting on her on his path to becoming the number one ranked assassin in the organization.
No More Heroes is a very Suda51 game. It has all the trademarks from the famed game director/designer/writer: self-referential humor, engaging dialogue, crude themes, Japanese punk flair, and a Tarantino-esque flavor. Travis, Sylvia, the rest of the assassins, and really the entire city of Santa Destroy are all shrouded in surrealism. The whole thing has this grindhouse vibe to it. In terms of both narrative and world, the game works really well at keeping you guessing what the deal is with everyone and everything.
Assassinate ‘Em All
Travis’ ascent to the top of the UAA rankings sees him start at the number 11 spot. From there you’ll battle dozens and dozens of underlings (armed with your beam katana) just to face off against the actual ranked killers. Combat is fast and action-packed, and it sees you hacking, slashing, slicing, and dicing your way clean through enemies. You’ll even pull off some wrestling moves like German suplexes, fisherman busters, and DDTs. It’s all super-arcade-like goodness, and witnessing enemies gush fountains of blood and coins when you chop their limbs off or cut them in half is incredibly satisfying.
The boss battles against the ranked assassins play out similarly, though you won’t be able to just mash on buttons to kill them. Like an old school boss encounter, you’ll have to stick and move, only striking when the moment is right. Most bosses have tells that give away their next moves — a couple of which are one-hit kills. When you notice one of these deranged killers going for a powerful attack, you’d best remove yourself from their vicinity.
On the medium setting — dubbed Mild here — No More Heroes poses a formidable-yet-fair challenge. If you’re not careful, though, you’ll have a hard time getting those kills. You’ll find various scenarios that allow you to upgrade your health, attack power, and beam katana, which will make battling later foes much more feasible. From start to finish, the game offers great amounts of entertainment, and that’s thanks in large part to the perfect combination of its combat and difficulty, both of which feel flawless.
The Hard Streets of Santa Destroy
When you’re not climbing the ladder to success, the bulk of what you’ll do in Santa Destroy is take on part-time jobs to earn money so that Travis can buy his way into the ranked fights. Early on, you’ll engage in mini-games that have you collecting coconuts, picking up litter, picking up scorpions — well, you’ll basically be picking up a lot of stuff for money. Doing these part-time jobs unlocks different battles against groups of thugs. There are also some not-very-fun battles that task you with killing all enemies in a stage without taking a single hit. Yeah, not fun.
The open world setting of No More Heroes resulted in mostly divisive opinions when the game first launched. More than 10 years later, the duality of the game’s world remains the same. On the one hand, it’s cool being able to roam the quasi-California city on Travis’ oversized motorcycle. On the other hand, there isn’t really much to do. The few side missions you engage in are mostly derivative of the more enjoyable ranking battles, but these are still fun thanks to the fluid nature of the combat. There are also some collectibles to seek out.
Really the only hurdle No More Heroes faces is its grindy nature. Initially, paying to take on the next assassin is easy: You might only have to do one or two side missions, or you may earn enough money in a previous ranked fight to qualify. The second half of the game, though, raises the payment requirement to ridiculous amounts. You’ll find yourself spending 30 minutes to 40 minutes doing optional-but-technically-not-very-optional part-time jobs just to make enough money to buy into the next ranked match.
Thankfully, this grinding is only somewhat tedious. Yes, you’ll probably just want to get on to the next battle. But on the plus side, the side jobs are at least entertaining. It helps that the combat in No More Heroes is so good, because this makes repeating the same side jobs a lot more enjoyable — at least the ones where you’re not picking up random stuff off the ground.
Hey, Dead Guy! You Left Your Spleen Over Here!
The Switch version of No More Heroes offers essentially the same graphics as the original but in a higher resolution. Everything looks cleaner, though the simple aesthetic charm of the game remains. What you’re getting here in terms of graphics and performance is basically on par with the PS3 release of No More Heroes that came out a few years after the Wii original.
The voice acting in the game is outstanding. Travis and Sylvia, as well as the legions of assassins including Bad Girl, Speed Buster, Letz Shake, Destroyman, and, well, all of the rest sound great. You’ll love some characters and love to hate others, and it’s all thanks to how well they deliver their lines. The game’s sardonic tone comes through perfectly from each of the characters and practically every line of dialogue they offer. Also, hearing enemies scream, “My spleen!” after you kill them never gets old.
The music of No More Heroes is pretty catchy. You’ll hear the main theme a lot, but thankfully it doesn’t get annoying. There are jazzy tracks, fast-paced themes, and electronic beats, and they all work well. Unfortunately, “Heavenly Star” from Japanese musical act Genki Rockets is missing from this version of the game. Hearing that snappy, tuneful theme while visiting shops was a memorable part of No More Heroes on Wii, and it’s sorely missed here.
When all is said and done, if you include everything you have to do just to get to the end, the 12 hours you spend with No More Heroes will sort of just fly by due to how much fun the game is. It’s arcade-y, lighthearted, and a joy to play. This is a game that has held up incredibly well over the years. It’s just as ridiculous, bonkers, and amazing now as it was more than 10 years ago.
Score: 9 out of 10
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