No More Heroes Reader Review
No More Heroes for the Wii might at first glance appear to be nothing more than a sub-par Japanese approximation of the Grand Theft Auto series, with its small, shallow and glitchy open-world driving environment and its penchant for fountains of toe-curling blood and gore. Appearances can be deceiving, however, and any passing resemblance to GTA is quickly seen to be superficial after a few hours spent with the game.
Directed by Suda51, the enigmatic brains behind 2005's Killer 7, No More Heroes is every bit as wacky and subversive as his last project. After he wins his very own "beam katana" in an internet auction (a weapon which looks very much like a lightsaber), the game's protagonist Travis Touchdown decides to become a paid assassin, roaming the streets of Santa Destroy to earn money for his video game and porn addiction (well, what else are you going to do with a beam katana?). The game begins with Travis having been inducted into the United Assassins Association, a kind of guild for expert hitmen. His mission: to kill every other assassin in the UAA's top-ten list and become the world's No. 1 rated hitman. It's as far-fetched and as ludicrous as it sounds.
Rather than being a mission-based GTA-driving clone, No More Heroes is actually a fairly straightforward action game, with Travis spending the majority of his time slashing and slicing his way though a variety of stylised enemies on his way to each level's boss, or ranked assassin in the guild. The game's best moments are to be found whist confronting these always interesting super-villains, with each character possessing their own unique and often hilarious quirks and dialogue.
The fighting mechanics are satisfying and responsive, with the A button used to swing the beam katana and various "finishing moves" being performed by way of moving the Wii remote quickly in the direction indicated on-screen. Travis can earn new beam katanas over time, and, although the fighting plays similarly no matter which weapon you are equipped with, the action never gets old or repetitive, and decapitating enemies will make you squirm with delight even ten hours into the game. The action is fast and frantic as Travis is pitted against multiple enemies at a time, although the game never becomes overly difficult with smartly-placed save points before each boss and an abundance of life-restoring items scattered throughout each level.
The sections of the game that require the player to drive around the city on Travis's motorcycle can become somewhat tedious, as the city of Santa Destroy isn't the most well-realised or involving sandbox-like environment you'll ever see, although you get the impression that the almost tacked-on feel of the city has been in part intentional, in a wry Japanese jab at the preponderance of open-world games made in America. Whilst this is amusing at first, the game makes you drive around this barren city a little too often, as you earn cash between missions to pay for a "registration fee" necessary to take on each new ranked assassin. Whilst the city offers various distractions that you can involve yourself with, such as digging with your katana for cash and opening dumpsters to find new clothes, they aren't enough to warrant the time spent engaged with such tasks.
No More Heroes is a unique action game that injects a much-needed dose of surreal, adult-oriented insanity to the Wii. The game should take roughly 12-15 hours to complete, depending on whether you involve yourself with the activities outside of the main missions. No More Heroes has its ups and downs, with some sections beginning to grate after a while, but the addictive and visceral fighting and genuinely amusing dialogue nevertheless make this a game that is highly recommended.