Here’s what I knew about No More Heroes the first time I sat down to play it; not a whole lot. I knew it was from the same developer as Killer 7, the surreal shooter about the crippled assassin with multiple personalities, I knew it was a Wii game and I knew that it was a combat heavy third person shooter.
Well, third person melee-er would perhaps be a better description of my expectations – I knew the game featured lightsabers beam katanas too.
Now, you may well be shocked that I didn’t know every detail about the game before release – something that I freely admit to. The reality is though that there are an awful, awful lot of games out there and having to follow them all is a formidable task.
Basically, that I didn’t manage to scrape up all the details and hype about what appeared to be just another crazy Japanese game that us westerners probably wouldn’t entirely understand is regrettable, but occasionally unavoidable.
It may not be graphically cutting edge, but No More Heroes has a lot to offer...
And, as far as the game-judging itself goes, it proved to be rather auspicious because from the offset it’s clear that No More Heroes is a game which draws its main appeal from knocking players off-guard and leaving them ill-prepared.
No More Heroes is a game that sets out to shatter expectations and leave players confused, questioning whether it’s even worth picking up the pieces and putting their preconceptions together again. It’s difficult to explain and it’s somewhat involved and complicated too – but it’s also worth the effort.
No More Heroes isn’t a game of half-measures. When it enters into something it does it whole-heartedly and with gusto. If it was a person then it’d be the type of brash, loud, burly and thickly-accented friend who you can always count to leap before they look. In a good way… This boldness is at times a great thing for No More Heroes, but it can be a fault too and nowhere is this split more evident than in the game’s opening.
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As No More Heroes starts we’re introduced to Travis Touchdown – an everyday loser and ex-wrestler. Travis kicks things off ingeniously and startlingly by breaking the fourth wall, addressing the player directly and frankly in a way that immediately has you adopting a crooked, bemused smile. Travis fills you in on the backstory, telling the player how he ran in to a smokin’ hot chick last night at the Death Match Bar. This sassy femme quickly gets Travis embroiled in various little schemes though and reveals that she works in the assassination business. In order to get her attention, Travis sets out to kill the top ten assassins in the world, earning wealth, fame and the usual perks.
The attraction Travis holds for Sylvia isn’t communicated by subtext either – after the first mission Travis comes right out and asks Sylvia if she’ll “do it” with him if he makes it to number one. It’s the only point in the conversation that Travis stops trying to look up her skirt too and, though it sounds juvenile and purile, it is actually quite brilliant. This is streamlined narrative which knows how to shift the focus onto the surreal brilliance that players are looking for.
As we said though – this whole-hearted game design isn’t always the best way to go and there are times where the game overloads players or leaves them numb. The tutorial section of the game for example feels very badly placed and extremely overdrawn, especially after following the witty and wry introduction.