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David Low
13 Apr, 2008

No More Heroes Review

Wii Review | No more arguments.
The ‘effects of violent games’ debate has been burning with similar intensity for well over a decade now, as has the somewhat linked censorship debate, possibly because one of the progenitors of the former, the original Mortal Kombat, was also subject to the latter. Underlying both is the even murkier water of the ‘are games art’ discussion, as, the argument goes, games would have to have some kind of cultural merit for displayed violence to be justified and censorship to have any meaning. Baseless claims have been made by all sides in each of these arguments, primarily because of the lack of high profile examples to prove the point. Most obvious ‘art game’ candidates are ones that sidestep the violence issue somewhat, and most hot-button violent games can usually only be compared to a decent Hollywood blockbuster, at best.

Which brings us to indie developer Goichi Suda’s latest opus, a rare example of a game that merits discussion in all three debates. The follow up to his stylish and ambitious but complicated and obtuse Killer 7, the overt violence in No More Heroes can be directly compared to Quentin Tarantino’s use of it for cultural comment, be it parody, morality or simple impact. Does this mean works with direct comparisons in other media are what is needed to make the points that need to be made? Perhaps. It's an interesting, even important game, and while it has clear 'faults', most of them are either deliberate or a result of a it being a semi-indie production. Unfortunately, the PAL version has also been subjected to a particularly meaningless form of censorship.

Stylishly kill thousands of cloned thugs!

Stylishly kill thousands of cloned thugs!
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Unlike Killer 7 and most of Suda's previous work (which has primarily been in the adventure field), No More Heroes fits squarely in the action genre, and along with this comes a lighter tone and subject matter. It stars Travis Touchdown, a professional assassin and an Otaku (Japanese culture nerd) drawn into the world of ranked assassinations by the mysterious Sylvia, and he must defeat ten weird personalities in his quest to be number one. While most of the game is spent engaging in a bit of the old ultraviolence with Travis' lightsabre-like 'Beam Katana', you must also move around the city of Santa Destroy doing small jobs to earn enough cash to enter the ranked battles. While at first the game seems to be going for the GTA open city thing, in the end the city works more like a hub-world, simply a slightly cumbersome user interface for selecting the main sections, mostly melee combat action scenes.

On the surface, No More Heroes is a mixed bag at best. Compared to the seven figure budgets of many games this era, it has been made on a relative shoestring, with the technology to match. While some of the cut-scenes are quite impressive, most of the game in technically unimpressive, the overworld in particular looking like a middleware-driven budget PS2 game. The engine looks like it has been appropriated from the one used to drive Killer 7 on the GameCube, as the cut-scenes look very similar, just with more detail and textures, but in a free roaming action game it is pushed to its limits and manages to look pretty drab and run poorly. Luckily the effects in battle are quite good, and the game is packed with little touches that make it visually appealing in an entirely different way from basic graphics technology.

The menial tasks technically only have to be done once

The menial tasks technically only have to be done once
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On the other hand, despite their obviously limited resources, Grasshopper seem to have understood how to create an action game on the Wii better then almost any other third party developer. Essentially a button mashing slash-em-up, the Wii remote has been integrated in useful and creative ways to freshen the formula, and it remains entertaining from a gameplay perspective throughout the single player game and beyond. Regular attacks and grab moves are still assigned to buttons with the Wii Remote used only as something of an aiming device, allowing you to select high and low attacks by tilting. Motion controls come in with ‘finishing moves’ which allow you to slash or grapple by following on screen commands, creating a very satisfying system. It's Dynasty Warriors meets Wii Sports, and it works.

So it looks mediocre, and plays well. But ultimately neither graphics or gameplay really seem to be the point of No More Heroes. While it can't be said that no games have ever had something to say, stories and dialogues in games are usually just there to serve the core gameplay. No More Heroes appears to exist for its ideas, with everything else built to serve that. In many ways its a fiercely original game, in that all aspects of its design are utilised to challenge the player's perceptions, including gameplay.

Most of the social commentary deals with the videogame medium, both of the games themselves and those that play them. It constantly breaks any semblance of an in-game reality it might create, with ‘old school’ floating icons, a general retro-game aesthetic, and even mini-games designed specifically to remind you how menial gameplay can be at times. As an ultra-violent and rebellious killer, Travis is sort of what games nerds may wish they were, yet Suda has 'accidentally' left plenty of the raw nerd immaturity intact. While he’s a lighsabre wielding assassin, Travis won his weapon on eBay, and he collects game and anime related action figures which litter his in-game apartment. The main in-game collectibles are a series of trading cards, and when picked up Travis mutters ‘yessss!’ in his best manchild voice.

The commentary goes further though, and Suda even goes so far as to insult the player. Probably the most blatant example is the mastabatory motion required to re-charge the beam katana and the accompanying animation displayed. Travis’ drive to be number one is at least partially presented as him chasing a chance to ‘do it’ with Sylvia, and includes a couple of examples of attempted sexual assault. It goes so far that it may actually make certain players uncomfortable if any of the jokes hit too close to home, but Suda obviously hopes gamers savvy enough to buy his games are self-reflective enough to handle being the butt of the joke.

But while the whole thing is like one big joke, Suda manages to have his cake as well, and in many ways No More Heroes is also a celebration of videogames, and those that play them. Clichés are both laughed at and lovingly re-created, and somehow meaning is created amidst the deliberate meaninglessness.

A joke at the expense of male gamers and their joysticks?

A joke at the expense of male gamers and their joysticks?
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A sad aside is that the PAL version has been modified from what was clearly the original vision, and it's a change that harms both the core concept of the game by removing some impact, ruins the framing of certain cutscenes, and even creates some confusion at a cople of points. It's also shockingly inconsistent as far as censorship goes. In our preview we didn't think the censorship was too big a deal, and for most of the game this is the case, as the colour regular enemies explode in is much of a muchness, but having played the full game we have turned 180 degrees on the issue.

In most cases the over the top blood sprays of the US version have been removed and replaced by an 'exploding black particle' effect. When fighting regular enemies this doesn't matter too much as they at least explode satisfyingly, although it seems clear the drab look of the game would be livened up in places were the claret intact. However, the often extended death sequences after ranked matches have been ruined, as what are supposed to be messy ends for the colourful ranked assasins end up as overly-clean anti-climaxes. One scene in particular doesn't even make sense with the blood removed. Bizarrely, there is still blood in the game at points as it has only been removed at the engine level, and all the rest of the violence, swearing and sex remain completely intact. It's not a complete deal breaker, and you can check out the real cutscenes on Youtube, but it was an extremely poor decision by the game's European distributor. [NOTE: the Australian version is a sub-distribution of the EU version, so the Aussie publisher Red Ant had nothing to do with the decision to censor the PAL build]. In the end, Suda's Tarantino-like aesthetic is compromised, like so many movies used to be when shown on TV with the swearing removed; it's just not the full experience, and the intended irony of the in-game ultra-violence has been blunted.

Still, censorship or not, if you want to believe in the ‘games can be art’ argument, No More Heroes is as good a potential example as has been seen in a while. It’s definitely not for everyone, but is an important game, and for that it should be celebrated. In many ways it's as dense a work as good modern art (of any form, painting, theatre, music), in that to those who don't understand the context and culture won't see the subtlety. If you think you're a knowledgeable gamer and wish to be challenged in a way that doesn't involve how fast you can move your thumbs (or wrists, this being a Wii game) or simple problem solving skills, give it a go. Forget about the ratings below.
The Score
Would have scored higher if the PAL version had been the complete version, but still a must buy for any 18+ year old Wii owners with half a brain cell. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related No More Heroes Content

No More Heroes Paradise trailer
13 Mar, 2010 HD graphics = paradise.
No More Heroes heading to PS3 and Xbox 360
20 Nov, 2009 'No More' Heroes for the Wii.
No More Heroes Preview
21 Dec, 2007 Hands on with Suda's latest indie-shocker.
19 Comments
6 years ago
Wow. I wasn't seriously considering this game until now....
6 years ago
Fighting is oh so satisfying. That's the thing with Wii games, you can play them normal with a flick of the remote to finish off your enemy, or you can do a nice graciful pose when finishing them off just to get in the moment.

The whole game is nitpicks of games put together for you to enjoy the irony.
6 years ago
joejoe wrote
Fighting is oh so satisfying. That's the thing with Wii games, you can play them normal with a flick of the remote to finish off your enemy, or you can do a nice graciful pose when finishing them off just to get in the moment.
There's one particular mission in this game (NTSC version I might add) I repeat oh-so-many times for the simple reason that I have never seen so much blood in one place. Most times I can't even see what I'm attacking 'cause I just pulled a super-finisher that killed 6 guys at once, and like joejoe says, there's something incredibly satisfying about it. The slight delay, the slow motion, the dragging graphics all culminate to create this spectacle of killing perfection.

As far as the overworld goes, I'm with the camp who believe it's not supposed to be GTA or anything like it in the slightest. Rather than a crap open world, it's an elaborate menu system with hidden extras, and until you begin to believe that, the game's almost split into two halves. As I've said elsewhere, I end up spending so much more time in the overworld, doing jobs or missions (post-achievement of 'necessary funds'), than doing the rank battles.

Speaking of which actually, it's somewhat confusing how, so far in my experience of the game, two of the bosses have been inconsistently harder than the rest; (possible minor spoilers?) I of course mean rank 8, but also 2 which I have now been stuck on for almost as many tries as with Shinobu.

It's not the actual battles with the bosses that's the best aspect, I don't think, it's the story behind it and the emotion before and after. I just can't wait to finish it really, looking forward to seeing it all come together.
6 years ago
So what are all the differences between the PAL and NtSC versions?
6 years ago
NTSC has blood sprays, PAL has black particles.

PAL has a better manual (manga style) over the generic US one.

PAL can view the music clip 'Heavenly Star' by Genki Rockets on the TV (US just gets the game's trailer).

I'm pretty sure that's it.
6 years ago
Great review, this was a great game that I enjoyed quite a lot icon_biggrin.gif

Get it while you can people!
6 years ago
joejoe wrote
PAL can view the music clip 'Heavenly Star' by Genki Rockets on the TV (US just gets the game's trailer).
Hey, don't knock the trailer, I love it. icon_smile.gif The song 'Heavenly Star' is still in both versions anyway.

Great review there, you've summed the game up quite well, hopefully this encourages more people to make a most worthy investment!
6 years ago
good review guys, glad to see you "got" it (unlike the good game guys). it's easily one of the best, most unique experiences on the wii. I defy anybody to play this game without smiling ear to ear the whole time.

something else to note, if you shop around you can buy a freeloader and US copy of the game for about the same or less than the local retail price. definitely worth the effort, as noted in the review. it's a lessened experience with the neutering.

in any event, everybody should totally buy this game. mature, next level shit like this needs all the support it can get!

p.s. "F**KFACE!" hahaha.
6 years ago
joejoe wrote
NTSC has blood sprays, PAL has black particles.

PAL has a better manual (manga style) over the generic US one.

PAL can view the music clip 'Heavenly Star' by Genki Rockets on the TV (US just gets the game's trailer).

I'm pretty sure that's it.
icon_eh.gif

Do not do it...

Do not do it...
6 years ago
But... I want all of those things! I'd settle for just the US game with a PAL manual, but I'd have to buy the game twice to get that! Gah.

*sad face*
6 years ago
I actually told myself I didn't need this game but it looks like I might have to pick it up.

I don't actually mind if the only censorship is the blood being black (as long as the rest of it still looks the same) but i'm making a stand against the australian ratings system (and how crap it is) so i'll purchase the U.S version.

Can anyone tell me a great place to get a copy of the U.S version and freeloader fairly cheap (I probably won't play it for too long so I don't really wanna pay top dollar)?
6 years ago
You could get both from Play Asia for ~$82 before shipping (less with one of the hundred odd coupons going on offer in the forums). Not sure if thats the best price out there, but its certainly not bad.
6 years ago
My copy from play-asia arrived today with the freeloader and I tested it briefly on lunch and it worked! although I really dont like the way the freeloader does its little hacking thing by stretching the screen, distorting the colours and playing sounds that sound like a crash.

I think I better get this game finished and out the door before the freeloader does any hardware damage i think. anyone else on the same wavelength or is my freeloader just a bit goofy?
6 years ago
All freeloaders do that dude. its normal. nothing will happen.
6 years ago
I dont think so, my gamecube freeloaders have been totally seemless with no distortion, even my dreamcast one works fine without any change in the quality. This is the first time ive ever encountered this type of behaviour.
6 years ago
The left to right wipe effect is just the particular visual indicator that Datel has chosen for the Fwiiloader, Giz. All Wii freeloaders will display the same behaviour - it isn't a hardware issue or anything like that, just the disc letting you know it has loaded what it needs into memory and that you're now free to eject and swap.
6 years ago
I think he means, that's how the freeloader is supposed to work. Obviously unlike the previous freeloader discs, this can't can't be recognised directly by the console, so it has to do some behind the scenes trickery and whatnot. How they arrived at the double screen wipe effect is beyond me, but I'd give their programmers the benefit of the doubt since they obviously know their stuff and have been working away at something like this for some time.
6 years ago
it's listed in the instructions - it's just a visual indicator so you know it's performed its routines, probably so you don't eject while it's still loading.

the smoke gushing out of the drive slot is also normal. the smoke detectors in your house are probably running on the old 3.0E firmware though so may still sound an alarm. just ignore them.
6 years ago
This censorship rubbish with No More Heroes has 'forced' me to import it along with the Freeloader. I ended up scoring it on an eBay auction (im feeling Grasshopper's irony already) along with Killer 7 and a strategy guide for the latter.

I am excitement bound!
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| More
  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  20/03/2008 (Tentative)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
Publisher:
  Red Ant
Genre:
  Shooter
Year Made:
  2007

Read more...
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