Friday, August 7, 2009

No More Heroes

I haven't played anything on me Wii in several months now. It's a bit disheartening. So, I decided to order a couple Wii games to get back in touch with the little guy. Unfortunately, however, I found it difficult to get into the swing of things. Maybe motion controls just don't sit well with me.

No More Heroes was one of the two games I decided to try out for Wii. I had heard some mildly good things about it, and it seemed like an interesting game. I was right; this game is chock full of various interesting ideas and concepts. Presentation-wise, I'd probably give this game a 9 or 10. But it seems the developers poured all their creative juices into the conceptual work, and had little left to use for the actual gameplay. I think No More Heroes is most fung during the cutscenes and dialogue, to be frank.

At it's core, No More Heroes is basically a mindless hack n' slash game. It follows the exploits of Travis Touchdown, a fairly typical nerd and otaku (a type of nerd that typically specializes in knowledge regarding anime, manga, and toy models). The backstory of the game is only skimmed over, but from what I understand, he somehow met this hot diva by the name of Silvia Christel, who challenges him to rise to the top of an assassin's organization by defeating each of the top 10 assassins. He agrees, primarily only because Silvia hints that she might "do it" with him if he makes it.

And so Travis uses his beam katana (which he won from an internet auction) to slay each ranked assassin, one by one. Silvia's "organization" requires some hefty fees to register for each ranked battle, though, so between events, you'll spend some time doing odd jobs around town to make enough money to register for the next battle. You might also use your hard-earned cash to upgrade your weapons, buy some new duds, or beef your stats.

Once you've got enough money, you register for the next battle, seek out the target assassin's hideout, hack up his minions for 15-30 minutes (with one or two special battles thrown in to shake things up a tad), and then Silvia calls you using the Wii remote speaker, mostly to tell you how certain she is that you will be slaughtered in the upcoming battle (with a couple passing words of encouragement thrown in as well). You confront the assassin, and Travis engages in a [often] totally random and nonsensical, yet amusing conversation oozing with stereotypes and pop culture with the target, before you fight him/her. After he or she is defeated, Silvia appears, flirts a bit, then leaves. This process is repeated several times, until you beat the game.

Of course, there's a more indepth story in here somewhere, but you won't realize it for some time. And unsurprisingly, what few plot twists there are in this game, really might throw you for a loop.

No More Heroes is a strange game, really. Sometimes it's mind-numbingly repetitive and boring, yet at other times it's exciting and over the top. Unfortunately, there's more repetitiveness than there is over-the-top-ness.

In battle, you use Travis' beam katana and pro wrestling moves to come out on top. Travis' beam katana will be your weapon of choice most of the time, and it really does slice and dice enemies in a satisfying manner. Downed or stunned enemies must be finished via either a parting stab, or a brutal slice. Either method causes a huge amount of blood to erupt forth, not unlike a fire-hose. Enemies come at you in crowds, and die easily enough, so you'll quickly find yourself getting used to your vision being partially impaired by blood flying everywhere. To give yourself a bit of style, as well as break out of simply swinging your beam katana everywhere, you have various wrestling grapples and throws at your disposal. Stunned enemies can be thrown using a variety of motion commands. It's impossible to kill an enemy this way, but it does leave them downed, so you can insta-kill them with a quick stab (this doesn't work on bosses though). Your beam katana also runs on a battery. Occasionally you'll need to stop and press 1 to start waggling your remote with fervor, to recharge the katana as quickly as possible.

When you're actually in the assassin's hideout, the game's not so bad. The hack n' slash aspect is often shaken up by special events, such as enemies in one room inexplicably lining up in a straight single-file line, so that you can bat a ball at them and kill each one in one go, or the sprinklers activating, shortening out your beam katana.

Each boss is very interesting, and usually quite a bit of fun to fight. They're often unique reincarnations of various popular character archetypes. Like for example, the samurai Shinobu. Anyone who's seen their fair share of anime knows that a katana wielding schoolgirl is one of the more common character types we've seen out there (and popular, at that). Maybe the fact that she also has an afro is a jab at Afro Samurai. I dunno.

My beef is with the money gathering aspect. Everything about this part of the game is boring and uninteresting. This may not be a fair jab, but, this being a game and all, I'm not sure why I should have to do menial minigame tasks to get through the game. Games are supposed to be fun, and the developers surely could not have thought that these odd jobs were fun.

The graphics are also somewhat of a mixed bag. The quaint town of Santa Destroy is uninteresting and a horrible attempt at an open world. But I think part of the concept of Santa Destroy was for it to be a very uninteresting place. On a technical scale, the graphics quality in No More Heroes varies somewhat. I personally think they're not bad, but the framerate does dip occasionally (particularly when there's a LOT of blood flying). Fortunately, the style used for the visuals saves what shortcoming the technical quality might have. It's slightly cell shaded, but I also liked how they did Travis' cheap motel apartment, and while the grunt enemies look largely the same throughout the game, the bosses all have unique duds. The music and BGM is also interesting, though most of it is ultimately forgettable. Like I said though, I really enjoy the dialogue.

I'm not sure how much the average person would get out of No More Heroes, but if you consider yourself a connoisseur of anime and videogames (and particularly the culture surrounding them), you may be able to relate to many of this game's concepts. I got a kick out of quite a number of them, but I really don't think this game is for everyone. Even given the outstanding ideas present here, I feel the gameplay is too lacking to merit a recommendation. A 6.5/10.

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