Behind the problems lies a beautiful and unique game.
No More Heroes is the newest game from Suda-51 (Goichi) and Grasshopper studios, developers of Killer7, and offers the same kind of humour and art style as it's spiritual predecessor did.
You are Travis Touchdown, a stereotypical otaku living in the only motel of Santa Destroy, California. After winning a beam katana on Ebay, Travis starts a new life as a hitman and is soon the eleventh ranked assassin in the United States. Now as 11th ranked, he is a target for assassinations and decides to secure his position by going all the way up to number one.
The game is divided to two different gameplay aspects, Grand Theft Auto free-roaming and hack 'n slash ranking battles. The latter is where the game shines with unique characters, humor and great boss battles. Unfortunately the flipside isn't nearly as good.
Combat is simple and rewarding. A button is used to attack with your beam katana and B button to do beat attacks and wrestling moves. Once your opponent's health nears zero, the game slows down and gives you a chance to do a finishing move by swinging the Wiimote to the direction shown on the screen. And nothing is more rewarding than seeing the blood of your opponents spatter everywhere or hear the tingling of coins fill your pockets. Sadly the blood is only in the US version, we Euros have to settle for potato chips.
Between ranking battles you gain money by doing three different types of missions to gain access to the next ranking battle. After every ranking battle a new side-job opens up which contain lawn mowing, catching kitties, cleaning walls and collecting coconuts. After finishing a side-job for the first time, few new assassination jobs unlock plus a free mission now and then.
Free missions can be found all over the city but if something, they should have been left out of the game. The drill is the same in every free mission, only the amount of damage your opponents take change and to make it even more frustrating, you aren't allowed to take any damage, at all. Let your guards down for a short moment and next thing you know, someone jumps at you from back. Especially between ranks eleven and six, you tend to fail these missions all the time and there is no way to retry. You either have to find a new free mission somewhere else or go to the motel to save the game and go back, but the best thing you can do is stay away from them until you get one of the more powerful weapons in the game.
Assassination missions give a bit more variation but even they severely lack it. You pick up a mission at point A, go to point B where you swing your sabre for a minute or two, go back to point A and repeat until you have enough money for the next ranking battle. Fun the first time you do them but according to Suda, repetition is a hot word in the world of assassins. Again, the only thing that changes is the reward and the hardiness of the clone army that you are facing.
Baseball killing mission is extremely fun the first time you do it, actually is the whole way through the game but the trip from A to B eats your soul. Grasshopper wants to take everything to the extremes but they should have thought twice before making the town of Santa Destroy extremely bland. Minimal NPC interaction, pop-in and invisible walls everywhere and massive frame rate problems make Santa Destroy a worse place to be in than Silent Hill. It's easy to say that No More Heroes has the worst open world design on the Wii. Fortunately exploring is not essential but there are a couple things to do outdoors. You can collect Lovikov's balls for new fighting technigues or search trash cans for money and t-shirts.
When you play the game for the first time, you have two difficulty levels to choose from: sweet and mild. Once you've finished the game on either difficulty, you can start a new game with bitter difficulty and keep all of your items from the previous playthrough. On mild except for some of the boss battles, the game is fairly easy. If you are looking for real challenge, you should look somewhere else.
The first playthrough took good 13 hours for me and a masochist who wants to collect every t-shirt and Lovikov's ball in the game could probably play the game for couple hours longer. I see no good reason for a second playthrough because except for the extra difficulty, there is nothing new to gain. New unlockable weapons and clothes would do wonders.
Extremely fun and rewarding ranking battles make the game worth a purchase for every hardcore gamer but the huge overall lack of polish in the open world makes No More Heroes a problematic game choice for casuals.