No More Heroes is a game which has rode on the hype built from the previous Suda 51 game, Killer 7. While Killer 7 is renowned for having styIe over substance, Suda Goichi has managed to throw the game title well into the cult end of the audience while gaining praise for delivering on some unique gaming experiences. Killer 7 was criticised for certain design choices, No More Heroes pulls a very similar stunt but has now struck a great balance between fun, styIe and substance. Suda 51, also known as Suda Goichi (Goichi is 51 in Japanese) has once again drawn this new title in cel-shading graphics.
There is actually more to the story than the game really dwells on. As the game puts it, 'gamers these days have no attention at all' - and the opening cutscene is kept short and direct. Travis, the protagonist, meets a 'hot chick' in a bar one night. In a drunken state, he accepts her offer to solve all his troubles. Travis then buys a beam saber in an internet auction and sets out to kill some tough guy under the "chick's" orders. All it boils down to, is to become the number 1 assassin. If he does reach no 1, Sylvia promises to 'do it' with him. At this point, you'll be thinking, WTH? and WTH? is probably the best summation of this game - in the good way . Even if the game doesn't dwell too much into the details; the script, dialogue, settings, and the characters show much, much more in the game world of Santa Monica.
NMH is first and foremost a 3rd person action game. Still, playing the game is split between 2 very different gameplays. One is open world in which you travel from location to location, the other is in 'linear-corridor' combat - a build up of waves of enemies until you reach a boss. While the open world is full of odd pop-ups, full of texture pop-ins, riddled with awkward physics, lacking any real sense of interaction, lacking in population/life, you may begin to question if there's something wrong with the game or was the game really finished? No, it's not just your copy of the game or a problem with your specific Wii, the game IS like that. . In some ways, the open world may just have been better if it was menu-driven but upon further reflection, it is rather charming in it's quirky Suda 51-sense. Am I making sense? Well, the game allows you to ride your very unique motorcycle in a very cool fashion although the controls can feel a tad awkward. The side missions contrast the underground assassination jobs. Picking up coconuts after knocking them off trees or mowing some guy's lawn, or working at a petrol station are only fun the first time round. Thankfully, completing these odd jobs unlock the more fun but seedier jobs.
Thankfully, the game really comes into it's own in terms of the combat and the bosses. After saving up enough money from side jobs and assassination jobs, you deposit your money to the 'association' which organises the ranked assassin fights. You go back to your motel room, get the location details through letter or through your fax machine and then make your way towards the chosen battleground - this scenario is repeated between each ranked fight and so there is some repetition to go through. Combat does not involve motion-controlled-swinging-beam-saber as one would have guessed. In fact, to hit, you press A. Depending on how you tilt/hold your Wiimote, you can change between a high and low stance to vary your attacks. Locking onto enemies with the Z button will make you automatically block attacks. When an enemy is nearly dead, you can execute a finishing move which requires you to swing the Wiimote in the prompted direction. If you so require, you can daze enemies with a punch/kick with the B button. Holding B will execute a strong melee attack. There are advantages to using this attack to work your way through enemy blocks and also to unleash some wrestling moves (executed by some very nice nun-chuk/Wiimote motion sensing). If you down an enemy, you can kill them instantly with a finishing move by pressing A while standing above them. Pressing the D-pad directions, left, right and down will make Travis dodge by rolling in said direction. You also have to keep an eye on the battery power of your saber, without power your saber is useless. Just press '1' and then shake your Wiimote to recharge it, . Did i mention the roulette? Well, once you take out an enemy, a roulette will start rolling and if you get 3 matching icons, you'll enter 'dark-side mode'. While you're in this mode, you suddenly become much stronger through a variety of ways: shooting power-balls, instant execution moves, slowing down time etc. By the time you've read up to here, you're probably wearing this face: ? and shouting WTH!? It's totally understandable but please continue reading before thinking this is all too ridiculous! Once you get to grips with how to play the game fairly quickly, the game does one thing extremely well - and that is FUN. No matter how much the game will spit in the face of 'serious business' and 'realism', the game is really fun. Dispatching hordes of enemies and finishing them off with some satisfying swings of the Wiimote doesn't get old even after completing the game 2 times over. The cut-scenes are well-made with excellent voice acting and is something which makes you anticipate what's ahead; this is where most of the production value is to be found, a stark contrast to what you're treated to in the bulk of the gameplay. What I haven't mentioned yet is that the game always pulls up a surprise round the corner and will probably leave you smirking (that is, if you've been gaming for a long time and has become so accustomed to 'how things should be in games').
While I've talked down on the visuals (I've yet to talk about the horrible jagged lines you'll see, especially on a high resolution screen), it feels as though the game is intentionally being so. The mini-map is crude and full of pixels, and i don't mean in terms of the pixels in the 480P resolution, i'm talking about huge pixels as though you're seeing it on a Game & Watch stretched out onto a TV. Even the start menu is full of these abnormally large pixels. These retro touches serve their purposes but seem to be an excuse to not put some more effort into the presentation. The music comprises of remixed versions of the same No More Heroes theme but with a scattering of more unique tracks - the remixes aren't exactly all brilliant but it does one job really well and that is to suck you into the pace of NMH and make you want to live out Travis' battles and experience through the entire game. Other than the music, the sound effects aren't exactly special. Generic enemy sound generic, fighting sounds are how you'd imagine them to be, the exceptions come about with retro beeps (and they do invoke a sense of nostalgia).
When it comes to replay value, there is not much, but more than most games within its genre. I completed the game 2 times to watch the 2 endings available (satisfying, I have to add), both times in different difficulties. The easiest setting is in 'sweet', 'mild' and 'bitter' being more difficult: seeing as your strength and abilities are retained from your 1st play-through, my experience of the latter difficulties weren't substantially hard - it was more of a walk in the park with the exception of a boss or two. The collectibles (concept art, t-shirts, wrestling masks) are a nice addition too so your repeat plays don't feel too much like a waste. And if you liked the 'random' scrolling shooter game, you can play it over and over from your room - despite having unlimited continues, there's breathing space for the adept players to shine and feel satisfied.
All in all, Suda 51 has managed to pull of a fun game despite pushing technical issues to one side. You'd think texture pop-ins, pop-ups, little to no anti-aliasing and a very bland overworld would be unforgiveable sins of gaming, but NMH pulls it off. The rather weak presentation which is mostly masked by the retro effects don't affect the gameplay all that much. In fact, these decisions seem almost intentional, shouting out to everybody that it really doesn't matter to the point that it affects gameplay - taking gaming down to the base of interaction and the pure joy of it. Whether people accept this or not is another topic for discussion elsewhere - what I think most people would agree on is that NMH has an all-round fun combat system which is exploited well in spectacular boss fights. Extra kudos are to be awarded to games which invoke unique emotions while being ultimately. NMH does it and I have to recommend the game knowing the mixed feelings people may have are things to be experienced at least once.