|No More Heroes (2008)
Available for: Nintendo Wii
Innovation be damned, the Nintendo Wii has quickly fallen victim to its own brilliance. Despite the fact that it’s still selling like hotcakes, the little white box has seen very few genuinely great titles since launch. With the exception of best-sellers like “Super Mario Galaxy” and “Twilight Princess,” most games currently being developed for the system have been targeted towards the motion control-obsessed crowd. It’s with great pleasure, then, to discover a title like “No More Heroes” – a unique, ultra-violent, M-rated experience designed for hardcore gamers, but easily enjoyed by all.
You play as Travis Touchdown, a hipster wrestling and anime fan who has found himself in the middle of a long-running game between the world’s greatest assassins. When an attempt to impress a girl (who he later discovers is the head of the United Assassins Association) results in his defeating the 10th-ranked competitor, Travis is forced to continue his journey to the top. With his trusty beam katana in tow (a DIY lightsaber made from a fluorescent light bulb and other bits), Travis faces off against an interesting collection of trained killers including: a body-mod fetishist; a gun-slinging, country-singing detective; a white-haired, African-American samurai schoolgirl; and many more.
Where previous swordplay games went wrong, “No More Heroes” takes a classic approach to combat and only integrates the Wiimote’s motion control in small helpings. A majority of your attacks are designated to two buttons: A (swings the beam katana) and B (stuns the enemy, allowing you to perform a wrestling throw). The Z button targets enemies and auto-blocks, while simple evasions can be made by pressing right, left and back on the control stick. As for the Wiimote-specific controls, you’ll need to swing it from left to right to recharge the battery on your beam katana, hold it upright for high slashes and tilted for low slashes, and swing it around to win Weapon Clashes (a “Dragon Ball Z: Budokai”-type event that occurs when both characters strike at the same time). If you win the clash, you’ll be able to deliver a Death Blow by slashing the Wiimote in the direction shown on the screen.
It definitely makes for an entertaining death (blood spurts everywhere while coins jump from the enemy’s body), so you can understand why developer Suda 51 would want to extend that experience to every kill. Suda further exploits his weirdness by implementing a system that sets off a casino slot at the bottom of your screen every time you kill an enemy. Rack up three like items and unleash a special move that has Travis screaming nonsensical things like “Raspberry Chocolate Sundae.”
Chopping off heads and splitting baddies in two (literally) has never been more fun, but the real highlight of the game are the bosses themselves. While the process of actually making it to the end of a level can seem a bit redundant, the one-of-a-kind bosses are unlike anything you’ve seen before. They’re also ridiculously hard, to the point where you have to replay each boss several times before you finally catch a lucky break and defeat them. It’s not that there isn’t a pattern to each fight (because there is), but some bosses have over-the-top instant death moves that, if you don’t know they’re coming, can’t be dodged.
Regardless of its minor imperfections, “No More Heroes” is that unique Wii experience that many gamers have been clamoring for. It features the same, pop art-inspired visual style that Suda first showed off in “Killer 7,” and while the graphics still look pixilated, they’re easy to forgive when you’re so mesmerized by the actual gameplay. And isn’t that what makes a great game in the end? True, the “GTA”-inspired side missions aren’t really necessary, but they make for a more complete game – one that comes as close to realizing “Kill Bill: The Game” as you’re ever going to get.