Lindsay Reviews: No More Heroes

Posted: June 6, 2012 by theelindsayclarke in Games
Tags: , , , ,

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For my first review on this site, I’m going to look at the awesomely stylized No More Heroes on the Wii.

I’m going to talk today about a game that is, in my opinion, both underrated and relatively unknown. Surely people have heard of No More Heroes; in some circles Suda51 may even be a well-known name, especially with Lollipop Chainsaw on the way. But No More Heroes is a game that is spoken of more often than it is played. I know I wouldn’t have bothered picking it up if I hadn’t been pretty much peer-pressured into buying it. And damn, am I happy I was.

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No More Heroes is an action game for the Wii, where the player portrays the stuck-up jerk-off Travis Touchdown as he battles his bloody way to the first rank of assassins. Above all else the game is a satire — of both video games and the people who play them. Perhaps the simplest way I would describe the game is ‘beautifully tacky’.

Now there are three components that make up a good game to me: plot, gamer-friendliness, and style. I’m going to call this my Triforce of Power.

First up: gamer-friendliness. For certain games this may be the most important, most make-or-break part of a review. For No More Heroes… not so much. The controls are simple and they work fairly well. I could so easily just leave it at that and it wouldn’t even matter. But I’ll go a little further.

I’m not really the best person to review a Wii game, what with my twiggy arms and general laziness: I’m going to get pissy about the controls. It’s just a part of life. But all biases aside, the controls are pretty fifty/fifty. During the fights they work well: you move smoothly from enemy to enemy, which is essential for certain levels and jobs in which there are several enemies you must beat in rapid succession to complete the task. And fuck does it feel good to kill them. You feel like such a boss every time you bring an enemy down. There are a couple combos you can use for fights, and they are powerful, and they do work, but I personally found I didn’t use them as often as the game makers were probably hoping I would. During portions of the game where you’re wandering the streets: on your bike or on foot, the controls are less-than-useful though. They can be clunky and hard to make do exactly what you want. I could never decide how much this matters though: the point of the walking/driving is to move along to the next fight so these portions hardly matter for anything but levelling up. And yet, you have to do them to progress, so it still does suck that you have to put up with these controls, even for a brief while (and if you’re a completionist like me, these sections are no longer brief).

This brings me to the game’s plot. It seems simple enough: Travis kills assassins to become number one. And that’s pretty much the gist of it. And I love that. It couldn’t work as a movie. It definitely isn’t enough substance to be a TV show. But the simplicity works perfectly for a video game. You want to succeed. And every time you might be getting bored, they throw in a plot twist to keep you intrigued. The reveals definitely drop your jaw. You play on to figure more and more out, and it’s wonderfully slow to fill you in, keeping you in suspense while you slay your enemies.

The protagonist is one of the greatest components of the game. Why? Because he’s you. Well, a very exaggerated version of you. Travis is a typical male gamer (in Japan, at least), AKA, just about any game’s target audience. I kind of hated him initially for being one of those low-life types who does nothing good and yet still feels he deserves to get laid, but once the satire set in I was sold, because his attitude fits the vibe of the game perfectly.

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Last but definitely not least, I’m going to talk about the game’s style. This is by far the most prominent and important feature of the game, as one could tell from the first couple seconds of gameplay. The game knows it’s going to be niche, accepts this fact and uses it to its advantage. One thing that works very well for No More Heroes is that you always wonder if a flaw happened on purpose, and you end up respecting Suda for what could be a mistake. For example, the graphics certainly aren’t pretty – when I first started playing, I thought, ‘If that’s how the game’s going to look, I don’t think I can keep playing…’ – but then I started to believe they were part of the satire, and just like that it no longer mattered to me. The music is great through and through, on the other hand. It fits the game and is exceptionally catchy. The jokes and references (such as a bullet hell-style dream sequence) may catch some gamers off-guard, but anyone who has experienced Suda51 before would be expecting, nay, hoping for such references. Anyone who hasn’t would certainly come to enjoy his strange sense of humour by the end of their endeavour (like I did).

All in all, this game is hella fun. It’s really great for people who know their stuff about gaming: they’ll get the references and respect the opinions. It’s campy and it knows it, balancing inconceivably well between tongue-in-cheek and blatant humour. As a video game, it’s enjoyable simple – short but not too short, and certainly extendable if you want to collect all the little tidbits. Truly though, it is a game that you must experience yourself to fully appreciate. I’d recommend it for anyone who considers themselves a gamer.

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