Friday, November 13, 2015

VGR No More Heroes 1

This game is so... MOE.

robably my all-time favorite game on the Wii. (Okay, I admit it, alongside Disaster...)

VGR: No More Heroes originally titled as Project Heroes or also simply Heroes, also known as No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise (HD Re-release) 
From Grasshopper Manufacture/Marvelous Entertainment/Rising Star Games
Played on Wii
Also available on PS3 & Xbox 360

Type 3rd Person Action-adventure/Beat 'em all/Hack 'n' slash/Sandbox/Retro minigame/Very Japanese/Random/Otaku game
Year 2008

Who imagined one of the best games the Wii would ever receive didn't feature a joyful plumber, smiling furry critters or a green-clothed elf... but an otaku assassin killing people to reach the top of a ranked guild of assassins in order to buy nerd stuff.. And a lot of fan service.

Yeah, it still amazes me this game was even made. What, don't tell me you dared to miss No More Heroes?! 

It's the game that put famed video game designer Goichi Suda on the map, mostly known by his alias Suda51. Prior to No More Heroes, he was mostly known for his work as a designer on the Clock Tower series and a few odd other titles. But his career took a further step when he formed Grasshopper Manufacture, a studio that would be free to make his very own quirky original very Japanese ideas into video games. Grasshopper Manufacture's team was formed with a lot of people with roots in the arcade games, former Sega and Capcom employees amongst others. The studio made themselves known with great PS2 titles such as the unique Flower, Sun, and Rain, the survival horror original Michigan: Report from Hell and finally caught a big break with the "Capcom Five" stylized Gamecube cult hit Killer7. Most of Suda's subsequent games would still own some elements to those first few early titles. 

No More Heroes was their first major title after the moderate success they attained with Killer7, right after the fan-favorite Nintendo DS game Contact.

It's a fun violent action game playing off all kinds of otaku/geek pop culture elements. The core of the game is very much a bloody hack 'n' slash action game, but mixed up with various other ideas from other genres.

The game originally began life under the title Project Heroes. At the time it was going to be an Xbox 360 exclusive, until the team finally decide to ditch the system for the Nintendo Wii's unique controls, which Suda preferred. It was then renamed Heroes briefly until they settled on the final title, since the game doesn't really focus on heroic characters but quite the opposite. It perfectly filled the very niche genre of bloody mature action games which the Wii was solely lacking at the time (which never quite took off either despite some other similar attempts like MadWorld, House of the Dead Overkill or also Conduit).

The title of the game apparently comes from the album "No More Heroes" by the British punk group The Stranglers.

No More Heroes is the story of Travis Touchdown, a huge "otaku" (Japanese fanboy) who lives in the poor part the fictional town of Santa Destroy, California. Travis lives in a motel and he's really into all nerd pop culture - he loves video games, animes and wrestling.

One day after winning a "katana-beam" off an internet auction, since he had no more money to buy his figurines and games, Travis decide to accept a hit job to kill some random guy... Who turns out to be an important international Assassin! Travis finds himself now ranked 11th at the United Assassins Association! Travis gets the perfect plan - he decides to make it on top as the number #1 assassin in the UAA ranking, so he'll be able to afford his otaku lifestyle! 

The rest of the game sees Travis killing his way through the other ranked assassins in hopes to both get all the money and also please his contact, Sylvia Christel

But of course that means that now others will be seeking him in order to kill him. If Travis wants to stay ranked - and alive! - he must keep killing the other assassins.. or be killed by any of the other aspiring killers out there!

Along his quest Travis meets other colorful figures. He spares this girl ranked number #8, Shinobu. He also meets this mysterious guy we shall forever dub Sir Henry Motherf*cker who wields a similar katana-beam! 

Finally Travis reaches the top of the list and his final hit is his own half-sister Jeane responsible for killing their parents! 

The game is hilarious. It often breaks the fourth wall, it never takes itself too seriously and Travis even fast-forwards to skip some huge revelations hidden in a cutscene at the end of the game!

After the game is over we get one final twist! One final scene, a sort of epilogue/sendoff before the credits where Travis is forced to face one final assassin - Henry again! - who challenges Travis, now ranked number #1 of the UAA.

Turns out he also shares a bond with Travis... And we finally get to find out who that girl Sylvia really was all along...

No More Heroes is a fairly simple arcade beat 'em all.You control Travis from a classic 3rd person perspective. 

The game takes place in the free-roaming city of Santa Destroy. A mini-sandbox world which you can either explore on foot or on Travis' modified bike, the Schpeltiger. 

From there you can either go after the main story missions, which must be unlocked in order, or go take any of the open assassination contracts or pick up one of the many odd "jobs" to get some quick and easy cash. In that regards the game reminded me a lot of the cult Sega Dreamcast title Headhunter. (Even the bike's controls were pretty similar.)

To progress through the story you must kill each one of the Top 10 Assassin bosses one by one.

Travis answers to the Wiimote and Nunchuk. The nunchuk controls the movements while the wiimote is used for attacks with your katana-beam weapon. Other attacks are simply performed with the A-button and you waggle around to slash your way through. Since this game was made prior to the Wii Remote Plus addition, it only recognizes high and low attack - which I found was plenty enough for me to keep the arcade pacing, this is no simulator! You can also perform killing blows at the end of combos which are fun and easy to pull off.

You can also access a "Dark Side" power-up through a slot machine gimmick (Suda seems to love slot machines..) you get after a successful kill, which makes Travis go berserk. 

Since this began was a Wii exclusive, there's all kinds of waggle the game has you pull off. But compared to some other early Wii titles they're always fun, short and easy enough.
There's various upgrades to both Travis and his weapons. You can meet this Doctor Naomi to upgrade your blade or train at that's Thunder Ryu's gym to boost your health and combos. Travis will also have access to a wide variety of wrestling attacks.

The game offers all sorts of silly shenanigans to distract Travis from the main storyline. You can go back to the motel to play with a little kitty or watch video tapes! Money is important for weapons and training but also Ranking in fights. But strangely at the end of the day you will probably spend it all on new t-shirts for Travis or tapes!

The best way to gain money quickly is to get some part-time jobs... Regular part-time jobs. Those are introduced as short minigames which often require a lot of Wiimote motion. And titles like Man the Meat, Lay the Pipe, Coconut Grabber and Getting Trashed what's not to like? Travis can get a job mowing the lawn, cleaning trash, filling gas at the station, cleaning the beach from landmines, cleaning graffities, collecting coconuts and finally my favorite - exterminating scorpions! Some can be surprisingly fun. (Sidenote: No More Heroes 2 would offer much better retro 8-bit jobs..)

And if you don't feel those jobs, you can simply get money from side assassination missions.

No More Heroes is considered part of Suda's "Kill the past trilogy" (more or less) along Flower, Sun, and Rain and Killer7. Graphically and gameplay-wise all completely radically different games, but they follow some similar stylistic notes and thematically linked games.  They're all standalone stories but they do share various recurring elements. 
No More Heroes is also a sort of tribute to all the geek/otaku sub-culture. In fact rarely has a game put us - gamers - as well into a video game. Travis is a nerd hero. I mean, he even bought himself the bike from AKIRA basically!
The title is a celebration of geek culture. From his Star Wars-esque katana-beam lightsaber to J-pop music, toys, robots, wrestling and videogames in general! (The sequel would actually delve a lot more into the video game aspect in comparison.)

No More Heroes is a fun nonsensical adventure. The game looks absolutely stunning, particularly for a Wii title. It uses a great mix of modern chell-shading aesthetic and has a sort of retro flavor. All the characters have their own unique style. 

It's not a particularly complicated brawler, but after the lengthy tutorial level it quickly picks up the pace gets more and more challenging.

Travis is such a fun lovable character with a great personality to boot. I find hilarious how his sole purpose to become a top ranked assassin is to afford videogames while giving us players a chance to play what would be the game of his dreams, no doubt. 

The core behind this game can be found in Grasshopper's previous games. Most notably the offbeat humor and cell-shaded visuals and over-the-top setting of Killer7. And like all of Suda's game, No More Heroes has a great tongue in cheek humor.

Originally it was just going to be a really violent. But they made it far funnier than initially planned. With enemies spilling both gritty modern blood and retro coins.

Speaking of retro, No More Heroes feels like a love letter to the golden age of gaming.

The game draws a lot of inspiration from pop culture and vintage grindhouse films. Travis Touchdown was mostly based on Johnny Knoxville from Jackass (true story) and even mimics some of his antics. With Travis voiced by Robin Atkin Downes (Mumm-Ra from the Thundercats reboot). They took some ideas from all kinds of movies and animes, Mel Brooks' Spaceballs (for Travis' katana-beam), Memento, Samurai Champloo and a ton more. 

No More Heroes is very stylish game with a lot of personality. Despite rough edges around the gameplay and some of the animations, it's a game that totally assumes itself.

All characters have great designs and persona to boot. All the supporting characters and the infamous 10 assassins look all great and unique. Even their fights are all quite different and unusual. Although some segments feel a bit repetitive here and there, at the very least the game throws you into random new ideas to shake things up and keep you on your toes.

The ranked assassins of the UAA are Helter Skelter "The Drifter", Deathmetal, Dr Peace, Shinobu, Destroyman, Holly Summers, Letz Shake, Harvey Moiseiwitsch Volodarskii, Speedbuster, Bad Girl and finally Darkstar. We get some great characterization from all the boss and a funny different compelling story for the overall adventure.

Combat feels great and fun. It's always fun to slice someone in half. They're really simple controls to get your hands on. As the game progresses things get more difficult and challenging. It's a bit clunky to enjoy Santa Destroy or ride your bike. This is no GTA though, there's a lot of side missions and whatnot but you can't just go around killing random civilians. It's a basic hub world to select what mission to do next.

No More Heroes is what I would call a very Japanese video game experience.

The game tries to add some Western flavor to a definitively Japanese game. With No More Heroes Suda51 and Grasshopper did a great job combining the Japanese pop culture and aesthatic with a Western design. And they pulled it off nicely in a crazy game unlike any other, with a lot of style and over-the-top characters and wild music. And I feel like they were able to do so naturally without losing much in translation. Shinobu, our katana-wielding Samurai black girl sort of represents this perfect mix of two cultures.

The tone of the game can even do pretty on point satire and even represents a great mature take of our entertainment taking itself way too seriously nowadays (it's kind of a precursor to Bayonetta in that regards). Mocking long characters exposition rambling most of their backstory, which Travis fastforwards through in the final boss with his long-lost sister Jeane. She actually has a reasonable reason behind her motivations, but they've hidden her whole backstory in a funny scene (which gets pretty dark if you try to slow it down, talking about a life of abuse and poverty.. yikes). We even do get that classic cliffhanger ending with more life-changing revelations a second time with Henry near the end.

No More Heroes is a great game, a fairly long adventure to either explore all over or simply go through the story. 

Finally there's one huge aspect of the game that really shines over the rest - it's the fantastic score composed by Japanese veteran composers Masafumi Takada and Jun Fukuda. They did a really great work, one of my favorite soundtracks that generation of gaming. It does a fantastic job pumping you up for the game. All the music simply suits perfectly the mood of this crazy adventure and protagonist. It sort of jumps all over the place from rockin' rhythmic tunes to more dramatic compositions to pure J-pop madness. The game also uses a song from the band Genki Rockets, "Heavenly Star", it's used through the game (the music video is even available as a bonus on Travis' TV).

Overall, No More Heroes is MOE. And by that, I just mean this one helluva crazy wild ride! It's the perfect type of game to get familiar with Suda51's unique style. And a perfect entry point to want to check his other works. It feels like a patchwork of about a zillion different ideas, which kinda shows on how radically different each character is.

It's a really enjoyable mature violent and over-the-top action game, following on the footsteps of Killer7. It's also very meta. And has such a great atmosphere that just pumps you up putting you in the shoes of one of the wildest most crazy random protagonists in ages!

It's simply one of my all-time favorite Wii games, and one of the best titles this past generation. Of course this is A Must Play and comes Highly Recommended to any gamer worth his damn!

To this day No More Heroes remains Grasshopper's best-received title, which is no surprise. They've never sold that much, even for their low budget, but thanks to a unique great story and characters No More Heroes was a surprising success. (Although this first episode was strangely a big flop in Japan for some reason..) Well, it's a fun game with decent gameplay, a great sense of humor and offers such a unique meta satirical experience! Sure it' a bit rough-looking around here and there and the controls are kind of clunky (particularly in the free roam segments), but it's saved by the game's personality, catchy soundtrack and great art direction. It just feels so fun and unpredictable.

The game suffered some edits back when it was released, there were a few differences between regions (and its later Xbox 360 and PS3 ports, more on that below). My only beef with that was the missing manga prologue we lost from the original Japanese version which contained some backstory and an explanation behind the first assassin you meet at the beginning of the game.

Speaking off, the game was later re-released for the HD systems. This enhanced port of the game was titled No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise and it was released for Xbox 360 and PS3. It wasn't handed by Suda and his team at Grasshopper but instead by AQ Interactive  and feelplus. Addiing the ability to play the game without motion control (although the PS3 version tried its best to offer the same experience with the laughable Move support). Aside from the better graphics and ability to switch between the American and Japanese voice acting, the only real noticeable addition is the unlockable "Very Sweet" mode which gives sexy clothing to the ladies. But they removed the main song, added random extra boss fights taken from No More Heroes 2 for absolutely no reason and a few "ecchi" erotic pinup art for the Japanese release. It's a truncated bad port from people that didn't get the game. Try to avoid it and get the original version, it's easy to come by! It's one of the best titles in the Wii library!

The studio received a lot of media attention from this game, which Suda would use to go on remake Flower, Sun, and Rain for the DS before going back to Travis with the 2010 Wii sequel No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle. Aside from continuing the adventure of Travis Touchdown, the game would ditch entirely the heavily criticized open world area for a much more straightforward arcade experience.
I give it:
3 / 3 Quacks!

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