Jade, my lesser half, knows exactly how to push my buttons, not in that way though. Earlier this week we came to a deal; if I finally got around to preparing the spare [ MINE! ] room to become a nursery and she will make good on a long standing accord we came to over a month ago. Again, not like that. You see, like any self respecting hardcore gamer, I wouldn’t have been caught dead standing in line at GAME with a Playstation Move last year. Jade, however, didn’t have that problem. My devious plan was to make use of it only when it took my interest, and so when No More Heroes was announced for PS3 it was time to assume the position; on my knees, begging…
…Oh for the love of god, not like that!!!
So two hours after being whipped into action I have my ‘spare, useless, junk’ more or less cleared out of our my spare room and the green shoots of development are now clear to see, literally. You can now step on the floor without fear of breaking something – I have peculiar systems for organising my ‘junk’ – and the only remaining piece of evidence that the room once belonged to me is a canvassed Bob Marley poster on the wall. My reward? Copies of No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise, House of the Dead: Overkill – Extended Cut and two weeks of uninterrupted Playstation Move rights. Lads, heed my warning, don’t settle down. Or if you do then just treasure the little things s/he’ll let you get away with.
I now had the delightful option of picking which game I digest first. If any of you follow my madness – Tanto – you will have noticed that No More Heroes has appeared not once, twice but thrice in my past ravings. So, logically, Travis Touchdown got the nod. Despite all but surrendering my manly pride to get it, my first thought was to try No More Heroes without motion control because that was just too 2008 when I really thought about it. Unfortunately, while still perfectly enjoyable, the game loses a little charm when you start button mashing and so, just so you know, this review is what you get when you play with motion control.
Goichi Suda, madcap game designer who likes to tack the number ’51’ to his surname and wear a Lucho Libre mask when promoting his games. Some people think he’s nuts, my verdict? He’s an auteur genius who does little to conform to the demands of mainstream gamers. To some this up; Suda51 making a Call of Duty game is my idea of a wet dream, true story. No More Heroes is classic Suda51 to the core. You won’t understand everything that happens, but by the time the credits roll you won’t have regretted a second of it.
You are Travis Touchdown, a perennially broke otaku who won a beam katana – light sabre – in an online auction and now has ambitions to become the worlds greatest assassin by killing off every other notable player in the field. Nuts doesn’t begin to describe what will happen as soon as you hit the start button. You charge down a mansion on a motor cycle, slice a door in half, bisect two guards and then drop an f bomb before you even get offered the tutorial. That, in a nutshell, is what is so charming about Travis and No More Heroes in general. All the finesse of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, with the IQ, to match he confronts any problem the game throws at him with only answer; slice it to pieces and then swear at it. Gamers who are not fond of blood, gore and bad language should most certainly turn back now, this game isn’t for you.
[ This is your only warning! ]
So, Travis has got himself a beam katana and a dream to become the number one assassin on the United Assassin’s Association [UAA] so he can bang the company temptress Sylvia Christel, and something about his rent. As exciting as all this sounds, half of your time with No More Heroes will be devoted to roaming the streets of Santa Destroy. Paradise? Far from it, in fact this tepid excuse for a playground came close to damn near ruining the game. You only have six, cloned, co-habiting citizens, which you cannot kill, less than a dozen explorable buildings and your only means of transport is a motor cycle that handles like a rhino on heat; wild, dangerous and a total bitch to tame. So basically you’re an aspiring assassin who conforms to the will of civilisation between missions, with a dodgy bike.
You see, without spoiling anything, for each ascent on the leaderboard Travis must dish out an entrance fee in order to entice his rival assassins into committing to the duel, getting killed doesn’t come cheap y’know. The problem is that Travis, as I’ve said, is broke. Although in a city that pays 2,000 dollars per coconut I don’t really see how, although it could have something to do with that adult film store that routinely drops a voice message in Travis’ answer box every evening. Just food for thought.
So you need money and so, like all normal people, Travis needs to get a job. So he goes to the job centre and he gets one, like normal people. He gets paid, as normal, and saves up his cash. Between missions it’s always a very good idea to set a budget aside for improving your attributes, all two of them, in the local gym and buying upgrades for your light sabre before dispensing a very large sum of cash into the only ATM in the city so you can progress. Then the real game begins.
For the next hour, or so, the rules of sensibility are turned sideways and deposited in the anus of Suda51. People die, a lot; blood geysers across the room, a lot; people swear, not so much; and Travis will eventually find his target after an unwelcome break from the action when Sylvia calls and predicts that there is absolutely no way you’re going to survive what is about to happen, but you do. These levels are fast paced, bloody and a test of true gaming endurance. Each boss fight is more challenging than the last, with some turning out to be a real pain in the ass to beat, and every duel is sandwiched between two slices of animated comedy.
In the end, this game is all about two things; the enemies and how you are going to kill them. While its cast will take much, in fact all, of the limelight the combat here is nothing to be sniffed at. Travis is a wrestling otaku, and it shows. When you’re not slicing peoples spleens out, this happens a lot, you’re either kicking the in the chops or cracking their skull open with a Tombstone Piledriver. I couldn’t make this up if I tried. Attacks are broken up between high and slow settings, with the wrestling homage reserved for when an enemy is unlucky enough to have been stunned at some point during the onslaught.
In typical gameplay, against lesser cannon fodder, most enemies fall apart within a few seconds. Boss fights not so much, tending to drag closer to an hour should you fail to overcome them. When things get too tough, however, Travis has the added option of calling upon his darker side. The office pot is currently running a bet on where he got that idea from, but it’s safe to say he didn’t get it from Dr Clock and the Toasted Sandwich of Time. Once an enemy is about to croak [die] Travis has the opportunity to strike a death blow which, unsurprising, will finish them off by bisecting, decapitating or disembowelling the unfortunate target. Any time this happens a roulette will give the player a chance to win a dark side token. Which one he gets depends on the combination he rolls, but once activated each one sends Travis down a desert charged rampage of murder. Just use them wisely children, I’ve only managed to win four in my twenty hours of gameplay so far. From the perspective of the gamer, the combat will feel frantic but rewarding. From the perspective of a spectator, Jade, it just looks like you’re “killing dudes with a vibrator.”
[ Awkward silence… ]
When you can see past the red mist the game looks generally okay. After all this is nothing more than a high definition port from game released on the Wii almost five years ago. It looks good, yeah, but nothing a company would brag about. Then between the groans and moans of your fallen foes you’ll get to hear patches of what is honestly an original and kickin’ – yeah, I just said that – soundtrack. The only real improvements I noticed were the better use of checkpoints, thank god, and the added ‘dream battles’ where Travis gets a glimpse of his future opponents like Matt Helms and Skelter Helter from Desperate Struggle. In the end it all amounts to pissing in a river; no one will be especially thrilled by four more bosses and the same old problems, at least no one I know anyway.
I guess in the end I’m going to have to give Heroes Paradise my personal recommendation, simply because Suda51 tries so hard to stand out from the norm that its something that everyone has to see. The game will last you at least twenty five hours with one play through with more in store for the collection whores among us with plenty of over the top action to satisfy the hungriest of combat fans. Granted, a teenage girl swinging samurai swords over their head isn’t much of an original idea; but getting to chop her up into bloody pieces is new on me. Then there is that boss fight. I’m not going to spoil it, I’m not going to talk about it and in fact that is the only reference I will make to it.
In conclusion; Heroes Paradise is hardly a fine example in flawless videogame design. For every amazing hour spent bisecting dudes with a vibrator you’ll spend another half an hour paying for it trying to navigate Santa Destroy. It is, however, a fine example of why you let your lead designer work in a glue smelting factory. This game is nuts!