You know, it’s kind of refreshing when you see a team of developers create something that they’re truly passionate about. I mean, it’s not very often that the big wigs of the gaming industry loosen the restraints enough for the creative minds out there to practice what they’re good at – being creative or really, really, weird. Sometimes those go hand in hand don’t they? Usually some of the most interesting ideas are shut down before they ever see the light of day, just because it won’t nudge the bottom line.
It’s why I love developers like Kojima Productions, because despite being seemingly tempered by Konami for so many years, Kojima and his team were still able to produce some of the most mind boggling and entertaining games out there. It’s also why I’ve had a fascination with Grasshopper Manufacture and the infamous SUDA 51, since the PlayStation 2 era.
Well, the masters of avant-garde assassin stories are back with a remaster of one of their zaniest entries to date, No More Heroes! But, will this over-the-top Wii port leave us motion sick, or will we be “shake-charging our beam katana” and begging for more?
Blueberry Cheese Brownies
As a connoisseur of off-beat games, I’m always on the lookout for something that shakes things up. Whether it’s with bizarro storylines, quirky characters or unique gameplay mechanics – the thrill of finding something that’s out of left field is quite palpable! I remember the first time I crossed paths with a SUDA game – needless to say it left a striking impression. In fact, Killer 7 may have been my first foray into a genre that broke these kinds of standards in a video game. It was how it leaned hard into its ultra violence, its over sexualization and nonsensical story line that had me wanting more. This is despite it’s less than impressive gameplay, janky controls and budget level graphics! A common theme in many of SUDA’s games unfortunately, though they have gotten better over the years.
Nonetheless, I’ve been a fan since and have been following SUDA and Grasshopper Manufacture’s work to this day. Though, there was one big gap – No More Heroes. With the series primarily being found on the Wii, I kind of avoided it. Honestly I didn’t want to have to deal with the motion controls. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t curious. No More Heroes seemed to have all the SUDA accoutrements that you would want, with the “Assassin kills Assassin Opera” theme that we have all come to expect from a Grasshopper game. So, with a brand new remaster coming to the Switch, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally give the series a try.
Strawberry on the Shortcake
As a game that originally appeared on the Wii and relied heavily on its motion controls, the port holds up surprisingly well! Never did I really miss the functionality of the motion controls nor did it feel like certain tasks were impossible to complete because I didn’t have them. Well, except for the baseball minigames, but really it wasn’t like I couldn’t complete them, I just couldn’t get that dang gold rank!! The action also felt intuitive while using the controller. Attacks were relatively fluid, locking on was a heaven sent, and once you got the hang of it, dodging became second nature. I’d question why SUDA and his team even thought to use motion controls in the first place, but then the answer would probably just be – they felt like it.
I also loved all of the small details the devs added to the combat and the gameplay in general. For example, whenever you kill an enemy a slot wheel appears. If you can line up three icons, you’ll be granted a special ability. Like slowing down time, shooting beams from your sword that kills enemies in one shot, or insta-kills at the press of a button. Or how when Travis’ beam katana runs out of energy, you have to “shake it” to charge it!
One of my favorite parts however, is the fact that even though Travis is a badass [otaku] assassin trying to rise in the ranks to become number one, he has to do menial tasks and/or jobs all around Santa Destroy to make the money necessary to enter these ranking battles. So you’ll find yourself mowing lawns, finding lost cats, picking up trash, or washing spray paint off of local buildings. There are of course assassination mission as well, but that’s small potatoes.
Cranberry Chocolate Sundae
Nevertheless, despite loving the concept, the execution of these missions feels a bit dated. Honestly, you could say that about many parts of the game, like its stiff controls and animation, and PS2 era open-world style environments, which are empty and uninspired. What really got my panties in a twist however, was the mission structure. More specifically how the missions were strewn about the map and how you needed to raise the money to enter the actual story missions. Again, the idea is cool, but I found I spent more and more time grinding out these missions and running back and forth between the mission givers, than I actually found myself playing the best parts of the game; the main assassination missions.
It was mostly a pain, because there was no quick travel and once you completed a mission, you would have to hoof it half way across the map, if you wanted to try it again. This is especially sobering as you get further in the game and require more and more money. Throw in the necessity to use that money to buy upgrades and cosmetics (because who wouldn’t), and it just extends the time between the highlights. Typically in games like this, I love trying to unlock everything and get the highest rank on all of the missions, but this fact alone discouraged me from doing that. So if I could change anything, it would be to give me fast travel, or to at least have the option to quickly retry a mission after you complete it! Either that or just get rid of the open-world in general. I have no problem grinding for money when it isn’t inconvenient.
That being said, the one thing I wouldn’t change would be pretty much everything else. Give me more zany characters, keep the gratuity and let me collect cool anime/wrestling thingamabobs like a true otaku assassin! Honestly, keep the silly menial tasks as well, just not at the expense of my precious time. I mean, it’s all these things that give No More Heroes its charm! All of the other problems are things that can be solved with better hardware, better engines and a little polish. At least that’s what I hope we have in store in later entries.
Anarchy in the Galaxy
So, should you play No More Heroes? Is it a good place to dive into the series? Well, if you like off-beat actions games with a cast of characters that could have been born from a hot night of passion between a Quinton Tarantino film and a Kojima Productions game, then I think this is the game for you. Especially if you’re not sensitive to a little jank and a moderate amount of grind. Oh, and a healthy dose of wanton gratuity. But, it might also be worth jumping into the second game first, since I hear it turns the outlandish antics up to eleven while making a ton of gameplay improvements to boot. Which you can hear our thoughts about soon!
However, if you’re interested in jumping off the deep end and trying No More Heroes out for yourself, you can find it right now on the Nintendo Switch!!
If you liked this review then consider checking out our full video review on YouTube! Not only will you be able to see the game in action, but you’ll also get to chill to some smooth tunes!