Top critical review
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The garden of madness never looked so sharp, but is there enough new here?
on 13 June 2011
I'm not entirely sure what you'd call No More Heroes. I was going to type "The Wii's surprise hit from a couple of years ago" but lets face it, this was no hit, as it's poor sales were what I recall kicking off the long running debate on Wii owners having no interest in "adult games", which is another awkward label as for all it's violence, NMH is as Juvenile as games come at heart. Lets just say "Wii game some people bought and liked but most didn't comes to PS3" and get on with this shall we?
Casting you as Travis Touchdown, an "Otaku" (Japanese for 'geek' essentially in case you didn't know) assassin who is determined to kill the top ten assassins in the city of Santa Destroy in order to become the top ranked assassin. That's pretty all the story there is, with only a bizarre relationship between Travis and his fight manager Sylvia used to comedic effect to break up the fights and provide Travis the only human interaction we see him have outside of the other assassins, who are all equally bizarre creations with increasingly crazy gimmicks to their MOs that Travis has to get through to overcome them... all this wrapped up in a surrealist, fourth wall breaking parody that perhaps doesn't come off QUITE as self aware as it seems to think it does. The story is definitely a fun watch and there are laughs to be had, but it tries a little too hard to come off as cartoony at times and even though I get that it's not supposed to be a serious story in any REAL way it's still very hard to get invested in the plot as a result of no time being spent on giving you a real handle on who Travis is beyond some brief flashbacks and throwaway lines of dialogue that may or may not have been yet more jokey parody. I don't mind a game trying to make me laugh, but when it's a cutscene heavy affair like this with a definite plot that has a clear goal point to it, then it also needs to make me care about the outcome of that plot, and No More Heroes doesn't do such a hot job on that score and it doesn't help that the ending was not nearly satisfying enough on top of that.
The core gameplay of NMH takes the form of a hack and slasher that sees you leading Travis around warious linear levels hacking masses of enemies to pieces with his 'Beam saber'(Which looks and sounds exactly as you're probably thinking) in order to reach the boss assassin with the occasional break in gameplay style to do a mini game or something, with a vertical scrolling shooter arcade parody being a noteworthy addition that really should have been expanded on a bit more than it is. For the majority though, this is Travis running down corridors button mashing his way to victory. Between the levels, there is a sandbox hub world that sees you able to freely explore Santa Destroy either on foot or on Travis' monstrous motorcycle but there are only a handful of places to visit and most of the city is incredibly barren and sterile looking. This hub is used as a travel point between Travis' hotel room and the game levels/shops/side-quests and gets very dull to navigate your way around very quickly. The motorcycle controls are not good. The side quests mostly consist of either part time jobs that rely a lot on QTE events or assassinations that are basically arena type battles with various enemy groups that all allow you to earn cash to spend on stat boosts, weapons and upgrades as you need them. It's a fairly straightforward, formulaic design from top to bottom perhaps, but NMH IS a fun and rewarding game to play for what it is, but there are some elements of the gameplay, particularly some of the 'part time jobs' and the hub navigating, that can be fairly tedious. Of course, I did try the game using the Move controller, but only briefly as it was more or less identical to the Wii remote controls in the original version of NMH and I just felt like using the regular controller, which works fine with the game. I didn't notice any real improvement over the Wii controls to be honest, but did find the button layouts used on the Move a tad awkward to get to grips with. It seemed to play fine with the Move if you really want to play it that way, but the Dualshock makes the game a bit easier I'd say.
Visually, while the game is a lot sharper and more detailed to look at than the Wii version was, the design and overall style of the game's visuals betrays it's Wii origins. I also found that the game performance doesn't seem to have improved as much as the textures, as the framerate seemed to suffer similar dips to the Wii original, and there is still occasional pop up to boot. It's a prettier game, but not to much more of a degree than something like Dead Space Extraction on PS3 was, and THAT game was free. The voice acting is strong throughout, with suitably overacted performances from all concerned and some downright bizarre dialogue delivered perfectly, it works. The soundtrack is decent as well, if basic throughout. Some nice pastiches of 8-bit game music at times though.
So... while this is still a fun, amusing game, this PS3 version really doesn't deliver nearly enough improvement or new content to justify a full retail price tag. If the package had contained BOTH NMH games it would be a different story, but when you consider that for half the price of this you can pick up PS3 games that contain up to three upscaled to HD games on one disc then No More Heroes Paradise, with little more than it's 'bonus' boss fights and restored gore is simply a badly judged release. If you can get it for less than 20 quid then sure, it's worth a shot, but right now? Not nearly.
It's a shame, as this release is probably doomed to failure due to some bad distribution decisions even though it is fun... and as a result we will likely never see the far superior sequel come out on PS3. Give it a try if the price is right folks, but make no mistake, this game is far from perfect and probably doesn't offer enough new if you've already played the Wii version.