Now, No More Heroes is an older game to be sure, but since the port to the PS3 and 360 - although a North American port of the 360 version has not been released yet - was more recent I've decided to cover the port of the game on the PS3. No More Heroes is a game that has held my interest from the time it came out, and having the opportunity to now play it without having to spring for another console just to do so was too good of an invitation to pass up.
Title: No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise
Genre: Action/Hack n' Slash
Release Date: August 16th, 2011
Overall Grade: C+. A quirky and enjoyable game that might make a good starting point for someone just getting into the action genre, but might prove too kitschy for some and not challenging enough for veterans of the genre.
No More Heroes is the story of Travis Touchdown, an otaku (seriously, he's an otaku) who buys a beam sword off an internet auction one day and decides "Hey, why not become an assassin." Now, there are two ways most people are going to react to that premise. If you balked and said "Are you fucking serious?" then this likely isn't the game for you; on the other hand if you went "That sounds absolutely insane and stupid, but in a completely awesome way." then keep on reading, because this might just be the game for you.
The game basically revolves around the following format: you need to fight 10 assassins to get to the top spot, but in order to fight against any of them other than the first you need to make the entrance fee. You make money for the fee and other various things in game like new weapons, training, and clothes, by either doing part time jobs which have so completing silly but fun mini-games like lawn mowing or trash collecting (no, seriously, funner than they actually sound) or taking assassination side jobs, which do have to be unlocked by doing well enough at the part time job first.
The assassination jobs, and of course the 10 levels that you have to fight through to get to the ranked bosses, are all done with your trusty beam sword. Combat is fairly intuitive - although it should be noted I used the regular PS3 controller as opposed to the Playstation Move - fights boil down to breaking through the opponents defences to deliver death blows or various wrestling moves followed by the coup de grace. The game rewards successful deathblows (which are intended to be the primary way to finish off an enemy) with the possibility of getting one of the various super modes. In the Wii these would mostly be activated immediately, which sometimes lead to the last enemy in a room setting one off and you running around like an idiot; luckily in the PS3 version all "Dark Side Mode" moves are stored for later usage, which makes them much more convenient.
Since we're now starting to get into the differences between the ports, I should mention that the PS3 version has a couple of new part time jobs and assassination missions, including assassination missions that revolve completely around use of the uberpowered Dark Side Modes, which are fun if horribly unfair to your opponents. The port also features the ability to watch the in game cinematics again, as well as fight the bosses you've already beaten. There's also the addition of some of the bosses from the sequel as well, which are just optional fights that have no ramifications win or lose, but are still a nice addition. It should be noted that for some reason the port has cut part of the city off, making the bridge to the northern part of Santa Destroy closed and that part of the map inaccessible, but from what I've read nothing was really over there except for a couple of part time jobs, which were moved to the mainland anyways. The final additions are the inclusion of a score attack mode that again features all the bosses, and a "Very Sweet" mode, a completely cheesecake inclusion that basically seems to play like the easiest difficulty, but with the addition of more scantily clad outfits for the majority of the female cast.
For the basics, the graphics are solid enough, not really showing any improvement over the Wii version but also not hard on the eyes by any stretch. The music is what I believe to be one of the high points of the game, with all of the themes done extremely well. One complaint with the audio I do have is that on the game I played at least the audio would completely cut out or become terribly distorted. It only happened three times to the best of my memory, but apparently this was a problem with the Wii release as well, and not fixing it seems to be more than a little lazy on the part of the team that ported it over.
Now, the gameplay itself. This is a strange game, in that it's almost a deconstruction of some of the ways that other games work. If you want to just blaze through and just do the main missions, then you can easily find a part time job or assassination mission that you can spam for cash and eventually just stop unlocking new ones or bothering entirely. You don't have to get the training to increase your health and strength, nor any of the weapon upgrades. The thing is though, that the part time jobs and the assassination missions, as well as those various side quests and things are really the meat of the game, so if you don't enjoy doing those then you're not going to enjoy a majority of the time that you spend playing No More Heroes.
As for the primary missions themselves, each of them offers something unique, from having to play an impromptu game of baseball for a chance to kill some mooks easily, to fighting on a moving bus, and even running down a ton of enemies in a baseball field with your bike. All of this is interspersed with the more normalized "Beat up those dudes, progress through the level" gameplay. All of the levels lead to some great boss fights that have a mostly memorable cast of fellow psychopaths to beat for your next rank up. These fights are of course the highlight of the game, and most of them are quite enjoyable and the guys and girls you fight against quite memorable.
Now, the thing is, and this is by far my largest complaint with the game, is that for the most part, I was never really challenged by anything that the game threw at me. I have no idea if it was supposed to be harder with the motion controls, but as someone who's played series like the Devil May Cry games and Ninja Gaiden, this really wasn't anywhere near as difficult as I expected it to be. Even the bosses that a lot of people were having trouble with I found didn't take much effort, I only died more than once on one or two fights, most notably one where the boss has an instant kill move that I couldn't properly figure out the quicktime event to avoid until I'd done it about five times. Even the final boss, while a pleasure to fight, wasn't really a challenge in terms of anything but the war of attrition you engage in with him.
It's also worth noting that while the combat is solidly put together for the most part, that it's not without flaws. The fighting system in game seems to work best in one on one situations. Often times if you're fighting a group of enemies you're going to get your attacks interrupted and take damage because you're trying to attack one guy while another is merrily hitting you in the back. In cases like these there's little more you can do than spam the block and dark step (the game's version of bullet time triggered off proper dodging) to try and thin the numbers. There were also a number of times I found myself doing charge attacks at inappropriate moments, even though you should have to be holding down the respective button to do one of them. It's not enough to mire the combat, but they are concerns.
That said, if anyone is just thinking about getting into the genre, then No More Heroes might serve as a good introduction to them. However, the game isn’t without flaws: the way that the game is set-up will invariably turn people off, and the strangeness that permeates the title might prove to be overwhelming, even to people that accepted the initial premise. Still, if you can see past that then there’s a decent, if far from perfect, action title that might be worth checking out. My final verdict is that it’s at least worth a rental if you can get it from somewhere.