Friday, February 29, 2008

No More Heroes: Impressions

So I've managed to play through the first 3 bosses of No More Heroes, and I have some good and bad things to say about it.

First off, let's put aside the bad things first. The free-roaming map is lacking. There's hardly anything to do around town - which, by the way, looks to be only populated by roughly about 20 people who do nothing but walk around. All I've been doing is scoping out garbage bins to kick open for T-shirts and money, finding random balls for something (haven't gotten far yet), and using my sword to literally poke the ground for more money. Sure, I can ride around with my motorcycle, but the driving is just shitty. Then again, the game's not revolved around this free-roaming scheme.

Another thing that feels a bit thin is the side quests. Sure, they offer you different things to do, like mowing the lawn and collecting coconuts to free fights and killing people in other minor missions...but these missions tend to be fairly short. And, after you do it once, it doesn't make you want to do it again any time soon...unless you need more money.

Fortunately, there's a lot of good that I'm pulling from No More Heroes that keeps me turning the game back on. The violence, blood, and almost comical mutilations occur every other second when you're in the heat of battle. I say this as any truthful gamer would - taking down your enemies in this game is very satisfying. Sure, the finishing moves are one wii-mote movement away, but your enemies die either with a decapitation or a vertical slice right down the middle, along with copious amounts of blood everywhere. Over the top? Sure. Fun? You bet your sweet Bippy!

And the wrestling moves? Some people think it's something that's not used enough, but I try to use it every time I get. And sure, it's just a simple movement of both the nunchuck and wii-mote, but suplexing your enemies just makes the moment all the more savory. As if your character, Travis Touchdown, said "You're not good enough to be cut by my beam saber" and proceeded to throw him down like a football after, touchdown.

Of course, the wrestling moves aren't enough to take enemies down on their own - which is why they allow you to press A one more time to deliver a finishing blow while they're lying there. And even those are stylishly done. For instance, if you're facing away from your fallen victim, you just jab your sword behind you, without looking back. How badass is that?

The boss battles themselves are a nice trip, with my third boss battle being the toughest so far. I fell victim to her special attack, which was a visual treat, despite the fact that it nearly took half my life. The one thing that I would've liked, however, is to participate in the finishing blow. As it is, the battle is there for you to spend taking out the boss's health down to zero, and then a cinematic takes over to deliver the final blow, as well as more story content.

And what a story it is. You suspect that Travis Touchdown is the protagonist, if any, in this story, but there's no real moment to really cheer him on. He's still killing people, he's doing it without remorse, and he's an otaku. There's not even really a background story of how he got his beam saber (which, originally, was said that he won on some online auction). The game just thrusts you in his shoes, in a situation where he needs money fast, so he decides to take up assassination for the fun of it. If every otaku took this hobby up, I'd be very frightened.

Of course, its the graphics that really shine in this game. And it's no surprise it looks the way it is, coming from the person that originally did Killer 7 (just way too trippy for me to follow). In a time where everyone takes video game realism to the next level, it's nice to see someone taking a more artful approach.

Above all else, I think the most compelling features of this game are the 1980's video game references throughout. Much of the game's interface is pixelated and retro-fitted with green wireframes, and the sound effects sound like they're direct MIDI outputs or something. As somewhat of a final nod to this video game era, at the end of each boss battle, your displayed ranking looks like a high-score screen against a Galaga-inspired starry background. Major points for retro goodness!!

No More Heroes is a game that, while it has its poor moments, still shines as a sleeper hit all the way. It's the closest you'll get using your wii-mote as a light saber for now, but it's the only one where you can draw tons of blood from a star-wars-like weapon.
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