have nothing at all against style: I own a vast collection of classic lo-fi sneakers; I hand over $40 to my hairstylist every eight weeks or so (barbers are for chumps); there's even a soft spot in my heart for the nonsensical productions of the Japanese animation house Gainax. Now, what I do have something against is style for style's sake — style which isn't just a side effect of a thing, but is in fact the thing itself. I fear that Grasshopper Manufacture may have crossed this line with their recent Wii release No More Heroes. Director Goichi Suda (a.k.a. Suda 51) alienates that sought after "hip young gamer" demographic with overly simplistic (and half-broken) play mechanics which have been dressed up in the tackiest of fare.
Push 'A' repeatedly to proceed
to the next boring level.One will find few faults with Heroes' visual design. Grasshopper draws elements from Killer 7 (their 2005 GameCube release) and expands upon them, adding detail and an expanded color palette to that title's simple lines and limited hues. One quickly wonders, though, why Heroes looks so bad in motion — I've found a number of Wii releases to be beautiful, but this game suffers from so many aliasing problems and tearing issues that I'm reminded of the PlayStation 2's early offerings. I realize that Goichi Suda wanted to incorporate the Wii's unique controls into his newest creation, but it leaves you asking how much better this game could have looked on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.
No More Heroes' diverse enemies
include "axe wielding guy."As for those "unique" Wii controls, they add little (if anything) to Heroes' gameplay. Players still use the 'A' button to execute thrusts and slashes — the Wiimote's motion sensors are really only called upon when it comes time to execute finishing moves or recharge your lightsaber-esque energy sword (which, I might add, is done by "jerking off" the controller — isn't that stylish!). If you want to see sword fighting done right on the Wii, look no further than Nintendo's own The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. As it stands, Heroes' controls make it little more than a button masher — and a pretty mediocre one at that. The game's movement and lock-on systems function ably enough, but don't even get me started on the way vehicles handle. Although the motorcycle seems like a great way to get around Heroes' cityscape, you're probably better off navigating on foot.
I believe I've already mentioned that No More Heroes alienates its target audience, but this fact cannot be understated. The highly literate Otaku of the world (those fanatic anime and video game fans of which I am most certainly one) deserve more than this overly campy and borderline offensive production. It's pretty hard to ruffle my feathers (I'm an ardent Family Guy viewer), but far too many of Heroes' attempts at being funny just aren't. Travis Touchdown, the game's protagonist, is as big a loser as they come. He lives in a motel room, collects professional wrestling memorabilia and is sexually starved to the nth degree. While Viewtiful Joe made a similar character downright lovable on the GameCube, Travis is a bonafide ass. Add to the mix an assortment of masochistic assassins which Travis is trying to hunt down, and we complete this recipe for disaster. Sure, I chuckled a few times, but this tended to be for all the wrong reasons. You see, one doesn't laugh with Heroes, but at it.
Did Ubisoft do an excellent job selecting an English cast for this distinctly Japanese production? Yes. Did Grasshopper's design team succeed at giving No More Heroes a visual style that's all its own? Most definitely. Still, these achievements cannot overshadow the game's failures in gameplay and, most notably, story. Parody and dark comedy are tricky, in that authors need to tread carefully lest they move towards the offensive. Heroes crosses this line far too often. What should have been an intelligent and irreverent comedy based upon the wealth of Japan's anime culture turns into an amateurish romp through the absurd and tasteless. We're left with yet another example of a mature-rated game which is anything but.
(Editor's correction: voice-acting was casted by developer Grasshopper Manufacture, and not Ubisoft Entertainment. Ed Kirchgessner regrets having to withdraw his sole compliment to the publisher.)