No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise ReviewGreg Knoll
Travis Touchdown is a jerk.
No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise main character is a shining, brilliant example of where the game got its title. Travis is no hero, nor does he become one during the course of the game. His morals are non-existant, his motives are fueled solely by his hedonistic ID and he is horrible at returning rented videos back on time. He enters the assassin's guild, slays countless victims to climb the ranks not for reasons one may think-glory, honor, hell even money-he does it simply to fuel his raging ego, to be the best in existence just to say he can and, of course, to get his hands on the nimble, alluring and sometimes-crazy Silvia.
To be honest, I would too.
And his ambition never changes. Not to spoil anything, but for those expecting Travis to have some massive morale crisis, but eventually break through-for those who are seeking a game that intensifies the pangs and triumphs of human struggle-look elsewhere. From beginning to end, Travis remains the same pompus, flashy, one-sided jerk. And perhaps at any other time, my tortured, dramatic artist side would have taken over and I would have cursed No More Heroes for being too shallow; too classless. But shortly before playing-and I had not known it then-but I needed a break from the twisted, intense storylines that seem to plague every other game. Thankfully, No More Heroes never gave me such.
Which is odd, actually. Look and reference-wise, even the violence, is an obvious tribute to independent Japanimation movies like Afro Samurai or Akira. The artwork is incredible, the villains so over-the-top it's almost laughable-one girl bats zipper-masked human slaves to vent tension and another rides a tank with a giant brain in it-and each encounter is meet with long-winded, dramatic monologues and cheesy catchphrases.
Though many may debate Heroes' depth and status, there is no question that it has style; that it's fun.
Rather than bog you down with an over-abundant story, or throw in meaningless ventures and ideas to try and set itself apart, Heroes keeps it simple. It places you at the bottom, rank 11, of the Assassin's Association then pits you against the 10 fighters above you until you're number one. Each Assassin is a different mission, most with countless body guards you must kill before the actual battle, other times it's a race on your motorbike or a battle on a bus before you reach your destination. Little variety is to be had. The battle system is simple to use-hacking and slashing using a combination of the face buttons until your enemy's life is drained, then cranking the right analog stick in the prompted direction to slice them in two. Occasionally, you can throw in some wrestling moves using the same analog tactic and you get a brief animation of Travis doing a double arm suplex or DDT but for the most part it's swinging your beam katana. Most battles are long and there's no real challenge. Simply kill everything you see to get to the end, then kill one more for good measure. And with every assassination, Travis moves up in rank. While that sounds potentially dismal and dull, the actual entertainment and variety stem from the boss battles themselves. One finds you rushing down a beach, only to inadvertently fall into a sand pit-one you must crawl out of before your target has time to hurl a grenade on top of you. Another fight is waged in a long alley way, where your target is a seemingly harmless old woman with a shopping cart. I thought for sure this was the moment No More Heroes would go too over-the-top, and the hag would morph into some giant monster or she would have some crazy super power. She didn't. Instead she built a massive cannon-and I do mean massive-on top of her shopping cart and fired post-haste, the blast of the laser beam large enough to fill the 20 foot wide alley. And the battle didn't become one of skill, rather timing as I spent the free seconds her gun took to recharge barreling down the alley way into a safe alcove before she had the opportunity to fire again. When I finally reached her...well, I'll let you find out but let's just say she got what she deserved.
In between your battles, there are a wealth of side-quests to keep you entertained. There's training in the gym (and by training I mean button-mashing while Travis lifts weights), treasure hunting, and being utterly destructive using your motor bike...
Okay, that last one isn't a quest but it's still fun. However, the most entertaining of all the in-between ventures are the part time jobs. These, unlike the others, are necessary as you need to buy your way into the next assassin challenge. To do that, you'll need to go on jobs that have you removing graffiti, collecting coconuts and then playing baseball with them and smashing them to bits. Exterminating scorpions and racing kitties. Yeah, like Twin Peaks No More Heroes just kept getting stranger.
Ultimately, though, that was what I loved about it. It has all the essentials to make a great game-excellent voice-overs, tight controls, a unique battle system and great look-and it stays grounded in that but it can still be quirky at times, the characters, the random references to it being a game instead of real life, the silly enemies. No More Heroes isn't one of those games that's utterly bizarre all the time in some futile effort to set itself apart. Its base is rooted in the prototypical action games of today, but every now and then goes off the beaten path just enough to be utterly entertaining and original.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
May I have the strength to lead with compassion. May I have a resolve strong enough to inspire it in others. May my heart be true, my motives virtuous, my spirit valiant. And whether I fail or succeed, may I at least be brave in the attempt.
About the Author: Greg Knoll
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