"That was quite a move. I'll admit you've
got potential. If challenge had a taste, you'd be quite
- Travis Touchdown
Expect multiple dismemberments, fire-hose pressure levels of blood
, and some swearing. Everyone stays clothed; there's some swimsuits
, short skirts, and at least one suntan-lotion application scene.
No More Heroes is a Wii-exclusive action-adventure
game from Suda51 at Grasshopper Entertainment, the same
development team that created Killer7 and Contact. It chronicles
the rise of Travis Touchdown from lowly, fashion-impaired otaku to
#1 (fashion-impaired otaku) Assassin in all of Santa Destroy, California. One of
the few games that manages to get a motion-driven Wii control scheme
just right, Suda51's unique approach to story and character design
gives this action game a feel and a style you'll want to revisit even
as soon as you finish the game.
If you're a fan of Killer7 at all, you've probably already had a
crack at this even before this writeup was put together. For those who
haven't heard of the game, Killer7 is essentially about major
political issues such as terrorism and sexuality in the 21st century,
except that the game itself stars an elderly
wheelchair-confined assassin with a rare form of Dissociative Identity Disorder that allows him to physically change into any of his other
personalities, including a barefoot woman with a scoped .45 revolver
who can use blood magic and a silent masked luchador who packs a
matched pair of grenade launchers. No More Heroes is definitely in the
same visual ballpark, but where Killer7 was about political issues, No
More Heroes is about social issues. It's also a lot lighter and
funnier than Killer7, which makes it easier to pick up and
definitely more accessible to the average person. Killer7 rather
requires a bit of insight and reasoning in order to view the game as
anything else than a surrealist game about smiling alien terrorists,
but No More Heroes can be taken as not much more than an over-the-top
action game with some really odd dialog if you don't want to look any
deeper than that.
The controls for Wii games tend to be abysmally bad, comfortingly
un-innovative, or awesomely spot-on. No More Heroes belongs solidly in
the final category, managing to make use of some of the more esoteric
Wiimote functions without being annoying about it. It uses the Wiimote
+ Nunchuck configuration for almost all of the basic input, while some
of the attack power-up movements and world map tricks make use of some
of the motion-sensing capabilities. In addition, it features probably
the most novel use of the Wiimote speaker I've seen in a game yet.
The combat is simple enough that you can get by the first couple assassinations without too much trouble, but the fight with Shinobu is generally when the learning curve starts to rise upwards noticeably. In addition to Travis' beam katana, he's also a wrestler of some proficiency. A quick kick or punch can stun an enemy, leaving them open to be grabbed and put into one of several wrestling finishers, such as the Tombstone Piledriver or the Northern Lights Suplex. In addition, Travis can enter Dark Step Mode. Dark Step Mode is engaged by attempting to dodge just as an enemy's attack would contact Travis; when it happens, the background goes dark and everything but Travis slows vastly down, allowing Travis to get in many more hits than he would otherwise. Bosses are not immune to these counters, and in fact, some of the later bosses on Hard difficulty very nearly require the use of these counters to beat them.
In addition to the main assassination missions, the game features a
series of novel minigames in the form of odd jobs such as minefield
clearing, mowing lawns, and scorpion removal. Money earned through
side missions and assassinations can be used to purchase upgrades for
Travis and his beam katanas and extra clothing. If you're the
completionist sort, you'll find a lot to do here: there's over 100
t-shirts, not counting the other items of clothing, as well as trading
cards that unlock concept art and rankings based on performance in the
side missions. There's also loads of hidden pickups in Santa Destroy,
including some that allow you to purchase more wrestling moves.
Travis Touchdown is a single otaku living in the NO MORE HEROES
Motel in Santa Destroy, doing odd jobs around town to fund his
purchases of popular moe anime "Pure White Lover Bizarre Jelly"
figures and pro wrestling memorabilia. He wins a beam
katana in an internet auction, and when he finally runs out of money,
drunk and destitute in a bar, a mysterious woman offers him a job as
The woman, Sylvia Christel, turns out to be an agent for the United
Assassin's Association (UAA), a mysterious group that specializes in
professional killings for money and arranges ranking matches between
assassins in their employ. When Travis kills the 11th ranked assassin,
"Helter Skelter", Sylvia reveals that Travis is now the 11th ranked
assassin, and is now a target for other assassins aspiring to reach
the top ten rankings. Travis, seeing no way out, decides to go all the
way and sets his sights on becoming the #1 ranked assassin.
Along the way, he meets a mysterious Irish assassin with a beam katana
like his who drops ominous hints about Travis' history, and starts to
question whether or not Sylvia's telling the truth, as well as why the
ranking matches cost so much to get into. Eventually Travis discovers
the truth about the UAA and Sylvia, as well as the truth about his own
Regarding Suda51's "social issues" angle on the story, it's not hard
to draw parallels with current stereotypes of the entertainment
industry. Travis himself is the most obvious, as a cariacature of the
average "gamer". He dresses in the standard hipster getup, including
tacky belt, goofy haircut, and deconstructed jeans. He's a hardcore
otaku, living alone with only a cat named after an old
ex-girlfriend and reduced to near-poverty by his drive to collect
anime and wrestling merchandise. Despite all this, he's obviously
intelligent and able to adapt quickly to changing situations, even
chivalrous in spite of his normally unscrupulous outlook.
The Top Ten Assassins Of The UAANumber 10, "Death Metal" - "This is no paradise."
Count Townsend, aka "Death Metal", is an Englishman sporting a
dragon tattoo on his chest and back and an uncanny
resemblance to Devin Townsend
. He wields the "Orange II", a massive
black metal sword with an orange beam saber edge bearing an oddly
familiar fruit logo.
He lives in a luxurious mansion at the outskirts of Santa Destroy,
with a fantastic view out onto the coast, but when Travis calls it
"paradise", Death Metal disagrees, calling it simply a place to die.
When Travis defeats him, he exhorts Travis to "follow the path of the
assassin" and tells him he has the title of "Holy Sword". Travis
declines the title and advice, saying that all he cares for is
becoming Number 1.
Number 9, "Dr. Peace" - "Don't die on me too quickly. I want
to gorge myself on this sense of fulfillment till I vomit."
Pastel Brankino, aka "Dr. Peace", is a master gunslinger and vigilante
vice detective, who carries a matched pair of golden Colt Peacemakers
and looks more than a bit like Charles Bronson
. Also a karaoke
enthusiast, he sings a song (written by Suda51
) on the pitcher's mound
of Destroy Stadium before he and Travis begin their fight.
Before his match with Travis, he reveals that
the UAA was able to get him a dinner at an expensive restaurant with
his estranged daughter, as well as reserve the Destroy Stadium for the
match, all without charging Dr. Peace a single cent. Travis, on the
other hand, paid $150,000 as an entry fee to the match.
Number 8, "Shinobu" - "What's that in your hand, a toy?"
Scarlet Jacobs, aka "Shinobu", is an African-American
student with a white afro
and a katana named the "Three Girl Rhumba's
Sword". Despite her somewhat archaic choice in weapon, she is
extremely formidable, managing to surprise Travis right out of the
gates. Her father was a pro wrestling star who was killed by a man
with a beam katana similar to Travis'.
When Travis shows up at the Santa Destroy High School to challenge her
to a match, she murders three of her classmates in cold blood to keep
her identity as an assassin a secret.
Number 7, "Destroyman" - "Sorry if I scared you. I didn't mean
to do that. Something's wrong with me today."
John Harnett, aka "Destroyman", is a super-generic blond man who
recently took up a job as a postman. However, he has an alter ego,
named DESTROYMAN, who wears a red, white, and blue superhero costume
and fights using various lasers and lightning weapons. He's also sort
of a jerk (or an opportunist
, depending on your view) and takes
advantage of Travis' naivete to try and get the upper hand multiple
Destroyman appears to be quite the movie nerd himself, as his costume
is an imitation of a popular cult movie playing in Santa Destroy.
Travis even refers to him as "Mister Cosplay"; in light of Travis'
decidedly nerdy habits, it's hard to tell if this is sarcastic or just
Number 6, Holly Summers - "Academics like to fantasize too,
Holly Summers is a Swedish model
and assassin who seems to have a
penchant for military combat. She has a prosthetic leg
that hides a
missile launcher, as well as an infinitely large cache of grenades and
a large trench spade. She and Travis fight on Body Slam Beach, where
she goes to the trouble of digging several tiger pits
Holly is the most compelling assassin in the lineup; despite her
violent background and willingness to blow Travis up as often as
possible, she's the least bloodthirsty of the entire lineup, and
accepts her fate without complaint or hesitation.
Number 5, Letz Shake - "Oh ja! I feel a good undulation.
Your rumbling is excellent. I think I'm going to lose the bowel
Letz Shake is a Singaporean punk musician and assassin, as well as a
mechanic of some major skill and technology nut. His weapon, a
gigantic WMD known as the Earthquake Generator, aka "Dr. Shake", was
previously in the possession of the US Army. Despite his Singaporean
heritage, he has quite
the German accent
Like Destroyman, Letz Shake appears to be a nerd for technology; while
running through the lengthy start-up for Dr. Shake, he straps what
appears to be a Virtual Boy onto his wrist and face. Dr. Shake
itself has a pair of engines that bear an odd similarity to the Xbox
360's Trinity engine and the Playstation 3's Cell microprocessor.
Number 4, Harvey Moiseiwitsch Volodarskii - "Ladies and
gentlemen, and all killers out there! Welcome to Harvey Volodarskii's
Magic Freak Show of the Century!"
Harvey Volodarskii is a professional magician
as well as an assassin. Harvey uses a pair of beam sabers called the Magic Double Saber, resembling a pair of unicorn horns. One is red and decorated with skulls, and the other is blue and decorated with angels.
For his match with Travis, he invites Travis and Sylvia to one of his shows; on their arrival, they find that they are the only ones in the audience. He invites Travis up onto the stage and kills him with a circular saw before the match actually starts.
Number 3, "Speed Buster" - "What? Say that again? See, I'm kinda hard of hearing. I can't hear much these days."
"Speed Buster", whose real name is unknown, is an elderly woman living in nearby Speed City, a ghost town some distance away from Santa Destroy. Her shopping cart full of junk hides the "Buster Launcher", an energy cannon with an improbably long barrel. She sets up her gun at one end of a mile-long stretch of abandoned street and starts taking shots at Travis; most of the fight is simply a struggle to walk up the street.
Her intense hatred for men hides a special fondness for Thunder Ryu, Travis' sensei. From the way she treats Travis, it's easy to think Thunder Ryu and Speed Buster have had a long history.
Number 2, "Bad Girl" - "Pop quiz: Why am I such an angry bitch?"
"Bad Girl", whose real name is unknown, is a girl in her early 20s who lives in a batting cage modified to allow her to practice on clones in gimp suits rather than baseballs. In fact, she even attacks Travis with the gimps, able to bat them across the room at extraordinarily high speeds.
In another sort of nerd/otaku twist, Bad Girl's outfit is lifted from the pages of "Sweet Lolita" Japanese fashion: imagine what a slutty Halloween costume version of Miss Moppet's outfit would like, put it on a slim 20something woman, and give her really dramatic makeup, and you're in the right ballpark. In stark contrast, Bad Girl is easily the coarsest of the entire roster, as if she'd been raised by drunken sailors. Travis almost immediately dislikes her, accusing her of being nothing more than a "perverted killing maniac."
Number 1, "Dark Star" - "Engraved into your memory is the night when everything changed."
"Dark Star"'s name and origin, like Bad Girl and Speed Buster, are unknown. He lives in a castle far away from Santa Destroy, through a forest of mostly dead trees. His weapon is the Horse Saber, so named because of the horse-shaped design of the handguard. It's possibly the most impressive weapon in the game, as it's a yards-long energy whip shaped like a snarling dragon. Words don't do it justice
Continuing with the nerd theme of the game, Dark Star's mask obscures his voice and breathing in such a way as to make him sound like Darth Vader. He even goes so far as to insinuate who Travis' father might be.
This is one of the strongest games for the Wii since it was put together, and certainly something I'd recommend to that gamer looking for something new and different to add to his library. The controls are tight, the dialog manages to hit that sweet spot between "odd translation" and "clever", and the visual style isn't like anything else currently on the Wii. Heck, it breaks the fourth wall almost nonstop but it does it with such a wink and a nod that it comes across as clever anyway.
The main caveat to be had is that Santa Destroy is billed on the box blurb as being "free-roaming", which it technically is, in that you're allowed to roam around it freely. However, I believe 1up.com put it best, that "Santa Destroy essentially serves as the world's most inefficient level select."1 There's a lot of collecting to be had, and rolling around town on the Schpeltiger is always fun, but it's a very empty town, even if there are people walking around in it.
There's a ton of replay value to be had. Of those aforementioned 100+ t-shirts, 40 of them can only be found by hunting around town, and 50 of them aren't available at all until you complete the game once and start over via New Game+. There's also loads of concept art, but again, none of it even unlocks to be found until the game's been finished once. I consider the gameplay easily worth trying on harder difficulty levels, especially once you've picked up the basics of Dark Steps.
In short, I'd recommend this to most anyone over the age of 13 or so with a Wii. It's nice to see developers trying something daring with a platform notorious for attracting the less game-inclined, something that requires a good portion of work for the payoff. The few faults in this game are more than compensated for by the writing and gameplay, and as of this writing, Grasshopper Manufacture is putting together a sequel, making it a smart time to pick this one up and enjoy it before the second comes out and blows it away.