No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise Review
Game: No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise
Developer: Feelplus (Originally developed by Grasshopper Manufacture)
Available on: PlayStation 3 (Original version on Wii)
Once a Nintendo Wii exclusive, released back in 2008 (in Europe), No More Heroes was somewhat of a cult hit. Players adored the lack of pretence and the sheer insanity that the title contained, in no small part thanks to the legendary Suda51. Three years later, with the sequel already available for the Wii, this HD remix of the original title with PlayStation Move functionality looks to give a whole new breed of gamers a chance to experience No More Heroes, but is it still worthy of your attention?
STORY: You play as Travis Touchdown, a loner (cliche #1) who is desperate for sex (cliche #2) and loves video games and swordplay (cliche #3). Right off the bat, Travis breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the player, explaining how gamers are sick of convoluted games and that this game is simple; he wants to be the best, and together you will achieve that.
Basically, Travis has won a beam katana (the main weapon in the game) in an online auction, and has just met a salacious female in the form of Sylvia Christel, who convinces him to kill someone to earn some cash. After doing so, it appears Travis has entered the murky world of assassins (or more specifically the UAA, or United Assassins Association), and is now ranked number eleven, which isn’t good enough for him, and as he mentioned to you (the player), he wants to be the best. Travis doesn’t have much choice anyway, as after entering the top ten, he himself becomes a target for potential assassins below him in the rankings. There are plenty of twists and turns as the story plays out, but the game knows what it is, and never takes itself too seriously.
GRAPHICS: Given that No More Heroes was originally a Nintendo Wii title, it is a testament to how much work has been done to get Heroes’ Paradise up to scratch for the HD audience. While it will never win any awards for its visuals, No More Heroes is more about its art style. Dripping with video game tropes, with nods to the audience at every turn, you’ll laugh your way through the manner in which Travis recharges his beam katana, or how you save your game by sitting on the toilet. There are tearing issues with the camera turning in the non-mission sections, but it’s nothing atrocious and it comes and goes (as opposed to being an everpresent), and the visuals are certainly looking slightly dated, but what is on show is pretty classy nonetheless.
Again though, don’t expect the most incredible visual feast from No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise, we’re talking a HD paintjob on an older game here, and some of the unskippable scenes (like the aforementioned save-game sequence) get a litte annoying after a while.
SOUND: One of the plus points for this PlayStation 3 HD release is that the voice work is available in full English and Japanese. If you opt for the English though, you’ll be treated to some absolutely insane performances. Some of the bosses are simply crazy, from wannabe-singer wild western type characters, to schoolgirls wielding blades. Travis himself is an oddball, self-confident yet desperate to get laid, and as silly as it sounds, the performance is pretty decent.
When it comes to the soundtrack and sound effects, the most modern comparison to draw would be to say that it bring to mind the Scott Pilgrim Versus The World movie. Blips and bleeps, old fashioned yet heart warmingly reminiscent of the old days of arcade games. The soundtrack and voice work really is one of the things that makes No More Heroes so loveable.
GAMEPLAY: At its heart, No More Heroes is an old school hack ‘n’ slash game with some modern leanings. The basics of the game have you wielding the beam katana and taking on missions that are self-enclosed missions set away from the rest of the game, attacking wave after wave of bad guys before reaching the boss, who will have their own attack patterns which you’ll need to memorise and negate in order to be victorious. Travis is also a wrestler of sorts, and can grab enemies and pull off suplexes, DDT’s etc, and you can unlock new moves as well, usually before each boss fight.
You can lock on to enemies, and swing wildly with a low and high attack (each being chargable by holding the corresponding button), but you can also daze enemies or break their block by using a simple punch or kick, and dazing them allows you to pull off the wrestling holds. Once you have depleted an enemies health you click the right stick in, and perform a death move by following the on-screen instructions, usually by moving the right stick one way or another. The same idea applies to the wrestling holds, except you need to follow the instructions with both the left and right stick.
Most of the time, the non-boss enemies are just punching bags, but sometimes they will lock swords with you requiring you to perform another on-screen prompt, which if you win allows you to insta-kill them afterwards. There are other enemies types as well though, for example on one level they will throw flaming baseballs at you, and the game allows you to swing your beam katana at the ball, to fire it back at them and kill them. This kind of mixing up of the core gameplay is fantastic and really welcome.
Despite the mechanics repeating for most of the game, they somehow don’t lose their appeal. Fun to the end, even the repetition of the death moves and wrestling holds don’t get old because the core gameplay is just so much fun. The beam katana does run out of energy at times, and to charge it back up you’ll have to hold the R1 button and vigorously shake the DualShock3, which transposes on-screen as Travis appearing to masturbate his weapon, seriously.
The fun stops with the open world stylings that are also present though. Driving around on Travis’ motorbike is simply no fun at all. The controls are fine but the movement is horrible. You can explore Santa Destroy at your leisure, taking on odd jobs (which aren’t particularly great either) to earn cash, which in turn allows you access to the next UAA rankings fight. You can upgrade your weapon as well by visiting Doctor Naomi, as well as taking on mini assassination missions, which usually consist of driving to a location and wiping out a room of enemies, as well as the boss, for cash.
In these more open sections, No More Heroes looks a little ropey, and feels unfriendly. You might find your bike getting stuck to scenery, and the constant loading going in and out of buildings gets frustrating too, despite the mandatory installation on this PlayStation 3 incarnation. Put simply, the open world parts of No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise just aren’t fun. They are laborious and tedius, and you’ll want to earn money as quickly as you can to continue the story, which is where the real fun is to be had; enjoying the silly cut-scenes and fighting the bosses.
After a few bosses, you’ll end up getting the chance to fight in a virtual world as Travis sleeps (on the toilet of course), and these fights are a little more taxing and require even more skill, but they are rewarding and fun too and offer a welcome diversion to the story progression. There is something for everyone here, but the fighting is the real star of the show.
This incarnation of the title is fully uncut, with gore and decapitiations, and also includes “Very Sweet Mode” which puts the females of the game in more saucy clothing, and you can also revisit the previous boss battles and cut-scenes by accessing Travis’ dreams and nightmares.
The PlayStation 3 version has full Move support of course, and while in princible the idea of swinging a PlayStation Move controller around in a 1:1 manifestation of a sword might sound like a good idea, in practice it’d be horrible, and thankfully No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise doesn’t force this upon you. As you’d expect, you use the navigation controller (or DualShock 3 if you so please) to move around, and the Move controller itself is used to dodge (left or right) as well as choose the angle of attack. Holding the Move controller high will set you to high attack mode, and low…well, you get the idea. To actually attack, all you have to do is tap the Move button. You can still charge all your attacks in the same way (by holding the button) but the finishing moves and wrestling throws are executed by literally moving the Move controller in the direction on-screen.
Move support isn’t essential in this title, but it is a hell of a lot of fun. Recharging your beam katana (remember, it looks like he’s assaulting himself!) has a whole new level of silliness when done with motion controls, and the finishing moves are extremely satisfying when you actually act them out with the Move controller. As you’d expect from the Move device, it is extremely responsive and used in No More Heroes, it feels like an alternative, but for a change, a good alternative.
LONGEVITY: Taking around 10-12 hours to complete, No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise isn’t a tremendously long game, and most people probably won’t bother with the collectibles (trading cards etc) once the story is complete. The mission structure lends itself well to short sittings though and although not as long as other open-word games, the story is just as enjoyable. The inclusion in this version that allows you to replay ranked battles and cut-scenes means that you might go back to it if you really enjoy the boss battles, trying to better your score each time.
VERDICT: As with most of the titles that Suda51 is involved with, it’s hard to pigeonhole No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise. It doesn’t have a deep and meaningful story that some gamers search for these days, but it is a throwback to the old fashioned arcade-style fun of yesteryear. The addition of Move controls along with the HD visuals and multi-language options all give a real feeling that they’ve put everything they could into this incarnation of No More Heroes.
Oozing style and charisma, whilst knowing exactly what it is with no pretentions to the contrary, you could do a lot worse than picking up this crazy, sometimes bewildering experience of a video game. If nothing else, it demands respect for trying to do something different, and for that it is worth saluting, even if it isn’t really that different from the title that shipped way back in 2008.