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February 2023

No More Heroes

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, Wii
Genre: Action
Release Date: June 9, 2021


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PC Review - 'No More Heroes'

by Cody Medellin on July 16, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

In No More Heroes, Travis Touchdown starts off as the #11 ranked assassin in the United Assassins Association (UAA), and with his trusty beam katana must face off against the world’s top 10 assassins.

No More Heroes isn't easily accessible to modern players. It was originally released on the Nintendo Wii and made extensive use of the platform's unique features, including motion controls and the Wii Remote's speaker. It made the jump over to the PS3 and Xbox 360, and even though it was reconfigured for traditional controllers, the PS3 version retained the Wii's motion controls via the Move, the PS Eye, and the Move Navigation Controller. Unfortunately, the slowdown and constant screen-tearing on both the PS3 and Xbox 360 made them inferior iterations of the game, despite the addition of extra content. The Xbox 360 version didn't even make it out of Japan. The original game came to the Switch in 2020, and now, we're getting that port on the PC.

In No More Heroes, you play the role of Travis Touchdown, an otaku who has a sweet motorcycle but lives in a hotel. Through an online auction, he wins a beam saber and somehow kills someone with it. That person was the world's 11th-ranked assassin, making Travis the new 11th-ranked assassin. His new goal is to climb the ranks and become number one by killing everyone else on the list, all for the faint promise of sex from the woman who put him up to this task in the first place.

Aside from having a league of assassins that seemingly exist just to kill one another, the story thrives on the quirkiness of its cast. Travis loves anime and wrestling, and he even has a pet cat, but his social awkwardness makes him a hero who isn't quite so endearing. All of the major assassins you run into fall into odd, memorable habits of their own, such as a debutante wielding a baseball bat or a gunslinger who loves to sing. They're all odd enough that you want to see how much crazier it can get, even though the ending gets quite dark.

The gameplay is straightforward, and if your only experience with No More Heroes is the Wii iteration, the translation from motion controls to standard ones is done rather well. Your attacks are now button-based, whether it's the punches and kicks to stun your opponent or the beam sword attacks that follow the same high/low mechanic. Finishing off your opponent with a sword slash requires you to flick the right analog stick in one of the four cardinal directions. Executing a wrestling move like a piledriver or a suplex requires you to flick the left and right analog sticks in the indicated directions. The moves come off without a hitch, thanks to the responsive controls and leeway in directional precision.

There are two points where the analog stick action doesn't work so well. First, there's the actual functionality, as getting the advantage in a sword lockup means twirling the right analog stick counterclockwise. You have a short amount of time to do this, and the game doesn't register enough of the twirls, so winning a lockup is a 50-50 endeavor. Then there's the recharge mechanic, which needs to be done constantly because every swing of your beam sword depletes its energy, and you deal no damage once that energy is gone. While you'll see Travis shake the sword in a suggestive manner and the original Wii iteration had you imitating that, the analog stick equivalent has you tilting it left and right. However, the right analog stick also controls your camera, so moving the camera left and right instead of up and down once you complete the recharge is less jarring, but that also means the joke doesn't have the same effect.

The actual swordplay isn't too elaborate, but it works well enough since the fights against regular foes are satisfying, and boss fights have the classic feel of reading attacks and countering if you want to get in without dying. Since this is a Suda51 title, each kill puts you one step closer to an automatic pull of a slot machine. That allows for some extra effects if the symbols match, the most devastating of which puts the game in a black-and-white state as you slowly walk around, killing everyone with one blow. The inability to save the spins and use them when you want is a little disappointing, but it adds to the game's seeming randomness when fighting.

Swordplay and combat are a good part of No More Heroes, but you aren't getting an experience where you need to go through all of the ranked assassins level by level. Per the game's story, you must pay an entry fee to face a ranked assassin, and since Travis never has enough money to pay the fee, he must take on odd jobs around the city of Santa Destroy. Some jobs are in line with the game, as you take on assassination jobs from a lower-tier assassination agency. Others are unexpected, such as mowing lawns, collecting garbage, or filling up cars at the gas station.

There's an inherent silliness about Travis doing mundane things to be able to accomplish his mission, and while there are laughs to be had, the endeavor quickly stops being funny. Part of this comes from the fact that some of the controls are intentionally awkward, such as having to furiously mash the A button to walk with a coconut in your arms. It doesn't help that you'll see these tasks far too often compared to the regular assassination jobs. With the payouts being so low and the fight fees increasing greatly, you'll come to loathe the jobs, especially since the open world offers nothing to do beyond driving from point to point to start tasks.

In case you're wondering, this game is based on the Wii original version, not the PS3/Xbox 360 iteration. In some cases, this may be disappointing, since those versions had some extra content. Seeing five more side jobs may fill one with joy or dread, depending on how you feel about the jobs, but it would've been nice to have five more assassination missions and cameo boss fights from No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle. The same goes for the ability to warp around to replay fights. Then again, it sounds like a setback to have a world that feels fuller, only to lock out entire areas.

The audio is good up to a point. The English-only voices are still well done, as it seems like the original recordings have been used, but you'll be grateful for the subtitles since there are moments when the music and voice balance are off, with music overpowering speech during fights. The music is rather good, switching from serious to goofy at the drop of a hat, but it all fits when you consider that's the vibe of the entire game.

Even though the PC version is based on the Switch port, the graphics aren't too impressive. The colors are muted, and the texture work for some elements is fairly low. The movies are also pretty bad, since they appear to be poorly upscaled copies of the Wii's 480p output. Then again, some may not mind due to the game's art style, which does a good job of hiding some of these issues; the shading is often nice, and the action rarely slows down, whether you have a shower of blood or coins (or both).

The major issue with the game is that you're getting a bare-bones port. If you're expecting to use a keyboard and mouse to control the game, forget about it. Beyond the menus, you need a controller throughout, so you can't emulate the beam sword recharging action with your mouse. If you go to either the in-game options or the options screen prior to launching the game, you'll find no option to toggle beyond anti-aliasing. For those who want to see if they could improve their frame rate by turning off or decreasing the quality of certain options, they'd be out of luck. On top of that, the resolution is governed completely by the desktop, as there is no option available to change the game's resolution. That's a major oversight and doesn't speak highly of the effort on the port.

No More Heroes on the PC is a tough one to rate. On the one hand, the gameplay can feel dated due to the empty open world and the crass nature of it all, along with the roadblocks to slow your ascent to the top; those are the same elements that have made it endearing to those who enjoy the Suda51 game style. On the other hand, the lack of PC options, from graphical tweaking to no keyboard and mouse support, make this feel rather bare-bones. It's still playable, and those who pick it up will have fun, but it could have been so much better.

Score: 6.5/10

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