Travis Touchdown isn’t all that different from any young adult males his age. He likes the ladies, is into wrestling and happens to collect anime. However, there’s one big difference that must be discussed. Travis is in fact an assassin, having been talked into joining an elite group of assassins’ ranking system. The goal is simple; enter battles with high-ranked foes, hoping to emerge as the victor, assuming the fallen heroes’ rank and file. Such is the premise of No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise – a creative and badass rock and roll game, which delivers a gaming experience that is unlike anything else on the market.
Originally released back in 2008 for the Wii, No More Heroes is a passion project from Grasshopper Manufacture and its creative genius, Suda 51. It’s a game that combines motion-controlled battles with a lightsaber-esque beam katana together. The experience takes place in an open world structure with additional driving and third-person action elements.
The result is a no holds-barred, rock n’ roll experience that puts the word badass into every moment of its existence. This is a cult-classic title that has become many gamers’ favourite title from Nintendo‘s current generation console, and for good reason. There are some definite shortcomings and issues, but they’re so easy to overlook based on how insanely interesting it is.
The adventure begins with a bang, showing a violent video prelude to the over-the-top battles which are to ensue within the title’s eight or so hours of content. Travis explains how he has become the 11th ranked member of the United Assassins Association, a group which thrives upon pitting creatively dressed heroes against each other, just to see who emerges.
The stage is set as the player then assumes the role of our titular hero, embarking upon his strange quest. One that takes him throughout the hometown hub of Santa Destroy – a sunny place that resembles a coastal Californian town.
Entwined into the strange and creative tale is a beautiful young lady named Sylvia. She’s one of the head members of the UAA, responsible for setting up its main events, using teases to seduce Travis at any chance she obtains. It’s this love dynamic which gives the game’s story some extra depth, keeping it from being a one note affair about conflict and nothing else.
The strange, innuendo-filled dialogue spoken during cutscenes featuring the two is one of the title’s main attractions, as newcomers will never know what will happen next. Though, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also speak about the badass one-liners which are uttered during the preludes to each ranking battle. Mix a bit of rock n’ roll with some over-the-top dialogue, then sprinkle in a bit of cheese, and you’ll have what I’m talking about.
Gamers can control this virtual world and its unlikely hero, by using either the PlayStation Move or DualShock 3 controllers. Those looking to play the game like it was meant to be interacted with, should certainly utilize the Move for an optimal experience. The traditional dual-analog controls are decent, though second hat. It feels odd fighting through Santa Destroy without motion controls in hand, especially when the right joystick must be clicked in to engage the wrestling move finishers. The only major downside to using that control method comes during recharge attempts with the beam katana, which feel slower and less refined.
Combat consists of hacking, slashing and blocking at opportune times. Some strategy is employed with the opportunity to daze and stun enemies using kick attacks. When the stars begin to spin above a foe’s head, players are given a chance to perform a quick finish move, which takes an enemy out in one hit. During boss ranking fights, a stunned finishing attack will decrease a foe’s health bar by quite a bit, though it’s much more rare at those times.
In addition to stun attacks and unlockable wrestling move finishers, sword duels (forcing the player to spin the controller or joystick faster than his opponent), decapitating blows and randomized slot machine power-ups also factor in. The latter type is very visceral and helpful, able to be banked up to three times, for future use.
Health is gained by eating varying amounts of pizza, found within glowing pink treasure chests. Though, batteries are just as important to the quest. You see; being that it’s a beam katana, the player’s weapon needs the occasional recharge. Finding the batteries during the level-based sections or during boss fights, will instantly refill the gauge.
Though, as one would hope, recharging can also be done manually, using an on-screen manoeuvre which is possibly a bit too sexually explicit. Gamers must either shake their PlayStation Move controller or their DualShock 3, using repetitive vertical motions to boost the battery. When to use this requires a lot of strategy because, while blocking and attacks are moot when the battery has dissipated, finding a good time of safety to recharge can be difficult during ranking battles. This becomes harder when you’re not using the Move, due to the aforementioned sluggish recharge mechanics that are only available while using the default controller.
No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise melds together the aforementioned elements from third-person action games, with role-playing statistical content and collecting. Instead of just jumping from one ranking battle to another, players must perform odd jobs to earn cash for the required fee. This is done in an open-world city construct, with Travis’ main mode of transportation being his motorcycle.
The popular side jobs such as coconut collecting and lawn mowing from the original return. However, this port includes several new additions including ship signalling, people bowling and sign spinning. Essentially, they’re repetitive task minigames, which award metallic grades based on performance. Certain amounts of money are given per each job listing detail.
In addition to being able to earn money through hard labour, Travis can also gather funds through the completion of some assassin side missions. Found at an employment bureau for fundraising death dealers, these missions are combat minigames with unique parameters. For example, one will ask the player to take out opponents using only melee combat wrestling move finishers, while another will drop Travis’ life down to only one bar, meaning strategy must be employed during its time limit in order to survive. Several new missions have been added into the mode here, as well as the option to retry both assassin missions and side jobs. However, that option doesn’t present itself unless a graded failure has occurred.
Earned funds can be spent on new clothing items, beam katana upgrades and gym classes. The last of that list is as much of an aid as the weapon upgrade items, being that it allows players to upgrade Travis’ strength and other skills. It’s very important to visit the town’s gymnasium during each break away from combat because its perverted owner’s exercise classes can mean a great boost in battle against challenging foes. Trust me, the time spent performing an extra job to pay for exercise is well worth it here. Otherwise you may regret it.
Prior to each ranking battle encounter, Travis must battle his way through a large assortment of goons. This level structure is employed to give players a bit of a challenge on their way to the area in which each assassin is located. Utilizing hack n’ slash moves (light attack and strong attack options) as well as up-close and personal wrestling move finishers, our hero must put the kibosh on each grunt’s violent hopes.
Usually, these sections are only around ten minutes long, acting as a precursor of sorts. They add length to the experience and also let the player see some interior areas that normally wouldn’t be accessible through open world ventures. Each culminates with a phone call from Sylvia as Travis walks down the final hallway, leading to each oncoming battle.
I personally cannot think of a more appropriate saving system than what is included within. In pure rock n’ roll style, Travis’ adventure is chronicled for future enjoyment, while he’s sitting on the porcelain throne. Toilets show up at opportune points, such as the aforementioned final hallways and at the end of each ranking battle and when Travis returns to his motel home.
Saving is limited to whenever a player is near a toilet, rebuking the option to save at anytime, which is present in some other games. It’s not a drawback or a frustrating mechanic due to the fact that getting to each toilet isn’t overly challenging. After saving in the motel, players can play with a feline named Jeanne, change clothes (outfits and upgrades can be purchased from vendors) and watch some TV.
All of the ranking battles I’ve been talking so much about take place against a wide assortment of creatively-designed foes. There’s a superhero movie actor, a schoolgirl and a cast of many other unique badasses. They all have one thing in common: difficulty. On the game’s normal difficulty, players will find a challenging attempt at climbing the ranks. Luckily, there’s a mild difficulty for those who would prefer it.
It’s imperative to be smart with the way you play, as blocking is key, while jumping out of the way of special attacks is just as important. Sometimes, frustration will occur when a rank battle opponent receives the ability to perform a one hit kill special move at the end of her life, but that’s the type of game it is. No punches are held, as the core audience for this outing happens to be seasoned gamers looking for something stylish, unique and somewhat hard.
What I like about this port is that AQ Interactive kept things pretty much the same. They didn’t try to change very much, improving the title by adding a few new things in. Though a couple trailer changes were also required due to licensing issues with its former publisher, Ubisoft. This means that the quirks and shortcomings of its previously released self are all still there. The driving is clumsy, floaty and problematic, but it’s charming.
The gameplay is somewhat repetitive at times and overly challenging, but it’s quirky and different. No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise is not a perfect game, nor was its inspiration. As much as I love the core experience, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mentioned those previously stated faults and grade it accordingly.
The biggest change comes in the form of new dream battles, which occur when Travis falls asleep on the throne after several heard fought ranking battles. They take the form of the traditional fights, however seem a bit easier. The foes? Well, they’re dreamlike representations of some of the assassins found in No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle – a quality sequel available on the Wii, though the original is certainly my favourite of the two. By completing these dream sequences, players can unlock some extra trophies. They add some more gameplay and beef up the campaign a bit.
Visually, No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise is a treat. Originally developed by a team well-known for its quirky title, Killer 7, the game utilizes a colourful but artistic form of cel-shading. This is combined with some retro gaming eight bit flair, which pops up in a lot of the on-screen icons, including the health bar and finishing move prompts.
All of this culminates in a stylish looking visual presentation, with a lot of creativity, exaggeration and detail. It can be easily said that No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise looks like no other title on the market. Furthering that, this is the type of game which is easy to identify based on the unique qualities found within its memorable look and overall presentation. It runs well with only a relatively infrequent amount frame rate slowdown during visceral finishing move attacks, and looks great in high definition.
As can be expected from my previous descriptions, the title’s voice acting is campy and exaggerated, which works extremely well. The aim seems to have been to create a quirky game unlike anything else, which is evident in the presentation stylings Suda 51 and his development team originally went with. The voice acting and overall sound design are both quite good, though the effects and score are not going to blow away any audiophiles out there.
Regardless, there’s a good amount of quality, style and rock n’ roll to be found within. For this port, Sylvia’s phone calls are now only heard through the TV monitor’s speakers because the PlayStation Move does not have a built-in speaker like the Wiimote. It’s a bit unfortunate because that was part of the creative draw in the original version.
I can still vividly remember the first time I rented and played No More Heroes, back when it was first released for the Wii. It blew me away despite having some obvious issues and the odd glitch. During that one week rental period, I beat the game twice. Heroes’ Paradise is a great port of an exceptionally quirky and badass game, which fortunately didn’t revamp its inspiration much at all.
Sure, the issues and shortcomings are still there, but they’re part of the quirky package that this game is known as being. New assassins and returning contenders will be both impressed, entertained and treated by this game. It’s the type of game which you don’t easily forget. One of those titles that sticks in your mind for years, as it’s so different from everything else out there. While the UAA competition may not be a perfectly designed game, it’s a heck of a lot of fun.
No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise was released on August 16, 2011. This review is based on a copy we received for review purposes.