Although I tend to think of myself as a “weird video game” aficionado, there are plenty that have slipped through the cracks over the years, due in part to console exclusivity. A guy on a budget can’t afford all of ‘em, despite my best efforts. No More Heroes always seemed like it would suit my sensibilities, but I never had the opportunity to check it out. Now, thanks to its release on the Nintendo Switch, I can finally discover what all the fuss is about. I hate to use the term “mind-blowing,” but that’s kind of what No More Heroes feels like for someone who’s embarking on this gleefully disgusting, over-the-top adventure for the first time.
No More Heroes revels in excess, from the stable of ridiculously colorful villains to the game’s overall presentation (you save the game by visiting the toilet, for crying out loud). Everything happens in extremes, and you’ll need a moment for your brain to take it all in. Travis Touchdown, the game’s crotch-driven protagonist, wants to get laid, but to bed the hottest girl in town, he needs to defeat the world’s deadliest killers — all while armed with the game’s version of a lightsaber. The story does pick up a bit as you work your way up the ladder, and you’ll learn more about Travis’s questionable relationship with a local video store. And as much as I’d love to delve into all of the goofy stuff you’ll encounter along the way, experiencing this stuff for yourself is part of the charm. Go in as cold as possible!
At its heart, No More Heroes is an arcade-style beat-em-up with the occasional mini-game sprinkled in for good measure. Your goal: Defeat the United Assassins’ Association’s top members, become number one, and sleep with a mysterious girl named Sylvia. Unfortunately for Travis, he’ll need to pony up an entry fee before he can kill anyone, which means you’ll need to make some cash. And since Travis seems like the type of guy who doesn’t have a lot of money (but enough to outfit his hotel room in very “moe” decorations), you’ll need to take on some odd jobs. I never thought I’d enjoy mowing grass or punching trees for fruit, but here we are. Unless you blow all of your cash on clothing, new weaponry, underground movies, and training exercises at the gym, you won’t need to grind too much for more money. But those training exercises and upgraded weapons will soon feel necessary, and the grind itself doesn’t feel unpleasant or, you know, grind-y.
Combat, of course, is the name of the game. Travis and his trusty Beam Katana (which needs the occasional pump-and-thrust to power up) have absolutely no trouble clearing room after room of mindless enemies. Our hero seems to have an insatiable thirst for blood and evisceration; without a hint of emotion, Travis hacks off body parts and literally cuts his foes in half. And to my morbid satisfaction, the bodies of his nameless victims gush coins as well as blood. Who knew wanton murder would pay, literally. Even by today’s standards, No More Heroes delivers buckets and buckets of gore. But the violence never feels out of place or forced, but that doesn’t dampen its ability to shock. What happens throughout No More Heroes seems wholly natural to that world; Travis butchers countless people over the course of the game, and you’re pretty much okay with it. It’s just another day on the streets of Santa Destroy.
Taking apart the competition involves chaining together combos and completing minor quick-time events that deliver an assortment of punishing blows. It’s a simple system that makes these frenetic sequences an absolute blast to play. The boss battles ramp up the difficulty a bit, but as soon as you learn your opponent’s attack patterns, you can easily take them down without too many problems. I genuinely appreciated the ease of these systems; by avoiding the need for over-the-top combos, No More Heroes allows you to feel like a total badass without complicating matters. In an hour or so, I felt completely at home with the mechanics and couldn’t wait to send Travis soaring up the ladder toward his goal. The game has no shortage of exhilaration, and it wants you to have it all.
One thing to keep in mind before spending your hard-earned cash on this release: This is a remaster of No More Heroes, not a remake. As such, fans should only anticipate higher resolutions and better frame rates, though the latter tends to suffer in both handheld and docked. Tooling around the city on Travis Touchdown’s enormous motorcycle has a definite PlayStation 2-era feel to it, and the empty open world and frequent frame drops help solidify this sensation. That said, I never felt like these shortcomings did anything to ruin the experience; even when the frame rate struggled to keep up, I still found myself lost in the grisly display of gratuitous raunch and violence.
No More Heroes deserves every drop of praise it has received over the years, and I’m delighted to finally play through this insane action-packed adventure. I can honestly say it lived up to the hype. This will likely remain installed on my Switch for quite some time, as I often find myself craving that sweet, sweet viscera after a long, difficult day at work. I’ve yet to play the game on a harder setting, but I have a feeling I’ll come back around once I’ve had a go at the sequel. No More Heroes may feel a bit dated and a product of its time, this doesn’t detract from the game’s ability to provide hours of dizzying, blood-soaked entertainment.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A copy was provided to us by XSEED Games.
No More Heroes deserves every ounce of love it has received since its release on the Nintendo Wii. From mowing grass to slaying enemies, the game's boundless energy helps you overlook its shortcomings. If you're new to No More Heroes, now's a fantastic time to dive right in.