‘No More Heroes’ revels in its own ridiculousness

This violent action video game has a serious silly side.

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“Fuckhead!”

This is the first word out of the main character’s mouth in “No More Heroes” for the Wii. That’s right - the Wii. Mature-rated games do exist on the console, regardless of how hard Nintendo tries to maintain its family-friendly image. And in the case of “No More Heroes,” some of those Mature games are actually quite good.

Travis Touchdown (quite possibly the most hilariously absurd name for a main character in anything, ever) bought his working light saber through an online auction, watches old pro wrestling tapes and has fetishes for anime and porn. Not exactly a knight in shining armor.

And yet, Travis comes off as one of the coolest video game characters in a long while. He’s brash, rude, and merciless, and he rides a kick-ass motorcycle. Nothing in his mind can stop him from becoming the No. 1-ranked assassin in the world. And all just for the opportunity to bang a hot chick.

The primary method of attack is the beam katana, which Travis wildly swings about as players mash the A button. Wait, why can’t players attack with the light saber by using the Wii remote’s motion capabilities? Fear not. Once an enemy’s health is depleted, players must finish them off by swinging the remote in the direction displayed on screen, resulting in glorious fountains of blood and coins.

Travis cannot compete for the next assassin rank until he coughs up enough cash for the entry fee. Players have to earn dough by completing missions around town. Some involve combat, but sometimes he must perform hilariously mundane tasks such as collecting garbage, mowing lawns and pumping gas.

Navigating the city of Santa Destroy is the weakest link of the game. Riding Travis’ motorcycle is fun enough, but the game encounters seriously jarring framerate problems outdoors. The city is simply a means to an end, a hub world for buying upgrades and accessories for Travis. It’s also embarrassingly devoid of cars and citizens. “Grand Theft Auto” this ain’t.

The highlights of “No More Heroes” are the duels against the 10 other ranked assassins. The bouts are long, tedious, pattern-based and at times unfair, yet each encounter is enjoyable for its sheer style, and each assassin is a memorable and unique character. Try fighting a guy with explosive bullets in his guns, a demented magician or an old granny who fires a mile-long laser cannon from her shopping cart.

The graphical style of “No More Heroes” draws directly from Grasshopper’s previous title, “Killer7.” Texture quality is minimal, but dark and sharp shadows help the game look unlike anything else on the Wii. All the auxiliary features such as menus, the HUD and certain sound effects are obvious tributes to the 8-bit era of video games with large, square pixels dominating the aesthetics.

And finally, the game is just plain weird. For example, bathrooms serve as save points, and players literally watch Travis take a dump while toilet paper covers up his family jewels. Maybe it’s weird just for the sake of being weird, but playing “No More Heroes” is bound to make players crack a smile once or twice.

There’s something oddly captivating about “No More Heroes.” Once the novelty of a Mature-rated game on the Wii wears off, the satisfying brutality of the combat dominates the player’s senses. Such faults as the framerate are unavoidable, and not everyone will take to the constant 8-bit references and abstract art style, but “No More Heroes” is a bloody good time and quite possibly the best pure action game on the Wii to date.

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