When it comes to the core of things No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise will probably only please the hardcore fans of the franchise. While it isn’t a broken experience, a few technical mishaps like iffy enemy A.I. and an overall lack of polish hold things back a bit. However it is nice to see the world of NMH brought to life via a nice graphical upgrade which really adds an extra dimension to things.
They may not be awe-inspiring but the visuals are rather nice, even if they lack some details. The blood and gore may be gone but the combat is still generally fun. An engaging and highly original story makes up for the gameplay shortcomings.
At times the enemy lock-on seems to be working against you. The changes to the combat scheme in regards to motion based attacks leave a bit to be desired. Just like its Wii predecessor the overworld completely sucks. Enemy A.I. is spotty and the bosses will sometimes just camp in an area waiting for you. It would’ve been nice if the game had some additional content such as bonus modes or new game features.
Earlier this year gamers enjoyed the newest adventures of Travis Touchdown in No More Heroes 2. Once again the sex-crazed otaku found himself in extremely insane and often blood soaked scenarios in a sequel that proved to be a worthy successor to the original. Now No More Heroes is back and this time the 4th wall breaking, anime inspired action of the game is available on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Sadly, we aren’t getting NMH3 as the game is instead a port of No More Heroes, a game that Wii owners enjoyed two years ago. I know, a port of a two year old game probably doesn’t sound that hot and in some respects the HD port does show some of the flaws and age of the game. So will gamers want to go on the trip that No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise offers?
I don’t know if a refresher course of the franchise is in order to catch everyone up. But perhaps it’s best to do one since the sales of NMH 1 & 2 were rather tepid so many of you may have no clue what the hell is going on. In a way NMH plays out like every otaku’s dream as you get to be a badass with a laser sword. No, it’s not a lightsaber as those things are wimpy compared to the beefy and somewhat huge beam katanas present in NMH. But flame baiting aside, let me get back to the crux of NMH’s story.
Our hero is Travis Touchdown, an average otaku who loves anime, wrestling, toys, porn and kittens. Basically Travis probably represents of a good portion of those who read Shogun Gamer or write for it (yup, that’s me). After purchasing his beam katana on the internet, Travis decides to become an assassin to impress a lady. Soon enough Travis finds himself knee deep in action as he fights his way through the UAA (United Assassins Association) to become the #1 ranked assassin.
The premise of the game may sound shallow and pointless but it has a lot of substance to it. None of the action is fluff and each boss battle usually has a core theme which is presented in terrific cutscenes. Sure, there are a few sex jokes in there but those just add to Travis’ character, which grows as the game goes on. If you thought NMH was simply “kill dudes with an awesome weapon, slice and dice the boss and then watch the end cutscene” it’s a lot more than that. Yeah, you do walk around somewhat hollow corridors fighting guys with boxes on their heads but the game is really deep on the narrative front. Seeing Travis realize that killing isn’t easy and that he has a code of honor is really intriguing and isn’t something we see often. There’s of course a deeper meaning to each battle and how Travis grows as he rises through the ranks, which makes him a more three dimensional character.
Obviously the game isn’t completely serious as seeing a massive talking robot with a 10ft tall brain kind of borders the realm of crazy land. It’s these wacky moments, whether its absurd violence or the maniacal and often psychotic characters that really sets No More Heroes apart. These characters and the voice actors who portray them really help elevate the game past some of its shortcomings since the narrative experience is so rich and entertaining.
More importantly the game never feels like it’s simply running though a standard course of jokes and scenarios as you progress through the story. Things only get crazier, more violent and more intense as you go on, all at a very good pace. But to further discuss and analyze the story would be college thesis material and I’m sure many of you want to move onto the gameplay side of things so I’ll oblige.
When NMH was released on the Wii the one thing that surprised people was that it wasn’t a waggle dependent game. Series creator and design genius Suda 51 purposely went into NMH trying not to succumb to the typical motion control conceits many developers were facing at the time. With motion controls only being required for special finishing moves, it should’ve been relatively easy to replicate the combat.
Something must’ve been lost in development process since something about the combat feels off. It’s still nice to kick, punch and slice people but it doesn’t have that immediate level of fun. On one hand my feelings on the combat can be attributed to NMH2, which offered a better combat experience. But the issues with the combat go far further than personal tastes and opinions.
So obviously the PS3 currently doesn’t have a motion control alternative. Therefore the developers at Fee lPlus (NMH developer Grasshopper didn’t do the port) had to adapt some of the combat. So all of the motion attacks associated with wrestling and finishing moves are now mapped to the right analog stick. That doesn’t sound like a bad thing does it? Most games these days use a similar system so it sounds promising right? Well the main issue is that in order to pull off a finishing move you need to press L3/R3 followed by the directional prompt. It doesn’t sound too bad but it slightly disrupts the flow of combat albeit not to a screeching halt but it’s rather close.
The beam katana duels when Travis’ katana is locked with an enemies’ also lose a bit of their luster. Once again it’s required to rotate the right analog stick but it’s just missing that frenetic energy to it. I guess it’s because I wasn’t flailing my hand like a madman in an attempt to push an enemy like Death Metal away fearing the consequences if I wasn’t successful. Rotating the right analog stick in these instances also feels a bit off as the animation doesn’t really do a good job at conveying the ensuing battle.
Aside from the slight issues with the finishing moves the core combat is still simple fun. Outside of a few boss battles, NMH isn’t about deep player strategy as it’s all about being a badass with a cool beam katana. I did encounter a few cases where the enemy lock-on completely crapped out on me or when enemies, including bosses, would stay in one area of a room for an extended period of time. While these moments definitely lack polish, they ultimately don’t detract from the overall experience.
I must warn everyone that sadly the PS3 version of the game is censored. So that means there’s no blood, decapitations, or slicing limbs off. Instead all enemies turn to black ash when they’re killed. It’s definitely lame and it does affect the finale of some boss battles. Seeing a lump of black ash really doesn’t have the same impact as seeing a decapitated body lying on the floor. Despite my gore hound preferences, I still found the game to be enjoyable even if it lacked the violent charm that made the Wii versions so much fun. However, the Xbox 360 version does include the blood and gore but it's region encoded. So unless you have a Japanese 360 chances you won't be able to soak Travis in the blood of his enemies.
So far No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise is kind of 50/50 in terms of what it offers. With combat that has a few minor issues and no buckets of blood some may be wondering if the game actually does something that its Wii brethren didn’t do. Well the obvious answer to that question is that NMH: HP looks visually marvelous. Now, as much as a NMH fan that I am I will admit that the visuals don’t have that “built from the ground-up on PS3/360” look to them. But that doesn’t mean the game still isn’t nice to look at or is merely an upscaled version of the Wii game.
Everything in the game now has an added level of detail which certainly brings the world to life even more. Areas like Death Metal’s mansion can now be appreciated more since you can view the ornate designs that reside on the ceilings and soak up the general vibe of the place. The character models have also gotten a nice new veneer to them but a few of the models don’t look that improved compared to their Wii counterparts. It’s slightly disappointing that the character models in the game don’t have small details like hair and cloth movement, something that was heavily featured in NMH2. But things like the lighting, which gives the game an almost illustrated/cell-shading style look certainly helps you overlook small graphical issues and makes you appreciate things a bit more.
Though as proficient as the lighting is in establishing a mood and character to things it can at times be slightly distracting. At times enemies glow and glistening which makes it look like they’re the victims of some sort of nuclear fallout and are irradiated. It’s by no means is a big deal as it’s more an issue of the devs needing to slightly dial things back a bit.
There is one disappointment in the graphics department but it shouldn’t really shock anyone. Driving around Santa Destroy on your massive motorcycle isn’t too fun because of the stiff controls but also because the world is just ugly to look at. The overworld was a huge issue many had when NMH was released on the Wii and it’s not any better this time on the PS3/360. Textures are often muddy and will load while you’re a mere 20ft away. There’s no major pop-up in terms of structures but seeing a texture load and go from ugly to meh isn’t too much fun. I know most of us didn’t expect Feel Plus to overhaul the overworld as was the case in NMH2, but it seems like they didn’t bother to fix much of anything.
When it comes to whether or not you purchase No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise I have a feeling the choices are going to be rather clear cut. If you’re a NMH die-hard like I am and have no problem importing the PS3 version then the game is a must have. But if you never played No More Heroes before I would suggest perhaps checking out the Wii version if you happen to own one or know someone who does. Heroes’ Paradise is a direct 1:1 port of the Wii version minus some violence with an added graphical sheen. It’s by no means a bad port but it would’ve been nice if developer Feel Plus took some time out to fine tune things a bit and perhaps add a little extra goodness. Outside of a cutscene viewer and a boss rush mode featuring the female assassin’s, the game is pretty much one and done once you finish it. With the polish issues the game has, No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise is simply a game that only hardcore fans of the franchise should play as they’ll be able to appreciate everything despite the flaws it has.