The Nintendo Wii is a system that has a strong collection of titles such as Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, among many other great games that are available for the system. It also had its share of games that were hidden gems, games that were overlooked by most people, including Madworld, the remake of Klonoa, and 2008's No More Heroes.
The story follows a man named Travis Touchdown, a nerd who buys a beam katana off the Internet and is convinced into joining a mysterious organization known as the United Assassins Association by a woman named Sylvia, who also runs the organization. Travis firsts starts out at #11 on the ranking list, but if he manages to eliminate the other ranked assassins, he will become the #1 assassin in the UAA, and Travis will also achieve his personal goal of scoring it with Sylvia, which she promised for Travis if he reached #1. As you can see, the story for No More Heroes doesn't exactly take itself too seriously, as evidenced by the game's writing and cast of eccentric characters. All of the assassins Travis fights have their own unique and bizarre personalities; some highlights include Dr. Peace, who we are first introduced to via a song he performs in the middle of a baseball stadium, a high school ninja assassin named Shinobu, and the superhero Destroyman. Travis Touchdown is also a cool protagonist; he's brash, funny, and he knows how to handle his beam katana in combat.
No More Heroes' gameplay is a mixture of open world exploration and hack and slash combat. Before Travis can participate in the next ranked fight, he must earn a certain amount of cash that has to be deposited into an ATM once he achieves the required amount. In order to earn cash, Travis must complete odd jobs and carry out hitman contracts given to him by a local assassination group, though you can also earn cash from killing enemies in combat or from opening up dumpsters scattered around Santa Destroy. The odd jobs Travis can choose from are rather unique, as they'll have you doing things such as mowing lawns, collecting coconuts, or finding lost cats. Hitman contracts will have Travis either eliminating a specific target, or fighting enemies under certain parameters like being only able to perform wrestling moves on enemies or only having one bit of health left when starting the fight.
Cash can also be spent on other things as well like new beam katanas, clothes, or to rent tapes from a video store that allow Travis to learn new wrestling moves. Unfortunately, exploring the town of Santa Destroy isn't that interesting because the town only serves as a means to funnel you to the different important locations you need to go to. Plus the town feels lifeless as well, with very few pedestrians present onscreen as you travel around town.
Fortunately, the combat in this game fares much better. Using your beam katana to slice and dice enemies feels fun and satisfying, and there is some strategy involved when fighting enemies. Travis can shift between a high and low stance with his beam katana when fighting and some enemies can only be attacked by striking at them in a high or low stance. There's also a dodge roll Travis can use when he is locked onto an enemy, which is useful when dodging attacks that are coming at you or from someone else nearby. Enemies can also be stunned with a kick when fighting, and if they get dazed it means you can finish off an opponent with a pro-wrestling move. The boss fights are also fun and varied, and each assassin brings in their own tactics to mix things up, meaning the fights never feel similar to each other.
No More Heroes other big problem, besides the forgettable open world, is that your method of progression through the game is repetitive. You'll start to realize early on that the game doesn't really stray from its formula of "Earn money, deposit money, and fight the next ranked assassin," because of this, it can feel like a grind at times. Though the feeling of repetition is offset by the fact that the payoff for getting the right amount of money to pay the entry fee is that you'll be fighting another creative assassin.
The biggest strength of the visuals is the cel-shaded art style the game has, which gives everything a unique feel and look. Though the game does look bland at times, especially the town of Santa Destroy. The voice acting is great and it backs up the strong writing of this game, and the game's soundtrack is one of the most catchiest and energetic soundtracks I have heard in a game.
In spite of some design problems, No More Heroes still shines due to its story, writing, fun combat, and its sense of style present throughout the game, making this a unique and interesting experience that should be played.
Final Score: 8/10