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Critical Reception: Ubisoft/Grasshopper's  No More Heroes

Critical Reception: Ubisoft/Grasshopper's No More Heroes

January 30, 2008 | By Danny Cowan

January 30, 2008 | By Danny Cowan
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This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to No More Heroes, developer Grasshopper Manufacture's Wii debut that critics describe as "One of the most gleefully 'WTF' experiences you'll have in gaming this year."

Killer 7 was a polarizing game. Few called its style and vision into question, but many felt that its excesses in plot and graphics came at the expense of gameplay, which was often described as repetitive and frustrating. Killer 7 won many fans regardless, and even a fair share of its detractors awaited the release of its follow-up, No More Heroes for the Nintendo Wii.

No More Heroes appears to be gaining greater critical favor than Killer 7 thus far, and averages a rating of 85 out of 100 at Metacritic.com

Matt Keil at G4 TV awards No More Heroes 5 out of 5 stars. "[No More Heroes Director] Suda 51 and the Grasshopper team are known for quirky, unconventional, and often downright strange titles," he begins. "Sudaís latest game is a slam-bang action satire that wastes no time drawing you into its twisted world of violence and ridiculous fashion sense."

Keil is especially impressed with No More Heroes' abbreviated but deep narrative, which he describes as "an epically violent and surprisingly smart odyssey." He finds its protagonist, the anime-obsessed Travis Touchdown, to be especially noteworthy. "Heís utterly amoral and kind of a jerk," he says, "but somehow manages to be one of the most likeable new characters in a long time."

No More Heroes' control scheme manages to be effective and satisfying, according to Keil. "The controls strike an exceptional balance between traditional button pressing and incorporation of Wii remote motions," he claims. "The end result is a supremely satisfying combat experience. The finishing moves feel powerful and final; thanks to the virtual punctuation mark the Wii control flick lends them."

Keil emphasizes the quality of No More Heroes' writing. "No More Heroes would be a noteworthy game simply due to its over the top visual style and rock-solid controls, but the gameís appeal and genius go far beyond that," he writes. "There is real social commentary in this title, and each of the bosses can be seen to represent a societal issue or problem, often of the peculiarly American persuasion. The fact that it is typically buried beneath an inventive set piece battle keeps it from being sledgehammer obvious, and yet the satire is right in your face at all times."

"The real triumph of Suda 51ís surreal, occasionally obscene romp is that behind all the cynicism, satire, and gory ultraviolence lies a true joy of creation that is too rarely seen in gaming," Keil concludes. "For perhaps the first time, he has made a game truly accessible to just about anyone while retaining the layers and nuance seen in titles like Killer7. As a game, No More Heroes is a delight. If youíre also in on the joke, itís astounding."

GameSpy's Sterling McGarvey gives No More Heroes 4 out of 5 stars, and claims that the title will be of particular value for gamers seeking depth from the Nintendo Wii's software lineup. "It's doubtful that No More Heroes will succeed with the casual crowds that have adopted the Wii in droves, but on a platform that gets a lot of flack for lacking hardcore games for hardcore gamers this demented package offers oddball appeal," he says. "It's also the furthest thing you can get from the 'kiddie game' stigma that hounds Nintendo's consoles like a scarlet letter."

"The most coherent way to describe NMH (other than 'on something') is that it resembles 'Kill Bill' in regard to plot and a pint-sized San Andreas in execution," McGarvey summarizes. "As Travis Touchdown, you'll work your way up a list of targets in the California town of Santa Destroy on your way to becoming the best hitman in the world... that is, when you're not living the lifestyle of a hopelessly pervy otaku."

McGarvey praises No More Heroes' control scheme, and feels that the game's weirdness works well in its favor. He notes that some issues occasionally cause the experience to drag, however. "Even if you can deal with redundant combat moments, driving around Santa Destroy is pretty annoying," he critiques. "Travis' absurdly souped-up chopper can reach blinding speeds to get you from job to job around the town, but it gets snagged on buildings, trees and other landmarks from time to time, and can be a real pain to get out of a tight spot. It's in these sections that No More Heroes lacks a bit of luster."

"Beyond that, however, the game glows with style, even if it's got quite a few poop and sex jokes," McGarvey notes in conclusion. "Whether it's assassinating a target named Destroyman or performing menial tasks to earn the entrance fee to kill Destroyman, No More Heroes is one of the most gleefully 'WTF' experiences you'll have in gaming this year."

At IGN, Mark Bozon contributes a No More Heroes review scored at 7.8 out of 10. "On a system now home to a ton of uber-casual experiences and lots of 'me too' shovelware products, it can be pretty rare to find something made specifically for the more hardcore, mature gamer," he says. "Well, score one more for the hardcore. No More Heroes isn't the most polished game out there, and it certainly has its fair share of quirks all around, but it deserves to keep its place in the libraries of the more serious Wii gamers just the same."

Bozon feels that No More Heroes' free-roaming elements don't always gel with its action-based gameplay. "What it all boils down to is about 10 or so stores and buildings to go into, a handful of mission points that bring you into new loading zones, and some mini-game jobs which are fun, but hardly necessitate an entire open world," he explains.

"We're not denying the immersion factor you could get from actually roaming around town," Bozon continues, "but there experience is far more frustrating and incomplete than it should be, and it would have been easier to scale down this aspect of the game, going with a more traditional level select or smaller hub world, even if it meant changing the feel and pacing of the game along the way. As far as open world designs go, No More Heroes has the worst on Wii, and that includes the disappointing [Driver: Parallel Lines] city."

Bozon also claims that No More Heroes' mission structure can often be inconvenient and frustrating. "Failing [a] mission removes it from the map entirely, forcing the player to move from one mission to the next regardless of outcome," he writes. "You can always reactivate the challenge by going back to a main building on the map that handles all jobs and assassination missions, but when some of the challenges are extremely difficult [...] a lack of "retry" option is a serious oversight."

Though Bozon shares much of the same praise for No More Heroes as other reviewers, he cautions that some gamers may not have patience for its issues. "Players will have to decide for themselves if this is really a game worth purchasing at full price. There's a ton of hilarious content added to truly make the world come to life," he says. "What you won't find, however, is a true open world experience, and you'll have to suffer through what's there in order to find the gold of the game within the actual assassination missions."

Despite its problems, No More Heroes has thus far earned higher scores from critics than Killer 7, and appears to be a more enjoyable experience overall. Fans of Suda 51's trademark style and offbeat humor will have their expectations fulfilled, and anyone disappointed by Killer 7's flaws may find that No More Heroes matches its predecessor's style while boasting more satisfying gameplay.


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