There’s a notion amongst lifelong gamers of a certain tilt that games like No More Heroes should be supported no matter what. Grasshopper Manufacture’s genre straddling third person scrapper worked best when handling blades though, not bikes, and despite humble (relatively speaking) sales on the Wii, head honcho Goichi Suda’s desire to push publishers to let more gamers play his game has to be admired.
In the bloodied face of adversity, then, with Konami at the purse strings and now in glistening high definition, No More Heroes still represents the very zenith of love it/hate it game design: its slick, flowing, balletic swordplay interspersed with trivial, repetitive grinding that – especially now, over three years on – feels hugely out of place. And like the version released on the Wii, PS3 gamers will have to make up their own minds whether or not the good outweights the bad.[drop]The core concept is solid, regardless, and lead Travis Touchdown is, deadly weapon aside, an easy avatar for most to associate with – his clothing and mannerisms might not immediately click with your average gamer but his love for Japanese culture and a deliciously childlike sense of humour present a rich and rounded enough character to carry the story forward – a plot which, on the surface at least, seems simple. Cruel twists, hidden depth and a few surprises feature later on, mind, although you’ll probably guess that straight awy.
So whilst the exposition rumbles on, presenting the gamer with dozens of sword fodder on the way to each of the ten bosses, No More Heroes does what it does best and it’s superbly good at it. The PlayStation 3 controller out-performs the Wii Remote with ease, the attacks more intuitively mapped to the Dualshock’s face button, which makes combat smoother and the results more predictable. Battles are swift and bloody, and up there with the rest.
There’s still the odd forced bit of motion control (such as the frantic battery ‘recharge’ move) still left in there though, and having to hold down the trigger to target whilst dodging, charging and using Travis’ special moves can take some considerable practice. Movement’s far too twitchy still, rarely a problem in all but the toughest of scraps, but a blight on the free-roaming bits that make up the other half of the game.
[drop2]Ah, the free-roaming elements, how I hate thee. No More Heroes is one of those games that you wished had just focused on its strengths, but the way the game suddenly spills you out onto the street and forces you to work to earn cash to be able to pay for the next level in the game (and thus, the next boss in the list) is still baffling and still largely unenjoyable, and continues to blight the pacing throughout. Going from chopping off hands and a head to carrying coconuts is jarring, to say the least, and it doesn’t get much better.
But in its favour is more style and charisma than most games could ever dream of. 8-bit sprites and blocky models play off nicely against the upscaled polygons and chunky textures, the lighting overdone but consistent and the animation deliberately over-exaggerated. It (naturally) looks better than the Wii version, but frame rate drops and tearing are common in all but the most tranquil scenes.
But adoration and references towards old-school gaming pepper No More Heroes, the in-jokes and clever nods to gaming past (and, indeed, the character’s otaku nature leads to plenty of geeky delights) and it’s this that turns the game from something uncomfortably padded and bipolar into something deserved of your attention. It’s cool, but not overly desperately so, and well worth sticking with, if only to see what’s next.
We’ll have our full review here on TheSixthAxis very soon.