Obscene would be the best way to describe this game. Not so much in the sense that there are gratuitous amounts of visceral fluids on screen, or that the language would make a sailor blush; but rather that Suda 51, the game’s creators are attempting to sell you a reality where you use coconut transportation as a means to pay an entry fee into a battle royal of the top assassins in the world. Is there blood? Oh yes, there is blood. Is there foul language? Oh yes, there is cussin-a-plenty. But is that the leg this game uses to stand on? Absolutely not. No More Heroes, as the title would suggest is a cynical look into the current state of pop culture, what we view as a hero, and most importantly; the state of video games.
This isn’t a game for everyone. No More Heroes requires its players to be well read in video games and pop culture. Our ‘hero’, Travis Touchdown’s weapon of choice is a ‘laser katana’. Upon seeing the box art the player can easily make out that this is a shoddy law suit side step by Suda 51 for arming their protagonist with a lightsaber. After your first chance to see our Otaku Luke Skywalker decapitate a horde of yakuza you’ll know that no other weapon on earth would have fit into this universe. The fight sequences owe more to Takashi Miike then they do George Lucas, but that’s the game you’re playing. You’ve never seen sci-fi epics crossed with Japanese mobster stuff with Lucha Libra moves thrown in top of it for no other reason than “what the hell” any where else on earth. And you know what? It works. It works beautifully.
The game examines what we consider a hero in the medium of video games. Travis spends his time killing extras from The Warriors, watching porn, and using the bathroom… a lot. You can choose to have Travis hang out on his couch and snuggle with his cat, but after a few minutes of that you’ll want to head back out to the streets to find some bad guys to cut in half. Even after the kitty cuddling you feel that if this self serving geek is what we have to consider a hero, then we are in a lot of trouble. But that’s the kind of game this is. You have to ask yourself, what kind of guy am I playing here? Doesn’t a hero save kids from burning buildings? Is a hero someone who looks out for themselves? Which is more fun playing? As you drop those coconuts off for money you’ll ponder on what your efforts are really for in the end.
The game is a big step graphically for the Wii. Not because it pushes the hardware to do new things, but rather that it knows how to use what it can do effectively. All of the in-game menus are a throw back to the days of 8-bit gaming. The game also takes a rather direct stab at the Grand Theft Auto series by giving you a city to roam around in completely free of consequence. Want to get on your motorcycle and run over someone? Do it, the cops won’t stop you. After all, GTA established that this behavior was not uncommon of heroes.
No More Heroes is truly a geek’s dream. Its a valentine to video games, Japanese culture, wrestling, movies, all these things that are the building blocks of your personality. Yet it remains wholly original. It’s a self referential look into what would happen if you got up off your couch, walked out the door, and started killing people without consequences. Play it with an open mind, because in the end that’s really the only way you can.