Travis uses beam katana as his weapon to slaughter a ring of assassins. You use the A button on the Wii remote. The tutorial quickly explains there isn’t as much waggle as you may imagine for a game where you play a character brandishing a glorified stun baton. At the end of an A button rush combo you finish an enemy off with an upwards swing of the Wii remote or a horizontal swipe. While this news might disappoint people hoping for Dragon Quest Swords meets Killer 7, Grasshopper Manufacture made a wise decision. Waving your arm to do a frenzy of sword slashes wouldn’t make No More Heroes a better experience. Instead there is a good amount of balance where deathblow motions act as a dramatic end to some pixilated character’s life.
Because Travis has two stances you need to be mindful of the way you hold the remote. If you hold the remote upwards Travis does over the head Beam Katana swings. Holding the remote lower allows Travis to do kicks with the B button and attacks from other angles. A helpful indicator on the HUD explains which stance you’re in just in case you are holding the remote in the middle between the two positions. During the fight with the tenth ranked assassin, a tattooed man with a humongous sword, I kept Travis in the low stance to use his grappling techniques. Lifting the remote and the nunchuck upwards to do a suplex is more damaging than holding the A button to do a charged beam katana slash. Strange, huh? You also don’t waste any beam katana energy with throws, which means you won’t have to waggle the controller in a comical gesture to charge it either. When the boss falls to the ground the initial plot is revealed. Don’t worry No More Heroes isn’t as complicated as Killer 7. Travis simply wants to get laid by Sylvia, the agent encouraging him to move up the United Assassin Association hit list. If he makes it to number one, he might have a chance.
The lifestyle isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. Travis lives in a grungy motel littered with anime figurines. He also has to earn money to participate in ranking missions to test his skill against the other top assassins and move up the ladder. This translates to driving around an open city environment in a motorcycle scouting for missions. You can crash into telephone poles and run over people on the way to the job center if you desire. However, you can’t smack around the few pedestrians running around with the beam katana. It’s Grand Theft Auto lite.
The first job I tried out was Coconut Collector where you have to knock coconuts from a tree and carry them over to a street vendor. The catch is Travis can barely lift the coconuts. He moves sluggishly as soon as he grabs one with both hands. You get paid by how many coconuts you bring over during the time limit and after one round I had enough money saved up to move on. Playing mini-games are not necessarily required to advance the storyline. You just need to have enough money to pay for the association for the mission. Each fallen enemy in the story missions explodes into a fountain of change (opposed to an explosion of cel-shaded red goo) and it’s theoretically possible to collect enough money from the story side to avoid mini-game grinding.
The next mission brings Travis to a baseball stadium where he has to dispatch Dr. Peace. Your foes are fittingly baseball players and some of them have beam katanas too. When Travis clashes blades an icon covers on the screen indicating you need to quickly move the remote in a circle to push the computer controlled adversary back. From my (limited) experience of walking inside baseball stadiums I’m aware that the hallways can be narrow and the level in No More Heroes accurately represents this. However, the camera doesn’t click with the level design. It often shifts out of focus leaving enemies and at times Travis out of the picture. You can reset it by pressing the C button, but when you’re in the middle of a furious electric sword fight it’s not something you want to think about.
Remember the tiger in the upper right hand corner? It’s an indicator for Travis super mode, more specifically called the Dark Side Mode. When Travis kills of an enemy a three reel slot machine spins. If you match up symbols Travis temporarily gains abilities from the dark side. Three bars turns screen gray and allows Travis to do one button samurai style executions. The game randomly selects buttons so you can’t mash the A button. Three Grasshopper Manufacture logos dyes Travis’s hair blonde (a nod to Super Sayians?) and grants him combo-less deathblows. Three bells lets Travis shoot balls of energy from the beam katana. I haven’t been lucky enough to get three sevens yet. The slots might be more realistic than I first imagined. So, what is the deal with the freaking tiger icon? (I’m thinking of you Nintendo Wii Fanboy staff!) When Dark Side mode is initiated a goal icon appears on top of the HUD. The tiger crawls towards the goal and when it crosses the line Dark Side mode ends.
While most of the level is spent bashing heads with the beam katana Grasshopper Manufacture snuck in an appropriate baseball micro game in this level. There are two segments where enemies line up in a vertical row. One of them pitches a ball at Travis and you have to knock it forward by swinging the remote as if you were playing baseball. If you time your motion right the ball will propel straight through the enemies and break the metal gate. You have three chances to do this and if you strike out you have to clean up the remaining troops.
Before you meet Dr. Peace, Sylvia calls Travis on his cell phone. The remote rings and vibrates as if it you are holding Travis’s phone. I picked up the remote and turn it over to hear Sylvia’s voice from the remote speaker. Japanese subtitles, which I presume will be in English in other versions, appear on the bottom of the screen. Why Japanese subtitles? All of the characters in No More Heroes speak in English. Many of the menus are in English too with a little bit of katakana. If the Wii was a region free system I would say No More Heroes is the most import friendly game to date, but since a Wii-loader doesn’t exist this news is probably only applicable to a few gamers who own a Japanese Wii.
Dr. Peace sings a song while waiting for Travis on the field. He isn’t a doctor. He looks more like a cowboy who carries golden guns. Unlike the first boss fight, Dr. Peace doesn’t chase Travis. He stands by the microphone and shoots bursts of bullets. The key is to sidestep around Dr. Peace by locking on with the Z button and pressing arrows on the D pad to evade his shots. Alternatively, you can dash forward in the storm of bullets and deflect them. However, this drains a significant amount of energy from the beam katana, which means you will need to stand in place to shake-charge the remote. I stuck with sidestepping and deathblows, a quick path to victory. When the fight ends, Travis travels back to the No More Heroes hotel where he gets a call with details about the next ranking mission. I guess I should earn some money to pay the association and continue the game.
Where can I find some coconuts?