No More Heroes is one of those classics I’ve heard so much about from other gamers, critics, media personalities and commentators. Unfortunate, I’ve never had the chance to play it since it was only released on the Nintendo Wii and I was still enjoying my PlayStation 2 at the time. So, you could imagine the excitement I had when learning that this iconic hack’n slash was finally coming to PC.
For better or worse, it’s the same game that was released in 2007 only optimized for the PC. Some of the gameplay may feel dated but that is ok if you grew up back in those days. Despite some of its shortcomings, I finally get to experience this classic (using standard controls and the power of a PC).
Travis Touchdown Comes to the PC
Players take on the role of Travis Touchdown, a slacker who becomes a professional assassin after winning a beam katana in an internet auction. Under the guidance of Sylvia Christel of the United Assassins Association, he sets out to take out the top assassins. His overall goal is to become the top-ranked assassin in the world. Of course, there will challenges and twists along the way (but I won’t spoil it for those who have never played it).
As someone who is playing this for the first time, my first impression has been that it’s practically the Deadpool of video games. I say this as a positive since I’m a fan of works that are self-aware. It’s packed with meta-humor about gamer culture of the time while dropping obvious hits that Travis knows he is a character in a video game. The game also has so many jabs and references to hit titles from that era. If one isn’t a fan of meta-humor and self references, then don’t worry as there are plenty of dirty jokes and sexual innuendos to balance it all out.
One also has to appreciate how Travis Touchdown is practically the archetype otaku protagonist that is featured in most anime and manga. Gamer (check), weeb (check), slacker (check), somehow has the natural ability to wield a powerful weapon (check). He has that charm and humor that has come to define most slacker heroes in the last few years. I’m not trying to say he paved the way for heroes like Kazuma Satō but it’s hard to ignore the influence. Plus, the only major difference between him and the others that followed is the influence of actor Johnny Knoxville had on his creation.
The Streets of Santa Destroy
Before playing it for the first time, my only understanding of the gameplay was that it’s a hack’n slash. I was right but that was also an understatement regarding the overall combat. Players will hack and slash waves of enemies before defeating them with the finishing blow. It only took me a few minutes to figure out the finishing blow and I mastered it before completing the first stage. If you’re wondering how I missed this gameplay aspect, it’s because I skipped the tutorial (which I’m always happy to do when it’s an option).
While the finishing blow was a surprise, overall the combat is flawless. This is ideally how I’d expect a hack’n slash to function. I use my blade to hack and slash waves of enemies with ease. Even though there is a minor shake-up to the formula, it’s a welcoming change that improves the combat.
When not killing waves of henchmen and taking out targets, players will roam around the city of Santa Destroy. They will explore the world while doing a series of side quests and mini-games. This will allow players to earn money to move to the next stage or buy stuff to customize their character. You ca either buy new cloths or work to upgrade your skills to give you an edge in the next battle.
If you have played any open-world RPG, then all of this will be familiar. It’s not too detailed but it’s enough to give players the freedom to build their character. You could get new sets of clothes to create your ideal character while also grounded to the game’s setting. One also must admire how the world of Santa Destroy is not too massive. Even when compared to titles of the time, it’s not a massive open world and that is ok because a bigger world does not always offer a better experience. Everything is within a reasonable distance and time is not wasted on traveling. Finally, I have to kudos to how timeless the visuals look as they still look good after all these years.
Almost Being #1
Since I’ve been playing video games since the late 90’s, I’m not going to be critical about the outdated gameplay elements. Its presence gives it that charm that defined titles from that era, but just know they exist. This is not to say No More Heroes is perfect, it has other issues that can’t be brushed off as the game having been a product of its time.
From the start, the biggest problem is there is no support for mouse and keyboard. This is a PC game but it could only be played with a controller. This is not a big issue for me personally, but it might be for other players. That is because so many PC gamers prefer mouse and keyboard over controllers, hence this might dissuade some from wanting to pick it up. If you have ever spoken with a devoted PC gamer then you know all too well how they would prefer their gaming mouse and mechanic keyboard (with their ideal Cherry switch) over a console controller.
For a hack’n slash game, it has some terrible camera focus. The camera will not automatically follow you or focus on your actions. Players will have to adjust it numerous times (manually or by tapping the RB / R1 button) during a single battle just to properly see what is happening. This is not something that can be brushed of as “a product of its time” since so many titles perfected this before it.
Finally, one can’t ignore how buggy the game is. It’s not a performance issue (it runs great) but it does crash or freeze too often. On average, I could probably get 35min of playtime before something happens and the game automatically quits. It has gotten better after launch, but the problems are still there and obvious.
A Classic Returns
Playing for the first time, No More Heroes was a brilliant attempt to redefine a genre while now being a time capsule of pop culture. It still has that original charm that has made it a classic while also welcoming to those who missed out on it. From it’s sense of humor to the hack’n slash gameplay and the open world, it hits all the right marks. As a bonus, it’s a welcoming port for anyone who was never a fan of the Wii motion-sensor controllers. It has its fair share of performance issues but they are forgivable.
No More Heroes coming to the PC allows those who missed out on this hack’n slash classic the chance to finally experience it for the first time. As someone who missed out on it back in the day, it truly has earned all the praise and admiration from the community.
Disclaimer: Xseed Games provided the game used in this review.