Review | No More Heroes (Switch)
Many may remember the Nintendo Wii as the innovative console with a motion controller and family friendly games. While it’s not exactly wrong, I remember things a bit differently. I remember the console being the home to some of the most ultra violent games at the time, offering titles like MadWorld and Manhunt 2. Perhaps the most memorable title to fit that category, however, is Suda51’s No More Heroes. This 2007 Wii game came early in the console’s life, but the world it created left a lasting impression among fans. Somehow, despite all odds, this title spawned a franchise, with the newest entry coming to Nintendo Switch next year. To celebrate, XSeed Games has brought the original game to Nintendo Switch, but not without a few enhancements.
Whether this is your first time in Santa Destroy, or a long awaited return, No More Heroes welcomes you to its story of assassination, extortion, and vengeance. You’ll play as Travis Touchdown, an otaku with little patience, a perverted mind, and a thirst for the thrill of battle. After taking on a job from the mysterious Sylvia Christel, Travis kills the 11th ranked assassin in a game set by the United Assassins Association. This puts him in a predicament where he has to kill the remaining ranked assassins to climb to the top and reach #1. It’s a unique premise that works incredibly well, making the story a huge highlight for the game.
Using a legitimate beam katana won in an auction site online, Travis strikes down foe after foe to get to his target assassins. In a lot of ways, this is a boss battle game, as each fight is more memorable than the last. I’d easily rank the bosses of this game with any Metal Gear Solid boss, as their personalities make them such fun characters. The dialogue exhange between Travis and each ranked assassin is quality stuff, even if it borderlines the ridiculous at times. Of course, not all the writing is gold, but when it comes to the boss battles, No More Heroes is fantastic. It helps that each fight comes with a phone call from Sylvia with even more excellent dialogue.
For the gameplay, No More Heroes is a hack and slash, but it’s far from your typical one. The original game was played on the Nintendo Wii with motion controls, and the Switch version faithfully recreates the experience. Sadly, the joy-cons don’t do the game justice due to their size, as the Wii remote was really much more comfortable. With that in mind, we still recommend at least trying the motion controls for a moment to experience them for yourself. If you want a less frustrating experience, then a pro controller or playing with the joy-cons in handheld mode are ideal. Of course, you’ll want to take note of the controls, as they change drastically depending on which style you choose. Considering the original didn’t have traditional controls, we applaud Engine Software for adding them here.
Players will have katana attacks, both high and low, as well as a charged attack. They’ll also have access to melee attacks that can stun enemies, allowing Travis to deliver powerful wrestling moves. Deplete an enemy’s health bar and you’ll finish them with your beam katana in a display of bloody glory. On top of the offensive gameplay, Travis has some defensive maneuvers too. He’ll be able to lock onto enemies, granting him the ability to block and dodge enemy attacks. While this can help to keep you out of trouble, blocking uses a lot of your weapon’s battery. If you can’t find a battery pickup, then you’ll have to charge it yourself by shaking it. Of course, if you’re playing with motion controls, you’ll be doing this literally.
Occasionally, you’ll attack an enemy at the same time and begin a clash. If you rotate the analog stick quickly or motion in circles, you’ll be able the standoff. Finally, there’s the Dark Side Mode, the most powerful abilities in Travis’ repertoire. Fill in the slots with your finishers and get matching symbols for Travis to activate one of several enhancements. These bonuses give Travis instant kill techniques that will easily turn the tide in his favor. Unfortunately, these tend to activate after killing a majority of enemies, meaning you won’t have too many foes to use them on. Even so, it adds some flair to the combat, which can get repetitive against normal foes.
Of course, when you’re not slicing up cannon fodder, you’ll be driving around Santa Destroy on your oversized motorcycle. While the concept of an open world is good on paper, it’s really the weakest point of No More Heroes. It’s just so empty and lifeless. Of course, you’ll have a few points of interests like the gym or Dr. Naomi’s shop, but it doesn’t save it. To make matters worse, you’ll have several wacky and mundane side jobs all around the city to earn money for the next ranking match. At least the assassination jobs provide some good practice for your combat skills. When you’re not out doing odd jobs, you can hang out at Travis’ motel room to feed his cat Jeane.
Graphically, the Switch port is pretty faithful to the Wii original in terms of the overall style. Engine Software still did a good job getting a higher resolution and more consistent frame rate here. There’s even some textures that are incredibly crisp, though the majority of them will still be pretty muddy. It’s interesting that they didn’t choose to port the more detailed No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise from the PlayStation 3. Perhaps it was to deliver the original experience as faithfully as possible? Either way, this is definitely the best way to play the original game.
When it comes to audio, No More Heroes mixes retro style sounds with an incredibly catchy soundtrack. I still often find myself humming the main theme of the series, repetition and all. Voice acting is also strong for the majority of the cast, especially Travis himself. Robin Atkin Downes gives Travis the right attitude, making him both a badass and a desperate loser. Practically all the assassins give great performances as well, making each of their fight preludes into a true treat. It’s unfortunate that Sylvia’s phone calls can’t come out of the joy-con, but at least we still have them.
The original No More Heroes may not be perfect, but it gave birth to a truly interesting premise. All of the elements that make up this title get refined and perfected in the next game, but the first game is still a good hook. These boss battles represent some of my favorites in gaming, but the dull open world and humdrum side jobs diminish the experience a bit. Even so, if you’re looking to get into the series, dropping $20 here is still well worth it. Honestly, if you’ve read this far into this review, you’re already considering it, so what are you waiting for? Take your first step into the Garden of Madness and reach for the top today.
Final Score: 7 out of 10