|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Grasshoper||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 22, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
As much as you'll enjoy Santa Destroy's diversions, NMH really shines during the assassination quests. Each one has Travis clearing several rooms of baddies before meeting the next ranked hitman or woman. And like the aforementioned baseball stadium crooner, each boss is as bizarre as the next, and some great cutscenes complement their craziness. Whether you're beheading a half-dozen dudes with a single slash or making every contact count on a challenging boss, the fighting is a visceral blast that'll have even the most jaded Wii-mote-wavers grinning ear to ear from the first low-level grunt to the final epic showdown.
You'd think a melee weapon-based Wii title would have your arms flailing like a drunken monkey, but NMH steered clear of the obvious, sweat-inducing path to deliver a much more satisfying and intuitive experience. The A and B buttons take care of your attacks and blocks respectively, and raising or lowering the Wii-mote determines where your hits land. There's even a handy high/low meter on the HUD so there's no confusion as to where you're aiming. Each and every kill is topped with a finishing move, and this is where the Wii-slicing comes in. Once an enemy is set to gasp his last breath, a directional prompt will appear on screen; unleash that last devastating blow and watch while blood spews out of your foe's neck like an overactive geyser. Some classic wrestling moves, triggered by moving the Nunchuk and remote in specific directions, and optional lock-on targeting allow for quick evasive dives, and special Dark Side modes (slo-mo, projectile firing) ensure the seemingly simple fighting mechanics continually deliver a pulse-racing ride. In fact, if you're anything like us, you'll find yourself rising from your comfy chair and taking center stage in front of the television at the start of every boss encounter. The swordplay is that much fun.
NMH's fantastic fighting is matched only by its breathtaking presentation. We've already touched on Suda 51's wonderfully twisted take on gaming, but the visual style complementing his bizarre characters and world is equally noteworthy. Like Killer 7, NMH adopts a look heavily influenced by anime and cel-shading; it often looks like a comic book come to life. Additionally, the use of vibrant colors and dark shadows make it as much fun to watch as it is to play. And the way over-the-top violence is gory, sure, but the presentation is so stylized that it borders more on fantasy than realism. The production further impresses with cool call-outs to old-school gaming; your health is represented by a pixilated heart, save points are marked with a giant S and the assassin rank screen mirrors the look of an 80's era arcade coin-op "high score" screen. The audio also gets the job done with intentionally-cheesy guitar riffs, 8-bit bleeps and blips, and amazing voice-acting. Even the Wii-mote's tiny speaker delivers lightsaber-sounding buzzes and whirs that'd make Darth Vader peer over his shoulder.
This is still a Wii title, so despite the stunning artistic treatment, NMH does suffer a few graphical glitches: most notably, pop-in, slowed frame-rate and some blocky, detail-starved structures rear their ugly heads when traversing the city streets. It's certainly nothing that'll pull you from the experience, but an occasional reminder the Wii doesn't pack the horsepower of its next-gen competitors. Also, for any GTA fans who may have perked-up at the mention of an "open-world," understand that NMH's Santa Destroy sand-box serves more as a between-mission hub than a full-functioning cityscape. It more than serves its intended purpose, but if you're looking to jack cars, slap hookers or run from the man, Santa Destroy isn't your town.
No More Heroes delivers two things the Wii is desperately lacking: top-tier mature gaming and pitch-perfect swordplay for a peripheral practically tailor-made for the purpose. Throw in infectiously fun gameplay, incomparable style, a wicked sense of humor, and a level of unhinged wackiness that makes Britney Spears look like the poster child for normalcy, and you've got a sure-fire Wii winner. Where Killer 7 succeeded as a style-over-substance project, NHM nails both aspects with sledgehammer-like force. Top to bottom, No More Heroes is a must-buy blast that out-shines all other third-party Wii titles to date.
CCC Freelance Writer