Four Years Late To The Party
It was four long years ago when we first got to experience one of designer Suda 51’st finest works with the Wii-exclusive beat ’em up No More Heroes. The game brought with it Suda 51’s trademark punk rock flavor, a gorgeous cel-shaded world to explore, and plenty of over-the-top combat. It was a pleasant surprise, especially for the Wii, which was (and some can argue still is) lacking in excessive brutality and gore. Now PS3 owners can have the chance to experience one of 2007’s finest brawlers and be introduced to the unforgettable Travis Touchdown.
One of the first things newcomers to the series are likely to notice about Heroes’ Paradise is the quirky cast of characters. You’re thrown into the shoes of Travis Touchdown, the 11th greatest assassin in the world as he’s tasked with hacking and slashing his way to the top of the list so he can claim the number one spot. To help him accomplish this, Travis has his trusty Beam Katana—do not call it a lightsaber—that can make quick work of almost any foe. Any grunts that are unlucky enough to get in its way will soon be forced to watch their entrails spill out onto the ground. In comedic fashion, of course. However, the assassins whose rankings you’re trying to claim won’t go down so easily.
As soon as the game starts, you have to take out the tenth ranked assassin in a mission that acts as the game’s tutorial. Here you’ll learn the various tricks and techniques that you’ll need to employ to be able to take out the rest of the assassins that stand in your way. Travis can make quick work of the henchmen, just make sure you finish them off. In this game, depleting an enemy’s health isn’t enough to remove them from battle; instead, you’ll have to end them with a killing blow that has Travis performing unspeakably brutal things to make sure they’re vanquished. This game might be stylized, but it still isn’t fit for the squeamish.
If you’re wondering how a total badass like Travis Touchdown could be so far down the list of assassins, it’s actually a pretty simple story. You see, Travis gives in easily to temptation. One night when he’s out getting sloshed, he meets the sultry Sylvia, who lets him know how low he’s fallen. Since he isn’t one to back away from a challenge, Touchdown decides to make it his goal, nay, his life mission to take the number one spot. With Sylvia’s resources—she works for the United Assassins Association, or UAA—Travis sets off on a bloody mission to prove that he’s the best killer in the world.
No More Heroes was designed with the Wii’s controller in mind, so it’s no surprise the game works perfectly on the PS3’s Move. I actually preferred the Move controller to the Wii’s remote, because it felt more responsive and the buttons are in more intuitive spots on the controller. Because Heroes’ Paradise is a hack and slash, it is very combat-centric. Sure, there are several other things to do (more on that later), but once you see everything this game has to offer the fighting is the only thing you’ll really want to do. It takes center stage and the Move controller is a fantastic upgrade from the Wiimote, which was already a solid tool for slaying.
The Beam Katana is your best friend, but you’ll need to keep a close eye on it lest it run out of power and leave you helpless when you need it most. Using it for attacks or blocking enemy blows slowly drains the weapon’s energy reserves, and when its battery runs dry you’ll have to charge it up. This is where some of the game’s more adult-oriented humor comes into play; the way Travis recharges the controller is pretty similar to a certain activity some gamers might be all too familiar with. If you’re not in the mood to recharge it manually, you can always use the batteries that are strewn about the levels for a quick recharge.
The original No More Heroes was full of style, but lacked in any real substance and was plagued by some terrible ways to earn money when you weren’t hacking your way through henchmen and boss fights. Unfortunately, this issue remains in Heroes’ Paradise. If you didn’t need the money, this would be a non-issue. But since you can’t proceed unless you can afford the entry fee to each round in the tournament, having to do side jobs to earn money hurts the flow of the game, especially since most these jobs are incredibly mundane. Instead of giving us entertaining things to do, the jobs scattered about the town of Santa Destroy have Travis cleaning up graffiti, mowing lawns, and picking up trash. If you’re a good employee, you can earn a medal. If that doesn’t excite you, nothing else about these jobs will. For a game with such a fantastically fun personality, it’s sad to say that these parts of Heroes’ Paradise make it more of an endurance test than a game.
To help you traverse the big open world of Santa Destroy, Travis has a handy bike. This isn’t the worst way to get around, but the controls are a little wonky at times and can make it a frustrating way to travel.
There are a few bizarre problems I thought definitely would’ve been fixed for the HD version, like the frustratingly slow save system where you have to watch as Travis prepares to use the bathroom. I get it. It’s funny. But just like telling the same joke over and over again, this loses its humor after the fourth, fifth, or thirteenth time. There’s also the strange decision to not let us replay missions we’ve already completed unless we go back to the Job Center or location of the job. Design issues like these have no real point and could’ve been easily remedied in the four long years since No More Heroes first blew our minds.
If you’re the type of gamer who likes collecting every hidden item in a game, then Heroes’ Paradise is going to be, well, a bit of a paradise for you. When you’re not slaying unsuspecting assassins and their hordes of henchmen or driving around town looking for a job that doesn’t completely suck (spoiler: they’re all awful), you can spend your time scouring the world for its collectibles. Heroes’ Paradise has a hearty selection of items like these for you to obsessively search for, including Lovikov Balls, hidden t-shirts, and buried treasure.
Suda 51’s games always have a bit of a punk rock style to them, and this game isn’t an exception. The art style and characters are edgy and over-the-top, and while the music definitely matches the look and feel of the game, it can get a little annoying at times. If it were great music it wouldn’t be a problem, but the strange mix of guitar, electronic, and classical styles don’t exactly mesh well. The voice work is consistent; I’m sure the term “overacting” could be thrown about, but in a game like this the excess actually works to its advantage.
Heroes’ Paradise is a fantastic game that has a lot to offer. It’s got a unique flavor, some fantastic boss fights, excellent combat, slick visuals, and more than a few lines of dialogue that will have you laughing giddily. It also has a bit of an identity crisis that has you brutally killing waves of enemies one minute and cleaning the town of garbage the next, so the flow is a bit off. But you shouldn’t let that dissuade you from giving this game a go. At the very least, I can promise you it’s not quite like anything you’ve experienced before.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
This isn’t the best-looking game out there, but its vibrant art style and buckets of blood will satisfy most gamers. 4.2 Control
The PS3’s Move controls feel more responsive than the Wiimote, and those were already pretty solid. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The soundtrack matches the violence and the voice work is done well enough, but the sound effects never seem to sound as satisfying as what’s going on onscreen and the music can get a little grating at times. 4.2 Play Value
Fans of the original will be familiar with much of what Heroes’ Paradise has to offer, but there’s also quite a bit of bonus content here as well. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best