GAME REVIEW | Becoming the #1 Assassin In Dual "No More Heroes"
Around the time the Nintendo Wii launched, a video game trailer was making its rounds that had gotten my attention. Its mixture of high-octane violence meshed with some terrible English dialogue gave me b-movie vibes in video game form. It was so dorky, and yet it simply screamed cool on every frame. That game was originally dubbed Heroes, before its creator Suda51 tinkered with it and renamed it No More Heroes.
When I bought the Wii in 2009 — something of college graduation present to myself — No More Heroes was the first game I bought for it. To be blunt, I thought it was the coolest video game I had ever played, as it combined the violence and attitude of Quentin Tarantino with the dark comedy of a Takeshi Kitano movie. Its 2010 sequel, Desperate Struggle, added more to the zaniness, while keeping to the original’s slick style. Now ten years after the second’s release, both No More Heroes titles have hit the Nintendo Switch, demonstrating how its cool factor has never aged in the slightest.
Both No More Heroes titles follow Travis Touchdown’s quest to become the #1 assassin. The first game has him start at the #11 spot, whereas Desperate Struggle plants him at #51. His quest to be the top seems likes a senseless journey painted with blood and built upon a pile of luchadore masks, but as he climbs the ranks, some meaning to Travis’s quest starts to reveal itself. Of course, it helps that his assassin ranked battle contact Sylvia tantalizes Travis in ways that would make any katana-wielding otaku melt in their pants.
However, in Desperate Struggle, a side storyline takes the spotlight in the form of a revenge tale. A close friend of Travis’s is killed, with their head delivered to the ranked assassin. Filled with anger and rage, Travis aims to slaughter anyone responsible for his friend’s death. Sylvia, known for her trickery in making anyone want to participate in these ranked matches, shows a sliver of sympathy for Travis, and lends a bigger helping hand with this quest, while — at the same time — pushing the wrestling-loving assassin towards the #1 assassin spot again.
Besides these assassin and revenge missions, Travis also takes on some side-quests to earn cash for ranked battles, beam katana parts, lessons, and cool clothing. From coconut collecting and scorpion catching to cleaning up trash and cooking burgers, Travis becomes a Jack of All Trades with the many odd jobs he collects. The Desperate Struggle versions of these tasks take the form of classic 8-bit games, which not only gives some cool nostalgic vibes, but also boosts the humor to some extent.
One of the biggest improvements of these Switch remasters is its controls. While I did enjoy playing No More Heroes on the Wii, there were times when I would make a motion and the game wouldn’t read it. Here, the games read my movements with near-perfection. Slashing, performing wrestling moves, and performing combos happen with ease, giving way to some sweet kills and a little dough in Travis’s pockets.
However, one part of the controls that should’ve received an overhaul is Shinobu’s in Desperate Struggle. It’s neat to see another side of the story, but her controls are extremely frustrating to deal with. The worst part is the jumping mechanics, which makes reaching certain areas a lot more difficult than they should be. One level had me constantly falling off the top of a building, resulting in me having to start from the beginning over and over again to the brink of rage-quitting!
Visually, the remastered versions of both No More Heroes looks fantastic. Although it retains a bit of its Wii-era style, there’s enough of a gloss to the graphics that keeps it looking somewhat timeless. The first game has some brighter elements, whereas Desperate Struggle has a more darker tone that fits towards Travis’s revenge plot line. With that being said, some of the FMVs that play in-between some of the fights look faded and sort of glitchy, as if whomever was responsible for remastering the games skipped this part.
Where No More Heroes shines is in its characters. Travis Touchdown is this perfect blend of badass and schoolyard nerd, switching back-and-forth between being the coolest and the dorkiest person in-town. His dialogue is as quotable as a Martin McDonagh script, with his voice actor Robin Atkin Downes relishing every line with peak awesomeness. Both games put a lot of personality into Travis’s opponents, although Desperate Struggle’s ranked battle assassins tend to be more one-note than the first game’s.
Story-wise, both games take a Shinichiro Watanabe-styled route with the way they pave Travis’s path. There’s a lot more Space Dandy-like comedy in the narrative than anything else, but it knows when to go for a “Ballad of Fallen Angels”-toned deepness when the time calls for it. You’ll shed more laughs than tears, but it’s hard not to feel something when Travis has one of those life-altering discussions and meetings that changes him for the better.
- Exciting story, funny script
- Excellent controls
- Creative mini-games
- Shinobu levels
- FMVs not remastered well
Over a decade later, the two main No More Heroes games still stand the test of time. On top of them have some of the best motion controls on the Switch, their stories and characters brim with perfect personality. With a third game nearing its arrival, now is the time to dive deep into the lore of the legend known as Travis Touchdown.
Promotional consideration provided by Marc Bianchi of One PR Studio