Reviews

No More Heroes 1 & 2


No More Heroes 1 & 2 were a surprise drop on Nintendo Switch last week. It makes sense that they would make their way to the console, as Goichi Suda prepares soon enough for the major release of No More Heroes 3. Both games are older now (they were originally released on the Nintendo Wii), so it’s quite possibly newer players may have missed them, and what better way to emphasize what to expect from something that will be as eccentric and creative as No More Heroes 3 than to re-release them to the new players and fans among us.

They also hold up quite well in the test of time. No More Heroes and its sequel can best be characterized as offering a crude sort of humor, punk-like attitude and a slick fighting game with hugely memorable boss fights. All of these three qualities prove to be timeless as these games are now just as entertaining and enjoyable as they were on their original release, and while you could argue that the action gameplay across the broad genre has improved in the years since, both games remain a thoroughly entertaining experience.

Starting with the most superficial elements – No More Heroes and its sequel use a cel-shaded art style, which is perfectly livable in today’s full-HD or 4K era. The environments remain fairly clear, but the smooth animation of the characters (Travis and the bosses in particular) and the simple, bold lines give the games a clarity that remains aesthetic and modern. In fact, these two games are some of the best examples of why a strong and decidedly abstracted aesthetic should be seen as preferable to a more realistic palette – a few generations later No More Heroes will still look like a creative and artistic vision , and the open world HD blockbusters that all “AAA” studios are driving out will always look and evolve the same.

Looking beyond aesthetics, Quintin Tarantino is the best way to describe what No More Heroes and its sequel are, but interactive. Play as Travis Touchdown and fight your way through hordes of enemies (with lots of blood and all) on their way to a boss fight. Then you bloody kill that boss and move on to the next job. Suda has always enjoyed the aesthetics of excess, and in addition to the blood, Travis can make ridiculous wrestling moves, and the action is often hard to keep up with as it’s filled with all sorts of little fast-paced events, slots that launch players into specials to determine your strength , and strange little minigames that seem to be there to loop the action rhythm and throw players off balance. There are differences between the two. For example, the original No More Heroes has a random and incredibly boring open world that is almost certainly present as a joke on open worlds, but Suda seemed to realize that boring people as a joke are still boring, so removed that for the sequel. Despite those differences, however, the quality of the action is equal across both, and when No More Heroes kicks off, it pulls you through its gloves like it’s a wild rollercoaster.

However, the bosses are by far the best part of these games. Goichi Suda has always been a fan of lively multi-stage boss fights, and No More Heroes and its sequel really set the standard for this. Each boss tests everything you know about the game, from specific combinations to timing, to your ability to adapt instantly and learn enemy patterns. They can be brutal, and Goichi Suda has always enjoyed giving players a Game Over when they can’t figure out the “trick” to a boss, but the variations and rhythms of these fights are striking even today. No More Heroes first landed in 2007 – three years before FromSoftware launched its first Souls game (Demon’s Souls), and while the Soulslikes have since set the standard for boss fights in video games, No More Heroes was quite similar to the one on the testing the skills of the players.

The game’s stance matches the gameplay perfectly. No More Heroes likes crude humor, toilets are save points, and the games have a grindhouse attitude to sex (it’s pretty exploitative). Travis wields a battery-powered lightsaber-like weapon, and when playing with motion controls, you charge the battery by shaking it in a way that makes Travis quite clear on the screen (i.e. up and down like men do with a certain other stick) . Suda also loves to chow down his games with popular culture references and homages to his two great loves – retro games and wrestling – and it’s all so manic that it eventually works, despite being a mess of positions at times. It should say a lot that Suda’s later works – Lollipop Chainsaw and Killer is Dead – are relatively refined and seem “stable”.

These two games are direct ports thrown on the Switch to introduce newer players to the No More Heroes series, but they are worth revisiting as it’s really impressive how little they seem to age. Do we now have faster and more complex fighters thanks to games like Devil May Cry V? Certainly. However, No More Heroes is its own beast, as it combines its punk-like attitude and humor with a surreal streak and some of the most memorable boss fights you’ll ever play in video games. For these reasons, Suda’s classics are just as entertaining and brash as ever, and it’s great that they remain available to players on current consoles.

If you’ve never played the No More Heroes series before and are looking forward to part three, these games are still worth checking out if you like solid action games and some dry humor.

8/10

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