No More Heroes has a special place in my heart. It was a flawed game. Deeply flawed. But despite that, it managed to be very entertaining when I played it for the first time three years ago, mostly due to the excellent characters and writing. So much of that game’s enjoyment came out of those, rather than the gameplay, the main source of the flaws.
Heroes’ Paradise is a remake of the game for the PS3 (and 360 but that version only came out in Japan), “enhancing” the graphics and adding a few new assassination missions and side-jobs, as well as the “Very Sweet” mode.
Does the game still hold up, three years later? Do these additions add anything to the experience? Read on to find out.
Before getting to the new stuff, I think it’d be best to discuss the game’s original features, since there’s a good chance you’ve never touched this game before, if you lack a Wii.
The story of No More Heroes is centered around sociopath otaku Travis Touchdown’s attempts to become the world’s number one assassin. To achieve this, he has to kill all ten assassins above him to rise through the ranks.
The characters are easily the game’s best feature; from Travis to every last psychopath in the United Assassins Association, everyone’s insane, hilarious, and/or very likable. Travis is still one of the best protagonists I’ve ever seen in a game, and his developmental arc is very effective.
The game also has an excellent localization. The writing is superb, as one would expect from a Goichi Suda game, and the voice acting is appropriately over-the-top to match. From Travis’ snide cries of “f**kheads” to Silvia’s overly-sultry tones, it’s all very good.
Once you start playing the game, it all starts…falling apart.
Like No More Heroes 2, Heroes’ Paradise has the option to play with your motion controller (the Move in this case) or the traditional PS3 controller. The Move control scheme is basically the same as the Wii version’s, and the Wii version had alright controls. It’s your basic character action gameplay, though you hit a button to swing your sword, and you swing the controller in a direction to pull off a finisher or do a wrestling move. There are a few other places that were designed with motion controls in mind, but we’ll get to those later.
The Dualshock/Sixaxis controls are alright, on the whole. The finisher, instead of being activated through swinging a controller, is activated by moving the right analog stick in the indicated direction. Wrestling moves use both sticks. This works well most of the time, though it doesn’t feel as satisfying as swinging the controller, but that’s not really an issue.
You have to swing the PS3 controller up and down to recharge your battery, which isn’t as analogous to masturbation as the Move/Wii controller control scheme is, but it still works.
The combat controls are fine, and fighting generally feels satisfying, with your enemies exploding into fountains of blood and coins after you pull your finishers. The issue is the application of that combat.
One of the worst facets of the original game was the forced open-world gameplay. After killing the assassin above you, you go back to your hotel in the town of Santa Destroy, and you’re blessed with the tedium of grinding out money to pay for upgrades and the next ranking fight.
You can earn money in three ways: there are trash cans throughout the world you can bash with your bike to find small amounts of cash (and some t-shirts), but they’re limited and not useful; or you can take “side-jobs” (generally awful minigames) to earn decent amounts of cash and unlock assassin side missions, which have you killing enemies to reach a certain objective for the largest amounts of cash.
Between doing these missions (most of which are boring), you have to drive around the blank, boring town of Santa Destroy on your bike. The world is dreary and empty; there are a few collectibles you can find, but they’re near worthless, and searching for them is one of the most boring experiences I’ve ever had in a game.
It doesn’t help that the bike doesn’t handle very well, to say the least, especially on the PS3 controller. You should expect to crash a lot. Your bike can also do a jump when you press both analog sticks forward at all. This generally results in more crashes since it’s so easy to trigger and since they never explain this feature in-game.
Luckily, when you finally make the money to get to the next ranking fight, the game gets fun again. Most of the boss fights are unique and fun, though the game feels much too difficult on Mild (the equivalent of Medium). I like the Shinobu fight and all, but it’s brutal on medium difficulty. Since the best part of this game are the characters and the writing, you should play this on Sweet (Easy) the first time through. You’ll enjoy it a lot more that way.
Now, what’s new about Heroes’ Paradise? Well, first of all, the graphics are completely redone. All of the characters and environments look much better, and the animation’s improved as well. Unfortunately, the game’s heavily washed out art style clashes with this technical improvement. It still looks great, but the purposely-gamey area design looks strange rendered so well. Everything’s very flat, but it’s a well-textured flatness.
The remake also adds a “Very Sweet” mode unlocked after you beat the game. It’s basically the same game as before, but the female assassins have sexier outfits. It makes no sense in context, but the game’s weird enough that that works. Kind of.
You can also stock up “Dark Mode” moves (special moves activated originally at random) instead of them forcibly activating right away, which makes them much more useful. You still can’t use them in boss fights, but you earn money for stocking them up and not using them by the end of the level.
There are a few new assassination missions and side-jobs, but they’re nothing special. You can tell they were designed to show off the Move controls, but they still control alright on a PS3 controller. They don’t really add anything to the experience.
After coming back from a few assassination ranking fights, Travis can go to sleep on his toilet and fight a few assassins from No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle in his dreams. They made good selections of who you can fight, and all of the fights are pretty much exactly the same as they are in 2, though in a different setting.
You can also replay any ranking fight or cutscene from your armchair in your hotel room, which is a great feature. Now you can replay the good parts of the game without having to go through the rest of it.
There’s also a Score Attack mode where you can fight every boss in the game under a set time, with the top scores going on online leaderboards. If you’re really into the combat, it’s a cool feature, but that isn’t the game’s main appeal to me, so I didn’t really get into it.
Honestly, I think the main reason you should play this game is for the story and the characters. If you’re okay with going through some majorly flawed gameplay just to see that, then you should absolutely get this game. There’s nothing else like it out there.
For the rest of us (aka those of us who want to play games), it’s very difficult to wade through the quagmire that is the gameplay to experience the wonderful characterizations and plot.
If you have the Wii version and you’re aching to replay it, I’d play some of the Wii version first. Get to the open world bits, experience the bad minigames. If you don’t mind those, then you should pick this up; it’s the definitive version of the game. If you do mind those (like me), it’s not worth the money. I love the game, but replaying it was very depressing, because it just reveals all of those flaws.
If you haven’t played it, I’d say the game is worth playing, despite the flaws. Yeah, the pacing is messed up by the open-world bits, and a lot of it’s really boring, but the characters, the writing, the world the game illustrates, they’re all amazing. Bad gameplay or not, Travis Touchdown is a landmark character.
It’s a deeply flawed game, but it’s very subjective as to how much those flaws will matter to you. I got almost nothing out of it myself, but I’d still say that everyone who can should experience No More Heroes.
- Title: No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise
- Platform Reviewed: PS3
- Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture, AQ Interactive
- Publisher: Konami
- Release Date: August 16, 2011
- MSRP: $59.99
- Review Copy Info: A copy of this title was provided to DualShockers, Inc. by the publisher for the purpose of this review.