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It’s been more than a decade since Goichi Suda aka Suda51 introduced us to the crazy otaku Travis Touchdown and the unapologetically absurd world of No More Heroes. With the delay of the third entry in the series, fans have been gifted with ports of the first two games on the Nintendo Switch to reignite their love affair with the Garden of Madness.
No More Heroes and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle were both originally released on the family friendly Nintendo Wii. Mixing stylish but bloody gameplay with sleazy and crass humour, Suda51 found a winning combination, making these games stand-out titles for that gen.
Set three years apart, both titles follow the gory endeavours of the lewd but badass Travis Touchdown. In No More Heroes, Travis finds himself broke after winning a beam saber in an online action. Looking for some quick cash he ends up meeting the mysterious Sylvia Christel and accepts a job to kill Helter Skelter which earns him a rank in the United Assassin's Association. After discovering his talent for killing, Travis sets out to become the number one assassin in the association by killing the rest.
The No More Heroes games arrive on Switch
The sequel No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle sees a slightly older Travis, who walked away from being an assassin and dragged back into the violent world by Skelter Helter…yes, Helter Skelter's brother. Travis sees himself having to climb back to the top spot after dropping down to number 51 while trying to get revenge on the assassin currently sitting at the top.
The No More Heroes series definitely raised the bar for storytelling. The remarkable writing is filled with slick satire, clever dialogue, hilarious innuendos and pop-culture references which all blend well to create a unique spectacle players will rarely see anywhere else. Saying that, the off-beat humour is slightly dated and not everyone's cup of tea.
There's a unique combination of combat, art style and humour
Visually the No More Heroes series is famous for its cel-shaded art style and gripping character designs which were some of the standout features from the original games. These Switch versions definitely look great and players will instantly notice the improvement in the sharpness of the resolution. This new clarity really accentuates the defining details of each character model, making these ports the best looking version of the games.
Other than the bosses and main characters, enemies are very bland and it’s unbelievably jarring having to kill the same generic henchmen over and over. This was drastically improved in No More Heroes 2 where the henchmen had much more variety and substance, but that’s what you would expect from a sequel. Both titles look smooth running on 60fps and even with all that new hectic uncensored action the frame rate still holds up.
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However, like before, the city of Santa Destroy is drastically dull, with no NPCs, no interactivity, just an empty concrete wasteland. Players were spared from traversing this desolate city in No More Heroes 2 and some parts of the city were improved. It would have been nice if No More Heroes was upgraded with some visually pleasing motifs to engage as there’s a lot of backtracking.
The voice acting in the No More Heroes series always feels like watching a B-movie but not underwhelming in the slightest. The intentional low budget sounding voice acting helps complete each character's quirkiness and adds so much to each cut scene.
The soundtracks of both games pretty much follow the same formula with slight differences. No More Heroes has a slightly more electronic vibe compared to the pop vibe in the sequel. These add to the hype during battle sequences and the personalised theme songs for the bosses are amazing.
The cutscenes are packed with drama
After the epic opening backstory in No More Heroes players will instantly be thrusted into the location of the first assassin. Most levels will have players driving to a new location, followed by hack and slashing through hordes of henchmen until the final boss, this is the formula for each level. This can get repetitive at times but the initiative and fun combat will keep players hooked. The boss battles are amazing though and increase drastically in difficulty as you progress.
However, players will have to travel the open world of Santa Destroy and complete a variety of side missions, jobs and mini assassinations to access each new level. The jobs are probably the weirdest part of the game, as players partake of coconut collecting, mowing the lawn and more. Although these help pace out the game, adding longevity to the adventure, the actual exploration part is really mundane.
Navigating the open world can be a chore
Saying that, players will have fun chilling in Travis’s apartment where they can save the game by using the toilet, listen to his voicemail or check out his collection of cards and wrestling masks. He even has a cat to play with. Other than the somewhat repetitive enemies players will find it hard to fault the action packed levels which reward the right amount of visceral pleasure for all the dull jobs they have to do to get there.
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle flips the script slightly firstly by removing the open world element. Players won’t have to travel around Santa Destroy but can simply jump from location to location by selecting from the menu. This is a huge improvement as it will allow players to progress through the game a lot more quickly. This does mean the game will seem a lot shorter than the first but players can take part in 8-bit mini games to become stronger, hang out in their apartment and even upgrade weapons, but this is all optional now.
The optional retro mini games are a nice touch
Enemies and bosses are a lot more tricky due to sci-fi elements added to the game, forcing players to strategise a lot more than before. There are also sections where players will play as two different character. No spoilers here, but they will add a lot of variety to the overall gaming experience.
I do think the difficulty is really unbalanced throughout compared to the first game, where the difficulty gradually increased. But here it's really varied, you can face tricky enemies from the get go and some really useless ones further into the game, this will definitely keep players on their toes.
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Travis’ fighting style is as unique as the world he lives in, mixing luchador wrestling moves with beam saber action. His trusty beam saber is what players will mainly be using to create combos, it can be upgraded in both games and players can unlock new ones. His wrestling moves can execute through quicktime actions and there's loads to unlock from DDTs to bodyslams.
You'll likely want to master the death blows which follow the end of a combo, doing this will lead a slot machine appearing and if players are lucky enough to line up three icons they can unleash Travis’ Dark Side Mode which is his super mode, there are loads to try out, one even turns him into a tiger.
Players will be able to choose between using a Joy-Con or the Pro Controller, each offering slight differences in styles of play. The Joy-Con will allow players to experience the controls as they were on the Nintendo Wii and the Pro Controller will offer a less active style of play.
There's some room to experiment with combos
One difference is how players are be able to attack via a high or low stance. If you hold the Joy-Con up right you can perform a high attack with the beam saber and holding it down will let you perform a low attack. Players will simply have to press X or Y to perform high or low on the controller. There are a few more motion actions players will perform, like shaking the Joy-con in a rude gesture to charge the beam saber.
Honestly I was never a fan of this even when I played No More Heroes on the Wii, as the motion controls always felt sluggish and unnecessary. Meanwhile playing on a controller is way more precise and rewarding during the fast paced combat.
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Overall combat plays out well. It flows effortlessly in all the chaos, and all the added additions stop gameplay becoming repetitive. Mastering the different moves is visually rewarding as you hack up your enemies in various different ways and execute some amazing special moves.
No More Heroes 1 & 2 are worth revisiting even if you owned them on the Wii. The upgraded visuals look amazing and finally getting to play the uncensored versions is an added bonus. There are a few little things like no autosave which can be annoying if you die in the middle of a level, or the slightly tedious camera. Also, not hearing Sylvia’s phone call on the Wiimote speaker will be missed.
However if you haven’t played this series before I recommend you go pick it up. There’s no gaming series like it and I doubt there ever will be.
No More Heroes and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle are out now on the Nintendo Switch