The Nintendo Wii isn’t a console that often gets associated with Mature-rated games. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some great ones to be found on the system. 10 years ago, Nintendo released one of the most unique titles on the Wii, titled No More Heroes. Since its release, it has become a cult classic, and for a very good reason. Through its zany personality and satisfyingly fast-paced action, it went on to become the most popular release of Suda51’s game company, Grasshopper Manufacture. And with the recent announcement of Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes coming out for the Nintendo Switch later this year, there’s never been a better time to take a look back at what made the original game so excellent.
In No More Heroes, you play as Travis Touchdown, an otaku who loves watching anime and wrestling, collects anime figurines, and lives in a motel in the fictional town of Santa Destroy. As Travis, you are tasked with killing 10 different assassins, so you can become the number 1 assassin and impress a girl named Sylvia. There’s more to it, but that’s the basic idea of the story, and it works magnificently. The story is told through a number of animated cutscenes, all of which are very funny. Travis is the very definition of an antihero, and he remains a hilariously narcissistic protagonist through and through. Despite the dark subject matter of killing other people for wealth and power, No More Heroes remains comedic throughout, and never takes itself too seriously, even breaking the fourth wall at many points throughout the adventure. The game completely succeeds at sucking you into the gloriously offbeat world of Santa Destroy.
The gameplay of No More Heroes is primarily a hack-and-slash affair, with the player controlling Travis as he wields a super-cool beam katana, which is this game’s version of a lightsaber. Mechanically, the game takes full advantage of the Wii’s motion controls in a way that is incredibly fun and doesn’t feel forced into the experience like so many other motion control-infused titles. They work seamlessly into the blade combat, and when an enemy is at low health, the player can swing in the direction shown onscreen to deliver a final blow that, quite literally, slices the opponent open. Or, you can deliver a final suplex onto your enemy that makes them explode. If your blade becomes low on power, you’ll have to shake your controller to refill the battery meter, indicated by a little red guy on the corner of the screen. Swinging your beam katana doesn’t just feel good- it feels great. Rarely does taking down opponents feel this satisfying. And when enemies die, they do so in the most fashionable way possible: by exploding into a giant mess of blood.
It’s not just the motion controls that are taken advantage of. The game is also one of the few Wii games to utilize the Wiimote’s speaker in an effective way. Before each of the 10 boss battles, Travis will receive a phone call, and sure enough, the player will receive this phone call through their controller. The speaker’s low quality does a very convincing job of sounding just like the speaker of a real phone. It’s a small detail that really adds to the experience.
No More Heroes’ most memorable sequences are surely its insane boss fights. Each of the 10 assassins offers a different battle style and one that the player will have to learn the ins and outs of themselves. These battles can be quite relentless, and fast-paced; the player will need to stay on their toes the entire time. The battles have what might be called a perfect difficulty; they’re quite challenging, but provided the player stays focused and on their feet, they can emerge victorious. The bosses themselves each have their own twisted backstory, personality, and theme music. Everything you do, every quest you go on, every upgrade that you purchase; it’s all leading up to these 10 battles. And they’re each fantastic in their own way.
Both in its concept and its execution, there really aren’t any games that are similar to the original No More Heroes…except for its 2010 sequel, Desperate Struggle. This sequel fixes a few of the issues found in this first title, with a wider variety of sidequests being added, and the implementation of a fast-travel open world. Luckily, with the announcement of Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, it won’t be too long until we get another walk in the shoes of Travis Touchdown. I think I speak for No More Heroes fans everywhere when I say: we’re ready, Suda51. If you missed this game back in 2008, then there’s never been a better time to dust off the old Wii and give it a go. It’s one that deserves all of the attention that it can get, and its fast-paced comedic action will keep you smiling from start to finish.