Welcome to Santa Destroy, city of sun, sea, surf and, apparently, a population made up of the weird, the bizarre and the downright insane. In a town where even humble shopkeepers can look like members of Slipknot, schoolgirls carry swords and casually kill their classmates, and the local physical trainer has a penchant for getting his students to strip naked and poke their derrières into the air, anything goes.
And, coming from the same creator who gave us the trippy Killer7, you just know anything will.
The game’s protagonist is the oddly named Travis Touchdown, an ‘Otaku’ (geek to you and me), who was just a normal, everyday loser until he won an Internet auction for a ‘beam katana’ (eBay’s rules on weapons obviously don’t apply in Santa Destroy).
With his new found weapon, what does he go and do? He goes and kills the 11th highest ranking assassin in the UAA (United Assassins Association) of course! Succeeding in his fight, he’s awarded the 11th position in the association, and, being more than a little full of himself, won’t stop until he’s the number one killer. And that’s how things kick off, and as the game progresses, you’ll have to challenge each of the ten higher ranked assassins until you make it to the top spot.
Played from a third person perspective, NMH is a pseudo-free roaming action adventure split into several segments. The meat of the game is found in the main combat missions. Here, using the Wii remote and nunchuk, you control Travis and have to smash the snot out of anyone stupid enough to get in the way of you and your beam katana. Tapping the A button executes combo attacks, and when your enemy’s health is low enough, an onscreen prompt shows you a directional arrow. Swing the Wii remote in this direction and you’ll perform a killing blow. Clash swords with an enemy and you’ll need to quickly roll the remote in circles to win the struggle. You even have to shake the remote vigorously to recharge the beam katana’s batteries when they run down.
Travis can also stun enemies and perform a range of wrestling moves that utilise motion sensitive controls of both the remote and nunchuck. The control system has many more elements to it as well, and everything works very well, indeed.
Combat is satisfying, and always entertaining. This is especially true when you win the slot machine mini game. This fruit machine spins up when you kill an enemy, and should you get three symbols in a row, you’ll access ‘Dark Side Travis’, and one of his special abilities. Each of these abilities has a ridiculous name, such as ‘strawberry on the shortcake’ or ‘cranberry chocolate sundae’ and can make Travis stronger, faster, or even give him a one hit kill attack.
At the end of each main mission, you’ll come face to face with the boss, one of the assassins you need to wipe out. Some of these bosses are pretty tough, requiring strategy and timing to take down. And all bear Suda 51’s inimitable off-the-wall style, and make up a fine collection of freaks and oddballs.
Between battles, you can wander around the open world either on foot, or on Travis’ awesome, Akira-like motorcycle. While roaming the city you can buy clothes, new beam katanas, train at the gym and, more importantly, get jobs to earn money (as you need to pay a fee to take on the next assassin). Jobs range from the mundane, including litter picking, lawn mowing, and coconut collecting(!) to special assassin side-missions and combat mini games. Most odd jobs, are more entertaining than they sound and use the Wii remote in various ways to enhance the experience.
I make no secret about the fact that I’m a big fan of Grasshopper’s games, particularly Killer7, and No More Heroes has been at the top of my wanted list for a while now. And, thankfully, on the whole it’s been worth the wait.
The Wii’s controls are well suited, and are not overused or shoehorned in like many other Wii titles of late. The game oozes style, and although it’s still very, very odd, it should appeal to more people than Killer7 given the more conventional control system and style.
There are some problems though. The motorcycle is the main culprit for me, with clumsy controls and flaky physics, and the city is a tad on the sparse side, with little to do or see aside from the jobs and shops. And, some of the side missions can get a little samey after a while, especially when you have to keep redoing them to earn enough money to continue.
However, the main combat, and the majority of the funky side games make up for any shortcomings. At a time when the Wii desperately needs some more mature games to offset the cutesy and mini-game titles, NMH is a real piece of fresh meat.