No More Heroes 1 + 2: Desperate Struggle Review
The No More Heroes series has attained cult status due to its director Goichi Suda, commonly referred to as Suda51 and his distinctive visual and gameplay style. Originally released on the Nintendo Wii, how do these Switch remasters hold up?
Travis Touchdown is not a nice character; a brash, arrogant otaku anti-hero obsessed with wrestling, video games along with his collection of anime figures. He also somehow stumbles into being an assassin after winning a beam katana in an online auction and running out of money to buy video games.
This leads to Travis joining the United Assassins Association after the mysterious Sylvia nudges him to kill the 11th highest ranked assassin, himself now becoming the 11th and a target for other assassins. Thus starts his quest to become number one (the teasing of a sexual reward from Sylvia helps too).
This initial setup in the first game pretty much sells the structure of the game too, you take on each assassin after clearing out their henchmen then take on side activities to earn money until you can take on the next one while you rise up the rankings. It doesn’t sound that distinctive but it’s the Suda51 touches that make it so unique.
The first thing you’ll notice is the stark visual design, overall it’s a relatively flat, simplistic art style with extremely striking solid black shadows. This still looks great, even more so at the higher resolution these remasters run at. The colour scheme is still rather drab and lifeless but that is an intentional choice that helps sell the mundane moments in-between boss fights when you are performing odd-jobs to earn more cash.
As for the game itself, the combat still feels extremely satisfying and over the top, you can still opt for motion controls to play like the original release but handily Engine Software have backported the controller scheme from the sequel to the original so you can play that way too. Both methods feel great and responsive which is handy when you are trying to slice and dice folk while trying to dodge and suplex someone else.
Combat isn’t as complex as something like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry but it is extremely fun. You have a high and low slash and two strikes (used to initiate a grapple for Travis to show off his wrestling prowess) but somehow that is enough. There is something about seeing geysers of blood every few seconds that somehow never gets old and the boss gimmicks are fun to figure out.
The second game is essentially more of the same but with far more advanced visuals that manage to retain the almost cel-shaded look with stark shadows whilst upping the amount of detail. It takes place a few years after the original and through some fourth wall breaking sends Travis to the lowest rank, 51 this time, as he works his way back up.
It made some tweaks to the game design, the first game had a small open-world, Santa Destroy, that you travelled around to get to each side activity but it basically acted like an elaborate menu system. The second game gets rid of the open-world aspect and literally replaces it with a menu that on one hand loses some of the charm but on the other does make actually playing the game a lot more immediate.
In fact the first game feels a little barebones in spots, some of it intentional but the axing of the open-world definitely made sense moving to the sequel if they weren’t going to improve it. Driving around was extremely stiff and there wasn’t really anything in Santa Destroy to do. It’s the weakest part of the original game but fortunately it doesn’t detract too much.
The overall look and performance of these remasters is great in both handheld mode and docked with both pushing a mostly solid 60fps (that sees some dips during transitions but nothing that affects gameplay). The remasters are based on the Wii originals so the original visual style is kept intact rather than the altered visuals (and open-world layout) used in the PS3/360 version of the original No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise release.
Both games are still a lot of fun with some great writing and delivery, Rowan Atkin Downes’ work as Travis is still top drawer stuff. Like a lot of Suda51’s creations, No More Heroes as a whole will either be something you love or you just won’t like it at all. But the gameplay experience still holds up and these remasters are the best way to play them ahead of the true sequel due next year!
No More Heroes (Reviewed on Nintendo Switch)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Extremely well put together remasters that stay true to the original games. Travis’ brash personality is fun to inhabit and the combat is still extremely satisfying. The series is well worth your time, especially if you missed out on them originally.