No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise PS3 Review

After winning a bid for a beam katana on an online auction site, Travis Touchdown fancies himself as the world’s greatest assassin. I don’t blame him; a name like that is destined for fame and glory. Curiously, both he and his tenfold opposition all occupy the city of Santa Destroy, reminding me of the punch line to an old Mr. Universe joke; why do only Earth men win it?

Never mind. Travis eventually lives up to his heroic namesake, but ironically so. He’s a loser, quite the rarity in a genre which worships their protagonists as death-bringing deities. His selfish conquests drive the plot in a tangible way, often, he’s doomed by them. Case in point the battle with Death Metal to become the 10th ranked assassin; he learns to his chagrin that the only way from here is up; quitting is impossible. Whether intentional or accidental, No More Heroes does an admirable job of highlighting the futility of Travis’ financial and sexually motivated ambition, introducing a recurring ‘loser’ motif on which Travis is solely placed. The game also questions his sanity, something games rarely do outside the realms of Lovecraftian horror of the Eternal Darkness and Amnesia mould.

Not that the game takes itself seriously. There’s enough blood, profanity, fan service and comedy on display to dispel that theory. It’s been three years since No More Heroes was released – to critical acclaim – on the Wii, even if commercial recognition proved to be an elusive beast. Its charm lay in its invention; colourful bosses, a brilliant usage of motion controls, and an idiosyncratic art style, giving the game a distinct look, even if the intention was to mask hardware and software limitations. Courtesy of Konami, feelplus and AQ Interactive, No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise is upon us; a superior port any PS3 owner should deem essential.

It’s superior because of subtle tweaks to the original game – difficult to describe sufficiently to those unfamiliar with the Wii version, but there are great updates and bonus features exemplary of any great port. Bosses can be revisited, special moves are no longer automatic, now accumulated to prevent sporadic and inopportune activations. These are two of the most significant updates. There’s a third which I daren’t spoil.

Kudos to feelplus and AQ Interactive, but Grasshopper Manufacture’s the star here; adopting their own style like any developer, artist or film maker worth their weight. They toy with their audience and wallow in post-modernity, from the forth-wall shattering of Flower, Sun and Rain and Contact, to the surreptitious insertion of Smiths lyrics in killer7, their masterpiece. No More Heroes revels in such moments, manipulating the player in unforeseen ways and accommodating some truly lateral thinking. Each scenario stands out as annoyances or strokes of genius, usually both; such as having bizarre mini-games be the primary focus, forcing players to grind their way into each ranked match. It sounds disastrous, but it works as an extension of the game’s philosophy.

No More Heroes is still a great game, if a little inconsistent; dozens of inspired moments with the dullest sandbox world yet produced as the hub, sacrificing fun for drudgery, yet somehow getting away with it, a fast-paced action game, coupled with a frame rate volatile when you do anything too fast. This is a deeply flawed game but it is brilliant; overcoming a multitude of shortcomings and refusing to be crippled by its own flab. How did it manage to turn out so well? Grasshopper magic, that’s how.

9/10

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Version tested: PS3

Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture, feelplus, AQ Interactive

Publisher: Konami

Genre: Action