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Review: No More Heroes (Nintendo Switch)By Nayu At 23.07.2022 02:50

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It's important to keep in mind that No More Heroes was designed to make intimate use of motion controls - with the Wiimote representing protagonist Travis Touchdown's beam katana during combat, cell phone right before boss battle, and miscellaneous objects while performing odd jobs around Santa Destroy. Nintendo saw motion controls as a means to foster immersion, marrying a player's actions in real life with what they could do in-game, and Suda 51 ran with the concept at full speed. The end result is an action title that's as defined by the Nintendo Wii as it ultimately defines the best qualities of the console's eclectic life cycle.

Any port or remake should be an exercise in futility, which only makes No More Heroes Switch release all the more impressive. The re-release remasters the original motion controls to a near perfect level. The only thing missing is the unique feel of holding a Wiimote and the controller framed phone calls, which the Joy-Cons can't practically emulate. Otherwise, the motion controls in the Switch port are just as well implemented as they were on the Wii. Basic attacks and movement are mapped to the face buttons/analogue stick regardless of control scheme, but motion influences every other aspect of gameplay.

Holding up the Joy-Con triggers Travis' High Stance, while tilting it downwards switches to his Low Stance. Along with having their own speed and strength discrepancies, Travis' Stances play a key gameplay role in countering enemies. If an opponent is guarding Low, Travis should switch to his High Stance. Conversely, Low attacks are better suited against High Stance enemies. Unlike in a traditional action game, Travis' beam katana has an energy meter that needs to be conserved. Recharging the katana's battery is as simple as shaking the Joy-Con to mime masturbation, but this distinction means players can't just button mash their way through combat.

Beyond that, enemies need to be killed with Finishers. Once an enemy's health has been depleted, a motion prompt pops up on screen, forcing players to slash the Joy-Con in the corresponding gesture to kill their foe. Travis also has access to melee attacks and an assortment of Wrestling techniques. While melee attacks are assigned to the face buttons, Travis' Wrestling moves play off motion controls, and require players to motion both Joy-Cons to match the on-screen gesture. Two Joy-Con prompts will pop up once an enemy is stunned, pulling off a deadly Wrestling move if motioned correctly. As well emulated as the motion controls are, however, the real star of the show is the Pro Controller support.

No More Heroes was developed with motion controls in mind, so it goes without saying that a traditional control scheme would undersell the core gameplay. This was very much the case for NMH's PlayStation 3 port - Heroes' Paradise - but not so for the Switch release. Playing with a controller isn't comparable to experiencing the unique motion controls, but this arguably makes it easier than ever to appreciate combat's mechanical nuances. Every motion controlled action has been seamlessly translated to the Pro Controller, highlighting all the depth lurking beneath the novelty of motion.

High and Low Stance attacks are now assigned to X and Y respectively, allowing Travis to immediately strike between Stances with the press of a button. This leads to a faster paced gameplay loop where combos can be quickly chained together between two distinct fighting styles. Either button can be held down for a heavy charge attack while pressing both X+A together launches Travis into a Jump Attack. Rather than using motion controls to finish enemies off, Finishers are activated with the right analogue stick instead. The analogue sticks also take over motion control's role regarding Wrestling techniques and recharging the beam katana.

Put bluntly, the new control scheme makes great gameplay even better. Travis controls tighter while leaving less room for player error. The traditional control scheme makes it easier to understand everything Travis is capable of in combat, without making gameplay too easy or overshadowing motion controls. Pro Controller support doesn't change the fact that No More Heroes is designed primarily around motion, but everything conforms so well that both control schemes warrant their own play-through. If nothing else, the obvious uptick in performance quality makes the Switch release the most comfortably replayable version to date.

Along with being fully uncensored, the Switch port runs at a stable 60 frames per second, has a noticeably higher 720p resolution, and features incredibly fast load times. Faster loading in particular helps make the overworld and many mini-games more palatable. While Travis Touchdown makes an extremely violent first impression, a solid chunk of the gameplay loop is dedicated to nonviolent acts. The overworld is a fairly detailed and fully explorable map, but Travis cannot attack his local citizens the same way the average Grand Theft Auto protagonist can. There are combat based assassination gigs, but they're locked behind the job centre.

No More Heroes' gameplay loop is defined by a cycle of assassination missions and odd jobs around Travis' home of Santa Destroy. Travis ranks up every time he kills a member of the United Assassins Association (UAA), but he has to fund these excursions out of his own pocket. The cost of entry is increased with each Rank, requiring players to grind for money (stylised as LB$) in-between every proper assassination. The average day in the life of Travis Touchdown consists of leaving his motel, hopping on his bike, and then driving to the job centre to play a mini-game for some quick cash.

Job center mini-games are all ranked on a three tier system (influencing the final pay-out) and were originally designed with motion controls in mind. While the traditional controls get the job done, mini-games tend to play better with the Joy-Con across the board. All of Travis' jobs are non-violent and play out like community service more than anything. Travis can collect coconuts, mow lawns, man a gas station, clear the streets of litter, wipe down loose graffiti, and rescue stray cats. It all sounds unexciting, but there's a rhythm to each mini-game that keeps them engaging. More importantly, completing jobs is how Travis unlocks assassination gigs.

K-Entertainment is a front for the UAA that they use to offer contracts to killers. Players can unlock a total of 20 assassination gigs over the course of the story, all of which have their own criteria and pay-outs. Assassination gigs are ultimately the best way to make money in the overworld, but they're not the only way to access combat outside of rank matches. There are also a series of Free Fights that open up around Santa Destroy that test how many enemies players can kill without taking a single hit, offering a fair bit of gameplay variety during downtime.

Santa Destroy itself is an interesting overworld. T-Shirts can be found in trash cans, and Lovikov Balls can be traded into the local drunk for Travis to learn some new techniques, but there's nothing particularly exciting about exploration. There's a local dojo Travis can train at to raise his stats, but very few points of interest outside of missions. In many respects, Santa Destroy feels like commentary on the open worlds of its era: pulling back the curtain and showing audiences how empty these worlds are. At the same time, Santa Destroy isn't unpleasant to move around in, and there's almost a lost artistry to how the overworld fills itself out with minor secrets. Just being able to change Travis' appearance through exploration is reward enough.

Although money is meant to be spent on Rank matches above all else, LB$ can be spent to buy Travis some new clothes or upgrade his beam katana at Naomi's Lab. A total of three alternative beam katanas can be purchased over the course of the story, along with seven different parts that augments the player's attack speed, strength, and energy consumption. Needing to grind for money between every boss fight is undeniably a pace breaker - especially for those who want to customise Travis as much as possible - but Santa Destroy isn't poorly designed by any means.

The actual level design is mostly linear. Aside from a few chests tucked away in nooks, there's not much to find off the beaten path. Level design emphasises combat, warming players up for their upcoming boss fight. The set pieces are the real stand out, and help add a layer of personality to No More Heroes' world. Travis' very first hit takes him to a rockstar's home where he soaks in the lavish lifestyle. His next batch of assassinations take him to Santa Destroy's baseball stadium, the local high school, a contaminated beach, and an apocalyptic city players can only get to by bus. There's a hint of magical realism to Travis' world that blends wonderfully with the inherent insanity of Santa Destroy.

Enemy variety is on the light side on account of Travis only fighting other hitmen, but combat doesn't suffer. Enemies wield a wide range of weapons and are often themed to match their associated boss. By endgame, the average mook puts up a serious threat and will knock down any careless players. The average enemy is easy to kill if you're paying attention, but just as easy to get overwhelmed by. Between the beam katana's energy, Finishers, Wrestling moves, and sheer enemy aggression, there's always something to keep the action engaging and focused.

Bosses are far and away No More Heroes' strongest suit, challenging players' mastery of the in-game mechanics while sporting a commendable difficulty curve. More so than enemies, bosses make heavy use of the lock-on function. When locked-on, Travis will be able to strafe around enemies or dodge with the analogue stick. If an enemy attack is dodged right as it's about to strike, players will trigger the Darkstep which allows Travis to get in several hits at once. Considering how much damage bosses deal, and how aggressive the hardest ones are, it's imperative to take the time to learn attack patterns and create openings through Darkstep.

The average boss fight will push players to their limits, forcing an understanding of the mechanics that borders on mastery in order to beat the final boss - all without ever feeling unfair. Bosses clearly telegraph their attacks, follow learnable patterns, and can be countered through intelligent gameplay. They're also all incredibly memorable characters who Travis shares strong chemistry with. Travis' fellow assassins spout their own pseudo-philosophy, live life as bombastically as possible, and contrast nicely with the story's hyper violent main character. The UAA is filled to the brim with deplorable people, but there's a human quality to each Ranked Assassin that makes them at the very least likable.

Tying No More Heroes together is an extremely tongue in cheek story that's reflective of the late '00s, making fun of the medium while serving as a genuine love letter to the oddities that defined storytelling in video games. Santa Destroy is nonsensically violent, Travis slaughters hundreds of men before the credits roll, and the average character is little more than a caricature… but there's a depth to Travis' arc that keeps the narrative compelling, and the script is genuinely poignant with its commentary, serving as a clever examination of violence in gaming. Coupled with excellent gameplay, the Switch port of No More Heroes shouldn't be skipped.

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Final Score
One of the Nintendo Wii's definitive classics has finally made its way over to the Nintendo Switch. Bolstered by smooth 60fps gameplay and swift load times, [i]No More Heroes[/i] is better than ever. Travis Touchdown's ascent to the #1 ranked assassin is as hilarious as it is sincerely gripping, and the core combat never lets up - offering an engaging challenge that follows a tight difficulty curve. Santa Destroy as an open world is uneventful, but it features design sensibilities that aren't seen nowadays while almost serving as a parody of its era (without ever feeling grating). From gameplay to story, [i]No More Heroes[/i] is nothing short of marvellous.



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