No More Heroes deserves better than it’s getting

Owen Sound Sun Times (On)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

No More Heroes and Wii Fit just came out in Japan.

Wii Fit comes with a balance board and comprises various fitness activities and mini-games using the Wii balance board (included with the game).

No More Heroes is a cartoony, violent, hyper-cool action game somewhat in line with Japanese action movies.

People love cool casual games. Both the DS and the Wii have large casual markets. Both also attract some degree of the “hardcore” game fan, one that would be interested in the likes of No More Heroes.

Wii Fit has been a smash success and No More Heroes is having abysmal sales so far.

Casual games selling over innovative ideas aimed at the “hardcore” audience could become a worrisome trend.

As cool as Wii Fit looks, I’m really excited about No More Heroes and I hope it gets a better reception in North America when it’s released in February.

I’m a big fan of cool stylized worlds. I love the Kill Bill movies and I love the hyper-cool Japanese films they draw on, so I’m excited about No More Heroes.

In it you play Travis Touchdown, a typical kid it his late teens, who somehow finds himself on a list of ranked assassins working his way up. You drive around on a motorcycle from place to place, doing odd jobs to make money until you can pay a fee to tackle the next ranked assassin. It doesn’t sound groundbreaking, but I’m excited and the game is about presentation and fun, not complete innovation. No More Heroes drips with cool. It looks like a strange cartoon; it’s ultra-violent, but totally cartoonish. The characters are completely absurd and it’s full of throwbacks to 8-bit gaming.

So first, it’s a mature rated game, not for kids, but if you’re old enough to rent Kill Bill at least rent this game when it comes out. As the game just came out in Japan, I’ve been keeping tabs on the general opinion. People are saying the graphics are not too spectacular, there are some frame rate issues, the motorbike controls badly and some parts of the game are a bit repetitive.

They’re also saying that’s not the point. No More Heroes is unique, weird, stylish and enough pure fun to overlook the flaws (not all games get credited with that). The focus of the game is sword combat against various opponents, and it’s fast, fun and satisfying. And the crazy story really drives the game.

I love cel-shaded, cartoony games. I love crazy stylized Japanese movies and anime. I love the look of this game. I’m looking forward to February.

This all leads into another point, though.

Has the Wii created too much of a niche for itself?

But people aren’t buying No More Heroes in Japan. People are buying Mario, Zelda and casual games. The Wii doesn’t have a big casual market, but it’s got a really cool controller. Developers can, and are making use of it to do cool things, mostly for casual, accessible games. No More Heroes makes great use of the controller, but isn’t “accessible.”

Is the Wii too casual friendly? Are cool “hardcore” ideas done for on it? I really hope not. There’s a lot of hype this side of the Pacific around No More Heroes, and hopefully we don’t let this and other atypical games get lost in the casual and first party developed sea.

I’ll be picking up No More Heroes and keeping my eye out for more slightly odd games for Wii and all the consoles I own. I hope all of you keep an open mind and at least look into games that are outside the norm.

Calen Henry is a fourth year student of Japanese Studies and Multimedia at McMaster University. He grew up in Owen Sound, has been a gamer since childhood and is also interested in music and film.

© 2007 Osprey Media Group Inc. All rights reserved.

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