Review: No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise (PS3)

Title: No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: August 16, 2011
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Feel Plus / Grasshopper Manufacture
Price: $39.99
ESRB Rating: M
Extras: PlayStation Move Compatible

Originally released for the Wii in 2008, the PS3 iteration sports a new subtitle, a few new modes and all the bosses from the original game and the sequel, No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle. Even with the extra content, how will a three year old Wii game work out as a PS3 port?

Gameplay:
On the surface, No More Heroes appears to be your standard third person hack and slash game wrapped in a stylish, funky Japanese wrapper, but there’s actually a lot more going on here for better and worse.

You play as Travis Touchdown, an anime obsessed otaku who’s also got a thing for professional wrestling. As you learn through cut scenes, Travis met a gorgeous girl at a club the other night and she convinced him to kill a man. After doing so, Travis finds himself wrapped up with the United Assassin Association with no way out. You start as the 11th ranked assassin and you’ll have to fight your way to the top.

Things start out great as you’re thrown directly into your first assassination mission. A rather lengthy tutorial gives you a handle on all your moves, which is critical considering the manual tells you absolutely nothing. On the Wii, all control was handled with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck controllers. For the PS3, those controls have been ported to the Move and Nav controllers and it’s for the better. You’ll also have the option of playing with a standard DualShock if you don’t have Move controllers. If you have the option, I’d say stick with the Move… except for certain side missions which I’ll revisit later.

Playing the Wii and PS3 versions of the game back to back really highlights the superiority of the Move controller. I’m not talking about accuracy here. I’m actually talking about a very overlooked difference between the two controllers, button placement. With the Wii Remote, using the + and – buttons along with the 1 and 2 buttons while in the heat of battle can be awkward.

I’ve always felt that the Wii Remote was designed for children’s hands, but in a game like this, hitting the trigger and A buttons AND stretching your thumb down to the 1 and 2 buttons while in the middle of a fight is no small feat. However, with the Move controller, the Triangle, Circle, Square and X buttons are all arranged neatly around the Move button right where your thumb is resting. It makes the combat much more enjoyable on the PS3.

As Travis, you main weapon is the Beam Katana which is sort of a low rent lightsaber. Now, in a game sporting motion controls and a sword as the main weapon, you’d expect a lot of wild swinging and 1 to 1 action but that’s not the case here. To pull off various moves, you’ll be using a combination of the face buttons and the occasional swipe of the controller in the direction given by an on screen prompt.

It’s actually a nice way to handle the combat and I had a lot of fun with it. For each enemy you take down, blood pours out of them along with money that flows into your stash. You’ll also see the three drums of a slot machine at the bottom of the screen which can award bonuses. When three of the same symbols appear, you’ll briefly be put into Dark Side mode which can consist of anything from one hit kills to nasty mutilations.

You’ll have to fight your way through room after room of henchmen until you get to your final target and the boss battle begins. Each boss is quite unique with their own style, weapons and weaknesses. Once dispatched however things kinda go downhill.

You’re sent back to the motel you’re staying at to save the game (by sitting on the toilet naturally), change clothes (which has no effect on gameplay), watch videos and play with your cat. You can also see trading cards and wrestling masks you’ve collected, videos you’ve bought and so on. When you walk out of the Motel, the padding of the game begins.

To face each boss after the first one and climb in the rankings, you need to pay a fee to the Association. To get that fee you’ll need to take odd jobs and some side missions. You ride around the (very) small town of Santa Destroy on your futuristic motorcycle, kicking open dumpsters to find either money or t-shirts, and other hidden items.

The controls are pretty bad and collision detection is even worse. You’ll be able to knock down lights, palm trees and even oak trees, but hit a park bench and you’ll fly off your motorcycle. If you’re moving too slow and you happen to stop next to one of those trees or light poles, your motorcycle will become stuck in the object.

All you can do at that point is walk a few blocks away and hit a button which has a friend deliver your motorcycle to wherever you are. When you’re on the cliffs of Santa Destroy, overlooking the ocean, you’ll find that some areas have invisible walls while others will inexplicably let you plummet to your death. There are a few vehicles and pedestrians, but only a few models of each and they really don’t interact with you at all.

Cars go from driving to a standstill in an instant if you happen to step in front of them. Pedestrians continue moving their feet forward as you push them backwards just by walking into them. Maybe it’s a leftover from the processing power and storage space on the Wii or maybe it’s just lazy programming in the first place, I’m not sure. Unfortunately, it all adds up to a real slowdown in gameplay and it can be boring and downright frustrating at times.

The odd jobs you can take to make money consist of things like picking up trash, cutting the grass, gathering coconuts and more truly riveting mini games…. which is where the DualShock comes in. One of the jobs requires you to use signal flags to signal ships at sea. You’ll see two arrows on the screen point up, down, left and right in a number of combinations. Unlike the other jobs, you’re given no instructions here on how to do this.

I was swinging the Move and Nav controllers in each direction as asked, I tried doing it with button presses along with the movements, nothing worked consistently. When I tried again with the DualShock, I used the left and right sticks and was done with no problem. Again, frustrating, more so because you need to do these things to earn enough money to challenge the next ranked fighter on your list.

More businesses open up as the you progress through the game including a place to buy clothes, which have no effect on gameplay and a place to buy new weapons and parts which make your Beam Katana stronger and better. You’ll also be able to buy videos which you can watch back at the Motel, workout at a gym which actually increases you health meter and learn new moves from a washed up Master.

You’ll have to lay out cash for all of those except for the Master. For him, you’ll need to find forty-nine glowing balls scattered around the city (mostly in alleyways). Fortunately, one of the upgrades to your Beam Katana will place all of them on the mini map as a glowing gold dot so it essentially becomes a way to keep you busy for a while as you run around the city gathering things.

That’s really the one big downfall of this game, the balance. The fighting is great and a lot of fun, but you’re stuck playing mini games and wandering a very lifeless sterile city to make money just so you can get back to the fun.

Visuals:
This game definitely has a lot of style, I’ll give it that. The graphics are much improved from the Wii with HD and anti-aliasing making a huge difference. The character designs for the bosses are fantastic with each sporting a unique look that goes along with their quirky personality.

The mindless pedestrians and generic underlings however leave a lot to be desired. The henchmen all tend to look pretty similar with just a few costume changes to match the personality quirks of their boss. They will come at you with an ever growing difficulty level of weapons, but for the most part, they’re just the cannon fodder and a warm up to the main act.

As you move from place to place and in and out of buildings, the screen will freeze, go all monochromatic as a guitar chord is played – more style. The whole game is infused with a very Japanese sense of humor and the animation in the cut scenes lends itself to that. At times, it can be a really fun game to play.

Overall it’s a pretty good looking game, but too much pops up along the way, especially around the city, which make its roots on the Wii quite apparent. There are only four or five different cars and maybe six different pedestrians, which tends to sap the quirky fun out of the game.

Audio:
Voice acting ranges from unintelligible to really great. Travis’ lines tend to be delivered in a pretty over the top style but a lot of the bosses are really well acted. The people you deal with in the businesses around Santa Destroy are mostly voiced by Japanese people who speak with very thick accents. All the dialogue is subtitled by default so you won’t miss anything if you have trouble understanding some of them.

The music isn’t terribly varied, but it’s stylish like the rest of the game and each riff fits what you’re doing at the time quite nicely. The other sound effects, especially in the fight scenes come through really well and you’ll find that audio cues can be critical in boss fights.

Conclusion:
I had a really hard time coming up with a score for this one. While the game looks great (for the most part) and the fights are loads of fun, the stuff you have to do to get back to those fights, while interesting at times, tends to really drag the whole game down.

Unfortunately, that’s what I’m left with when thinking about this game, I have a blast in the fights, but then they end and I’m left to deal with clunky controls, bad collision detection, and very little variety which just kills it.

It’s worth a rent for sure, because there is a lot of fun to be had here, but I couldn’t really recommend this one for a purchase at full price. Wait until the end of the year sales if you’re really interested.

Score:
6.0

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  • Anonymous

    It’s too bad they went with the 1st No More Heroes gameplay style of earning cash to fight the next boss.  I remember that being a big let down when I played it on the Wii.  The sequel did away with that requirement.  There were still plenty of odd jobs around town but it wasn’t required.

    I tried the demo on the PS3 and enjoyed it.  One thing that I think would also be missed with this port is the clever use of the Wii-mote’s internal speaker.  Everytime Travis received a phone call on his cell it was pushed through the Wii-mote.  It was minor but a nice touch.  One that the superior Move controller isn’t apparently capable of.

    • True, the lo-fi voice coming out of the Wii remote speaker during phone calls was cool but I completely forgot about it after the first call.

  • Great review Josh. I have to say I like this game (and the second one) but the bugs are really annoying, enough to change the score from B to C. I finished the game a few weeks ago and during the gameplay and my bike got 100% stucked a couple of times forcing me to turn off the console. As you mentioned before the controls in the bike are just terrible and the whole driving around the city is just a waste of time. I was surprised when I saw that they didn’t change this part of the game. In the second game you just have a map and icons so no more driving around the city. The minigames are also much better in the second title because they have some kind of 8-bit style and the controls are perfect. Too bad they didn’t make this changes in this port, still a really fun game for any gamer who wants to try something “different”.