No More Heroes is a damn mess.
Granted, there are reasons why this game is a classic. It does everything in its own way. Some bosses are memorable. The childish humor has an endearing “Tarantino meets anime” vibe, with extreme cartoon violence and dark humor. The fighting is engrossing. When it’s fun, No More Heroes is really fun.
Most of the time, however, No More Heroes feels like a bad joke repeated on loop. To unlock the good stuff, you have to suffer through mind-numbing minigames and road trips. Some people say that these design choices communicate the boredom of a third-rate job routine. To me, they feel like the game is trolling me, trying on purpose to be as annoying as possible. I had enough of this supposedly artful experience after the hundredth four-minutes drive to the thousandth two-minutes button-mashing activity.
I could forgive all that filler, but not the game’s mechanical defects. No More Heroes gleefully neglects to teach you some of its essential mechanics. Without that information, the game has a rollercoaster difficulty curve. At the highest difficulty available at start, you can breeze through the first two bosses by mashing buttons, only to slam against a brick wall once you reach the third boss. I had to check the web to realize that the game hadn’t taught me how to play yet.
The promise of the game’s boss battles pushed me through. I trooped on, grinding those pain-in-the-ass minigames for hours. I lost half an hour of gameplay because of a crashing bug and the uncooperative save system. I listened to the same terrible sound bites literally thousands of times. I enjoyed the good bosses and the gimmicky ones. I still didn’t know whether I was playing a brilliant game or a load of crap. Then, the end of the game steered me hard towards the second option.
The last level was easy, except that I had to repeat its first few minutes four times in a row, because of a badly clued instakill QTE. Finally I reached the big final twist, that felt like random BS with no connection to the story. And there it was, the final boss battle.
I’m not easily upset, but the final boss in No More Heroes made me want to scream at the designers. As a developer, I know that it’s not that hard to code a camera that keeps two characters on screen in a large empty environment. The camera in this game regularly fails at keeping even *one* of them visible, and it has a passion for sudden changes of perspective that seem designed to make you take the wrong turn. After too many tries, I felt beaten. I’d destroyed most of the game’s bosses in one or two tries, and now the last boss had changed the rules of the game, and it seemed nearly impossible.
So I went to the Internet, and I found yet another fighting technique that the game had never bothered to show me. I spammed that move, and killed the final boss on my first try, without even caring to parry. End of the game.
That was the point when I accepted that No More Heroes is, simply, broken. I gave it a 5 as a sign of respect for a game that dares to take risks, but be warned that when it’s bad, this game is painfully bad. It’s the product of a strong creative mind, but it fails on so many levels that it’s better left to nostalgic Wii gamers.