PS3 Review: No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise



If there’s one word that springs to mind when fumbling for an adjective to sum up No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise, it’s “Japanese”. The level of inspired, utterly bizarre and completely priceless lunacy that pumps through the caffeinated, pop-culture-infused bloodstream of Suda51 and Grasshopper’s GTA-with-lightsabers game could only come from the beautifully off-kilter Land of the Rising Sun. Imagine a game sibling of SEGA’s Yakuza series that was simultaneously more focused and even more batshit crazy and you’ll be somewhere close to No More Heroes.

A port of 2008 Wii title No More Heroes, Heroes’ Paradise is a rejuvenated, definitive version of the game with a lovely HD lick of paint, extra content and optional Move compatibility. The game charts the adventures of Travis Touchdown, an American otaku with the fashion sense of Tyler Durden and the misogynistic bluster of Duke Nukem. After buying himself a “beam katana” (the game’s less litigious name for a lightsaber) he snags a job as an assassin and sets about climbing the ranks of the United Assassins Association leaderboard, taking out his rivals until he’s number one and maybe earning a tumble in the sack with his smokin’ hot UAA agent when he does. As Travis, you’ll cruise around Santa Destroy on your super-powered motorcycle, collecting hidden items while doing side jobs and assassination missions until you earn enough cash to pay the administration fee required to take on each of the ten bosses and their countless minions.
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The delightfully silly and intentionally mundane side jobs present you with menial task mini-games to work your way through, from mowing lawns and picking up litter to collecting coconuts at the beach. The part-time employment missions are made that much more fun by the hilarious on-the-job supervisor, to whom the everyday task of picking up litter is a matter of samurai-like honour, not to mention his views on coconuts – “Coconuts are worth more than human life!” There’s plenty of laughs to be found in the world of Santa Destroy and the people you meet (who all talk in broken English, which only adds to the weird charm), like your suggestive trainer, who’s awfully insistent that you need to be naked to learn the moves he has to teach. But as fun as the side tasks and other little distractions are, Travis – like us real world folk – is merely working less exciting jobs to bank money to do what he loves. For him that just happens to be slicing people up with a lightsaber to prove his mettle.

It’s here where things really kick into high gear. Once you’ve banked enough cash from side stuff, you’re free to go tackle the next assassin on the leaderboard, ushering you into the game’s main story levels. Here things shift from free-roaming distractions to all-out blood-splattered brawler as you slide, dice and suplex your way through countless foes until you come up against the bosses, who provide the glorious high points of No More Heroes. Like a cross between the boss line-up from Metal Gear Solid and Kill Bill’s Deadly Viper Assassin Squad, the assassins are each stylishly distinct in design and moves and are all wonderfully unique, utterly awesome and only get more fun with each new introduction. They’re all memorable scene-stealers, from the karaoake-singing Charles Bronson lookalike gunslinger Dr. Peace to Destroyman – a superhero cosplayer with a penchant for cowardly tactics – and Holly Summers, a gorgeous model/soldier with a prosthetic leg who’s a dab hand with explosives.
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The combat itself is just as fantastic as the rogue’s gallery you’re tasked with beating. With beam katana in hand, combat is a simple, intuitive and deceptively deep system of tiered attacks, dodging parries and QTE attacks. There’s the standard array of high and low attacks, charged blows and strafing rolls for you to flank your opponent and slice them up, while the beam katana provides a handy means to block bullets, too. Beat them to nothing and you can perform a gloriously brutal finish – lopped off heads and bisected bodies are the order of the day. Stun an enemy and you can grab them, cueing a QTE wrestling move, which is where the motion controls come to play as you’ll need to move the remote in a corresponding throw motion.

The motion controls perform perfectly whether you’re nailing one of the wrestling moves or thrusting your arms to perform semaphore signals for a mini-game, but if you don’t have the PlayStation Move peripherals, the game controls beautifully with the standard controller too. The directional Move prompts are mapped to the thumb sticks instead, and the SixAxis allows you to still be able to shake the controller to charge your lightsaber as its battery drains away with each blow. By and large, it’s a fighting game, so it’s perfect that combat is smooth, stylish, wonderfully entertaining and intensely challenging, too – those boss fights are lengthy, tough as nails and all the more rewarding for it.
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Added in for Heroes’ Paradise is the full uncut version of the game, meaning that you can enjoy all the insanely bloody mayhem as it was intended. There’s also several added boss fights lifted from the Wii sequel Desperate Struggle. They come in the form of ‘nightmares’, which usually pop up directly after boss fights and are playable by selecting Travis’ chair while in his motel room (where you can also play with his cat Jeane, switch clothes, use the toilet to save, admire his trading card collection or watch a VHS tape), causing him to drift off to sleep and allowing you to fight extra bosses or view past cut scenes again. There’s an added “Very Sweet” mode – a New Game + option that has sees the female characters all scantily clad, while you can stack up to three Dark Side special attacks now (devastatingly stylish power-ups that you earn from slot machine-style counters that roll with each enemy you kill).

The beautiful high definition upgrade will likely be the biggest difference you notice if you’ve played the original, and it’s reason enough to upgrade in itself; the PS3 re-do looks fantastic. Textures are crisp and infinitely sharper than in the comparatively muddy-looking Wii incarnation, character models look more attractive and little visual flourishes – like the slight glimmer of faux TV interference that flickers across the screen when enemies land a punch – are wonderful. The HD upgrade is an especially welcome treat because visual style and sound design is such a core component to the innate charm of No More Heroes. Mission markers are made from giant pixel blocks, button prompts appear in 8-bit speech bubbles, the post-boss fight leaderboard is delivered in the style of an arcade high score screen and chiptune fanfare plays when unlocking bonuses. And it’s not just visual nods to other games, either – No More Heroes is as steeped in pop culture homage as stack of Tarantino movies, with fun references to everything from Star Wars to Back to the Future.
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Sadly the game falls short when you’re dropped into the open world between fights. While No More Heroes has received a loving coat of visual polish and some fun extra boss fights, sadly unchanged is the navigation of Santa Destroy, which remains disappointing clunky. It’s hard not to point to the general lack of interactivity and variety around the GTA-style map as a problem, since there’s only a scant few places of interest on the wide stretch of land and no NPC interaction. Still, even then, there’s just enough to keep you busy, with a couple of shops where you buy weapons or rent VHS tapes to learn new moves, side jobs to work and extra shirts and cash to find in dumpsters (fate clearly shines favourably on the homeless people of Santa Destroy).

The sparsity of the map isn’t as big a problem, though, as actually navigating it. Hopping on Travis’ chopper – a mechanical hybrid of Luke Skywalker’s landspeeder and a souped-up Big Wheel – the handling is appropriately OTT and arcadey as you speed through the streets and take corners at razor-sharp right angles. Unfortunately, getting from Point A to Point B can prove surprisingly troublesome. You can gleefully plough through street signs and trees, but traffic collisions happen at the slightest touch. The lightest nudge upward on the left stick awkwardly lurches the bike into a gravity-defying super-jump, which serves no purpose – even when you freely clear an obstacle’s height, you’ll slam into invisible barriers. Worse yet, it’s disconcertingly easy for the bike to get trapped in the environment, leaving you forced to hop off, wander a few blocks and call to have your ride redelivered.
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The clunky navigation is unfortunate, but thankfully it’s worth it once you get where you’re going, and the game at large is an utter joy to behold. On the Wii, No More Heroes felt like a wonderful anomaly. While the limited selection of titles aimed at core gamers on Nintendo’s family-friendly console seemed to opt for immature violence and nothing more (MadWorld, anyone?), No More Heroes felt like it was a game teeming with charm and ideas and tailor-made for true geeks who’d appreciate a loving nod to The Warriors in their ridiculously fun blood-splattered beat-’em-up games. The same still hold’s true on the PS3, and even up against a more plentiful array of core game competition, No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise is a beautifully demented cult classic standout.

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No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise is available to buy on PS3 in the UK now.
Click here to order the game from Amazon.co.uk