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No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise
Score: 73%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:
No More Heroes is generally accepted as one of the Wii's best games and with reason. Although flawed, it is a great example of how important a unique personality is to a game. Taken at face value, it is a somewhat common action-brawler, but the amount of personality injected by its uniquely Japanese characters and setting instantly elevates it to a memorable experience.

No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise is an enhanced port of the Wii version, sporting a new HD look, as well as Move support, a few tweaks to gameplay, and some new content. Many of the original's flaws are still apparent, but newcomers should still give the game a try.

The new visuals primarily come in the form of new textures and lighting effects. Characters and locations still look largely the same, though now show off a little extra pop. You'll notice the most improvements on characters. While not exactly pushing the hardware, it still carries all of the personality that made the Wii version such a hit. These are the sorts of characters you only see in a few games. Though a bit offsetting compared to other games, it is hard not to instantly fall for the character designs.

Heroes' Paradise also earns points for its retro videogames U.I. styling. The pixel art overlays give the game an almost Scott Pilgrim-like look (right down to the eruption of coins spewing from fallen enemies). It's just cool.

Environments are a different story. Although the texture work is improved, areas are still blocky and bland. I could buy the stiff, unappealing look of the city as a statement about how dull the town is, but it doesn't work when you venture into action sequences, which are just as ordinary.

Both the music and voicework is great. Travis and his supporting cast (bad guys included) are instantly likeable. The only major downside is the overuse of some sound effects. This is expected, but enemy death banter gets incredibly old.

You play as Travis Touchdown, a motel-dwelling geek whose life is transformed when he purchases a beam katana, a lightsaber-like weapon, off an online auction site. After killing the 11th best assassin in the world (in order to impress a girl), Travis sets out to become the top assassin in the world by killing the assassins ahead of him in a super-secret assassin-ranking list.

Travis's quest takes him around the dull city of Santa Destroy as he tracks down the locations of the ten assassins ahead of him on the list. Finding the assassins is the easy part, but before the agency will give up the next target's location, he first needs to complete several "job" mini-games to earn the entry fee. The inclusion of jobs is an odd one. On one hand, they help sell the idea of just how mundane life is in Santa Destroy -- offering players first-hand experience as to why Travis would want to try the assassin thing - but they also crush any momentum built up from action sequences and the attached, and incredibly challenging, boss fights.

There are few action-heavy jobs, though even these feel a bit unnecessary and a bit like padding. Thankfully, the PS3 version allows for instant re-starts after you fail a job unlike the Wii version, where you were ejected and forced to endure a longer retry process.

The PS3 version also adds a new Score Attack Mode with leaderboards, as well as five boss fights not in the Wii version. The new extras are a great addition and even make it worth slogging through jobs and other clumsy flaws just to experience.

From the start, you have the choice of two difficulty levels: Sweet and Mild (other difficulties are unlocked after you beat the game). The differences between the two are noticeable, primarily because Sweet ends up automating blocks, which is a big deal during some boss sequences. Although it sounds like Sweet is the way to go for some players, I would recommend going with Mild. Automated blocks sound useful, but take away some of your control - or at least that's how it felt to me. It was uncomfortable and added a few hiccups to combat flow.

No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise is really the story of two difficulties: boss fights and everything else. Boss fights are the real stars of the entire game and are really hard. Most fights boil down to basic pattern recognition, though each has one unblockable move that rips out huge parts of Travis' health. There are ways to dodge and, according to the trophy list, to deflect these moves, though I wasn't able to do either at times. Expect multiple retries against bosses.

The rest of the game is actually easy. Jobs are simple and you can usually make it through most fights just by mashing buttons.

Game Mechanics:
No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise offers two control schemes: SIXAXIS and Move. Of the two schemes, I recommend the normal controller setup. Although the original version was developed with the Wii's controller in mind, the transition over to the Move - which is basically the same setup - isn't a great one. The response is inconsistent and requires a lot of flailing around. Rather than matching your swipes stroke-for-stroke, you're initiating canned attacks based on how and where you swing the controller.

Using Move also introduces a major problem with one of the game's core mechanics. Travis' beam katana has a limited charge, requiring him to shake it up-and-down (I'll let you figure out the joke) until it recharges. For whatever reason, the Move doesn't pick the motion up as well as the Wii controller (or the SIXAXIS), so the sword doesn't charge as quickly as it needs to, causing all sorts of problems during combat.

Combat is simple, yet there are a few complexities that come out during boss fights. Travis has two types of attack split into high and low variations. The trick is to match enemy attacks with its "counter" and score a hit. So, if an enemy is using a high block or high attack, you want to counter with a low attack. Simple button-mashing will get you through most battles, but when facing bosses, you'll need to keep the system in mind if you want to have any chance. The Move setup is based on the set idea, though it is a bit flakey.

There are also a few semi-QTE moments during combat. After defeating an enemy, you have to click (R3) and tap the stick in the indicated direction, kicking off a final blow. You can also grab opponents and, following on-screen indicators, pull off wrestling moves.

No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise finds itself in an awkward spot. Although it is something I think everyone should experience, it is hard to recommend it because of the number of gameplay flaws. The game has personality in spades, which makes up for a lot of smaller issues, but it isn't enough. If you have access to a Wii, you can probably pick up a copy of the original for $10, which is probably the best recommendation. If not, your best bet is to do a little more research before pulling the trigger on a purchase.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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