Also available on: Xbox 360, Wii
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Anyone seeking an insight into the seedy underbelly of Japanese pop culture need look no further than No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise. Grasshopper Manufacture's Wii original was a melting pot of gratuitous violence, scantily clad women and downright weirdness. It was rare to see such vices shamelessly peddled on the family-friendly platform, though sections of its demographic found this cause to rejoice. The game arrives belatedly on PlayStation 3, complete with a HD makeover, optional Move support and a bunch of other bonuses. Three years may be a long wait for a port, but it's clear the developers have invested this time in producing the definitive version of the game.
Players take control of budding hitman Travis Touchdown, who must climb the ranks of the United Assassins Association leaderboard to become the world's number one contract killer. In order to claim this title, our misogynistic anti-hero must challenge and defeat the ten killers ranked ahead of him. What follows is a bizarre amalgamation of Grand Theft Auto, Kill Bill and Star Wars, with a smattering of punk flavour thrown in for good measure. It's a sandbox affair of the hack 'n' slash variety with an emphasis on over-the-top boss fights and quirky minigames. In order to earn the entry fee required to challenge an opponent, Travis must undertake odd jobs and side missions. Fortunately, even the mundane tasks are amusing enough to keep you entertained until the slicing and dicing starts.
Although watching Travis mow lawns under the watchful eye of a comedic job supervisor is not without its charm, Heroes' Paradise really comes into its own during the story missions. Once you have scraped together the administration cost, the game shifts from open-world exploration to all-out action, and it's a welcome departure. Wielding the deadly katana beam (a lightsaber in all but name), it's possible to perform an array of attacks, blocks, parries and grisly finishing moves. As with any decent hack 'n' slasher, combat has enough depth and complexity to hold your interest throughout. Story missions typically involve carving your way through a horde of foes before squaring off against a rival assassin. From gunslingers to femme fatales worthy of James Bond, the bosses are spotlight-stealing supervillains who are always a challenge, and a pleasure, to take down.
The incorporation of Move controls makes take-downs all the more sweet. Whether you're lashing out to perform a wrestling manoeuvre, or conducting a menial task during a minigame, the motion component aids immersion nicely. While it feels more than a gimmick, it's by no means essential to enjoy the experience. The Dual Shock controller's analogue sticks are more than adequate to pull of all of the katana beam forms and light accelerometer usage ensures that this input is used to its full potential. Fans of the Wii edition might lament the fact that it isn't possible to relay phone calls through the Sony interfaces (as it was with the Nintendo platform's remote), but there are more than enough other new features to compensate.
A HD facelift is one of the more noticeable advancements. The in-game city of Santa Destroy looks infinitely more striking rendered this way. Textures are richer, and the character models more convincing. What's more, the PS3 edition comes full uncensored, so the gore hounds will be pleased to see fountains of blood replace the black pixel effect of the Wii iteration. For all its visual splendor, Santa Destroy's appeal is only skin deep. It's one series of barren streets after another, with minimal opportunity for interaction with non-playable characters. Difficulties navigating the environment is a more significant drawback. Travis's oversized motorcycle is your primary means of transportation; and frustration for that matter. Acceleration is over-sensitive and collisions are both frequent and costly. At times, your vehicle will snag in scenery forcing you to revert to foot, at others you'll strike an invisible wall while performing a jump. The desolate streets and poor bike controls were both issues in the Wii original, so it's disappointing to find that the developers haven't improved these aspects in the way they have with others.
Despite some roughness around the edges, No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise for PS3 is the definitive edition of the game, and an excellent hack 'n' slasher. The HD visuals elevate it above its Wii counterpart and the Move support further enriches the experience. Fans of Japanese pop culture and ultra-violence have never had it so good.
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