February 7, 2008

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No More Heroes (Wii)
Grasshopper Manufacture Studios, Jan. 22
By Glenn "teh animes" Given production@hippopress.com

Do you wear fingerless gloves and a Naruto-style headband because you define cool based on the latest late-night Adult Swim cartoons? Yes? Swell, No More Heroes is for you. For me, not so much.

I partake of my fair share of ďteh animes.Ē Iíve shamelessly bought OVA collections and will opine about Ghost in the Shell but sometimes I am awkwardly reminded why Iím grateful that the culture that fetishizes videogames and cartoons to religious extremes was placed on the other side of the planet from me.

SUDA51, director and, Iím sure, self-stylized visionary of the quirky cult Killer 7 for the GC and PS2, has released No More Heroes with an eye-cocking swagger whose coolness is inversely proportional to your distance from Tokyo. Travis Touchdown, your avatar, is the 11th most deadly assassin on the block and you must ďbeam katanaĒ your way up the hitman ranks. Or you could rent some videos in-game or take on a part-time job. Whatever. The ridonkulous manga-violence of Travisí bloody encounters during his stupidly linear slash-and-slash gauntlets might be some kind of counterpoint to the sedate laze-a-day amble of No More Heroes free roaming between missions. Of course it could just be bad game design.

Donít get me wrong; the fighting system is fun. Tipping the Wii-mote will alter your stance and allows you to chain high and low attacks, guard breaks and throws stylishly. Successful combos will prompt on-screen notices of deathblow swings triggered by directional remote waggle. Killing opponents spins a slot machine wheel that can unleash a variety of super modes all with names too embarassingly daft to report. Sadly, the slog through minions to reach your next challenge can grow tedious and the panache of the boss encounters only moderately offsets the preceding ho-humery.

I canít get behind No More Heroes. Itís a new-gen Final Fight nested in a poorly executed GTA city. And stylistically, SUDA51 never seems to either embrace the anime espirit, deconstruct its garish silliness or successfully balance those two urges. Still, a game that even piques such a debate about aesthetics is worth noting. C ó Glenn Given