Travis is the anti-hero hero of No More Heroes, and he's out to kill better killers than himself. As part of the United Assassins Association, Travis is engaged in a game of one-upsmanship that requires him to assassinate the assassins ranked above him or risk being taken out himself by someone more assiduous. At least that's what Sylvia Christel says -- she's the blonde vixen who serves as Travis' liaison to the U. Ass. Ass.
Slay or be slain is a standard plot in videogames, whether it's Mario's confrontations with placidly marching Goombas, or the gangland warfare of Saints Row where dallying in an enemy 'hood invites a sidewalk assault. But in No More Heroes, no matter how much Travis loiters around the city of Santa Destroy, no hitmen show up aspiring to take his place in the ranking.
Santa Destroy attempts to parody the real world with an overexposed appearance that burns the brights into white and the shadows into a single shade of black. It's the type of town where sweeping for landmines and filling gas tanks earns Travis the same amount of cash. Because when he's not slaughtering fellow assassins and their staffs of identical henchmen, he needs to earn a living, which starts with dumpster diving and progresses to mowing lawns and collecting garbage -- the sort of mindless asides that fill mediocre videogames.
I don't need to hijack cars and kill citizens, but if I'm going to pass through a flat and featureless city for much of the game, I want to do something more than search for hidden "balls" and new clothes for Travis to wear. As if to compensate for the bland aesthetic, Travis' murders are gory affairs, with blood and coins spewing from the severed necks of his opponents as they somehow emit the same dying screams. ("My spleen!") Through the resulting morass of red and gold, I'm supposed to discern Travis' foes, and guide his katana to their throats by pressing buttons and swinging the Wii Remote. Alas, the mess onscreen undermines the combat, leaving me mashing buttons blindly and waving randomly in the air.
THE GOOD: This week I'm playing the newest game by Hironobu Sakaguchi, who changed the world by inventing Final Fantasy. Later this year I look forward to playing The Tower DS by Yoot Saito, whose oddball games (Seaman, Odama) always give me something to ponder from the interactive world. Even Suda 51, No More Heroes' punk creator, deserves attention for the anti-videogame videogames he tries to design (Killer 7, Contact). All original experiments are noble at the dawn of a new artform.
THE BAD: No More Heroes got some serious whacks with the ugly stick.
THE BOTTOM LINE: No More Heroes, please, no more.