- PS3 Review
The story behind Heroes' Paradise is quite simple. One night Travis was out drinking when he met a 'smoking hot chick' Sylvia, who works for the United Assassins Association (UAA) and informed him that he was the eleventh-ranked assassin in the world. Never one to shy away from a challenge Travis, with the help of the UAA, sets about becoming the number one assassin in the world by systematically defeating the ten assassins ranked ahead of him. Armed with nothing more than his beam katana (which is extremely similar to the lightsabers seen in Star Wars) and an off-beat sense of humour, it's Travis versus the world.
Your first mission, undertaken as soon as the game starts, is to defeat the tenth-ranked assassin. Before you can fight number ten you have to work your way through their compound, taking out a bunch of henchmen along the way. A tutorial gives you a rundown of all the moves at Travis' disposal. There are high and low katana attacks as well as high and low melee attacks which will stun a blocking enemy. Stunned enemies can be grabbed, allowing Travis to unleash one of his favourite wrestling moves (he has a bunch in his repertoire), crunching them into the ground. Grounded enemies need to be polished off and Travis has plenty of gory ground attacks to do just that.
You can block by holding L2, and dodge enemy attacks by flicking the right-analog or Move controller left, right or backwards. Travis is untouchable when dodging making this an effective way to outmaneuver your enemies. Every time you block or launch an attack your beam katana loses power. It can be recharged by hitting R1 and shaking the dual-shock or Move controller up and down. You can also find batteries to recharge the katana around the level, as well as health pickups and wrestling collector cards (collect the whole set!).
As mentioned before, every time you fight one of the assassins ranked above you, you have to fight through their henchmen first. These sections are surprisingly linear and basically have you following a corridor all the way to the boss fight. While this is limiting, it's an understandable design decision, allowing you to focus on killing rather than other extraneous activities (of which there are plenty in the game, as discussed further on).
Killing bosses and henchmen can be a lot of fun, but that's not all there is to the game. For some reason it costs Travis an increasing amount of money to organize fights with the top-10 assassins, so you're going to have to earn money in between fights. You earn money in a variety of ways, the first of which is to perform a job around your hometown of Santa Destroy. These jobs are, almost without exception, mundane tasks such as cleaning graffiti, picking up rubbish (or cats, or scorpions, or coconuts) and mowing lawns. If you perform the job at a high enough level you'll earn a medal, which in turn unlocks new assassin and free fight missions.
The assassination missions come with a variety of different success criteria, such as taking out a specific enemy target as fast as possible, killing everyone before the timer runs out or killing everyone with wrestling moves only. The free fight missions are much the same, asking you to defeat every enemy without taking any damage. The financial reward for these missions is much greater than you'll get from any job, and they're a lot more fun too.
If you're looking to spend some of your hard-earned money there are a few shops for you to do just that. The most important store is the one that supplies parts and upgrades to your beam katana. These upgrades improve your katana faster than the difficulty of your opponent's increases, making the game slightly easier as you progress. There's a clothes store if you're fashion conscious, and there is no shortage of gear to buy (there are ninety-nine t-shirts among other items), a video store sells wrestling videos that unlock another wrestling move when Travis watches them, and a gym that improves your strength and vitality via a couple of button-bashing mini-games.
No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise is a lot of fun in patches, but it's broken up with some largely tedious moments too. Almost all of the jobs are boring picking up rubbish in a game is no more fun, and clearly less rewarding, than doing it in real life. The bike doesn't handle especially well, and is prone to getting stuck on the curb or on a pole. When this happens you can run away from your bike and call one of your mates to bring the bike to your current position, but it's still annoying. You can't replay any missions (except for the free-fights) without first driving back to the job or assassination center, which feels like a waste of your time considering some missions are shorter than the drive to and fro.
I'm also remarkably impatient, so having to wait for Travis to pull down his pants and sit on the loo before being able to save, the few seconds of posturing before re-starting free fight missions, and the mini-cutscene you have to watch when you ask a mate to bring your bike to you were all annoying. The game makes a reference to gamers being impatient in an early cutscene, yet it pads out its length by wasting your time. It's a strange juxtaposition and one I couldn't reconcile myself to as I played.
The music is OK, with lots of guitar, electronic tunes and the odd dash of classical thrown into the mix. The sound effects are all fitting, but nothing here will knock your socks off. There are a few retro tunes, notably when Travis moves up the ranking list and a few retro sound effects too, like when Travis recharges his katana. The retro music works better then the retro sound effects, but overall they add a bit of charm to the game. The voice acting is decent enough; Travis is enthusiastic, Sylvia has a sweet accent and the majority of the assassins are well-done. Messages on your answering machine can be hard to decipher without subtitles though.
At its best No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise is an entertaining and funny third-person hack and slash game. Travis is cool in an anime kind of way (i.e. he's a bit hopeless, especially with the ladies, but he's also a bad-ass assassin, with a light saber no less) and the other main characters are all different and interesting. Unfortunately a lot of the time you spend with the game is earning money via uninteresting jobs and driving an erratic bike through a rather mundane town. If you have the patience to work through these sections, then you'll be rewarded with some entertaining, occasionally funny and always gory action sequences. The Move works well here too, so if you're looking for a Move-based game this could be the one for you. Overall though, it's hard to recommend No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise, because too much of the game is a grind. There are some fine ideas here, so let's hope a sequel builds on those while removing some of the less fun elements.
Review By: Mike Allison