Snide comments about the Nintendo Wii’s technical capabilities aside, it’s generally well-known that the Wii cannot output graphics that are anywhere near approaching those of its more advanced cousins. But that isn’t it to say that Wii games must be ugly, as games like Metroid Prime: Corruption prove. The Wii desperately cries out for stylish, visually appealing games that, while not comparable to next-gen poster boys like Devil May Cry 4 and Bioshock, has a feel all its own. One such game is Marvelous’s No More Heroes.
Picking it up for the first time, I couldn’t but help but be impressed. Though a bit grainy, the graphics, particularly the character designs, are still very nice. They made me think a little of a comic book. Evidently, this game is supposed to be almost on par with Manhunt in terms of violence, but I didn’t see much if any blood. Enemies just erupted into showers of coins after they were defeated. This, as I later learned, is because the Japanese censors are pretty unforgiving when it comes to blood. Breasts yes, gore no.
Perhaps more importantly than the graphics, the controls felt very solid. In no time at all, I was frantically waggling my Wii-mote at the baddies while my Japanese assistant tried to give my instructions in Japanese-English. I ran into slight difficulties when my lightsaber ran out of power and I wasn’t sure what to do, but after a few moments I figured out how to recharge, and I was back in business. The attacks felt immensely satisfying, and the sound effects did a great job conveying the oomph associated with each strike. The special attacks, from what I could pull off, were equally satisfying to watch, but they were difficult to pull off without glancing down at the control chart every few moments. Still, I imagine that after an hour, the controls will feel like second nature.
The actual gameplay is relatively brief, but it gave a decent impression of the combat. The initial enemies are just a series of goons who will leap in to attack, but are easily dispatched by locking on and swiping them dead with the lightsaber sword. After a few rounds with the average uglies, a Matrix-like agent wearing a suit and sunglasess stirkes with his own lightsaber, even unleashing a special attack or two, but he is also easily dispatched with a few combo hits.
Finally, a blue-cape clad wearing boss attacks, and he is a bit harder than the minions. Between wave-like energy attacks, he periodically lashes out with what can be best described as high-powered laser vision. Getting out of the way isn’t too difficult, but if you’re impatient like I am, you might be in for some trouble. Nevertheless, most of the savvier players were able to dispatch him without too much trouble.
Finishing up the demo, I was struck by just how much fun No More Heroes really is. Although the demo didn’t really convey it, the product will be more sandbox-style, and it’s supposed to be heavy on social commentary. I don’t know about the latter point, but I do think this is the kind of game that the Wii desperately needs if it wants to hold onto the console lead – a stylish, mature game with controls that are fun, unique and easy to understand. With games like these, the Wii can fill the niche that Nintendo envisioned for it. I just hope that the finished product lives up to the few, enjoyable minutes that I had with it today.