No More Heroes was the perfect use of Nintendo Wii technology
The massive success of the Wii saw many third-party developers rush to release games for the system as fast as they could. Most of these titles were collections of fairly simple mini-games that made minimal use of the Wii’s unique features, but very few managed to follow this formula successfully. One of the most successful third-party developers for Wii was Goichi Suda (better known as Suda51), who quit his job working on the Fire Pro Wrestling series to open the studio, Grasshopper Manufacture.
Grasshopper Manufacture was a small Japan-based studio best known at the time for Michigan: Report from Hell, a low-budget PS2 title that sold poorly, and Killer7, a Nintendo-backed GameCube title that sold well. Reviewed but failed to meet expectations. No More Heroes was released for the Wii in 2007 and quickly became Suda’s biggest hit as a director, and the game that put his studio on the map.
What made No More Heroes such a cult hit in an endless sea of forgettable Wii titles? For starters, his single combat. Most people who first saw the Wii’s controller and motion control mechanisms immediately thought of a lightsaber. While the Wii never really saw a notable Star Wars game that used the lightsaber, No More Heroes probably came close. Second, how charming the characters Suda created were. Main character Travis Touchdown is such a quirky, endearing guy; whether it was his love of anime ‘moe’ or his obsession with pro wrestling, he immediately made an impact on gamers.
The game centers on Travis trying to climb the ranks of the United Assassin’s Association in order to reach the #1 ranking and earn a date with Sylvia, the woman who serves as his guide in the UAA rankings. The game itself has several designed linear stages that lead to boss battles with the top 10 UAA members. Between these segments, Travis must acquire a certain amount of money in order to challenge the next opponent. This can be done either by completing special challenges like killing a priority target within a certain amount of time, or by taking on odd jobs like mowing lawns and collecting coconuts. This balance between mundane and serious sections was emblematic of what made No More Heroes so beloved.
By swinging the Wii Remote in different ways, you can attack an opponent low or high, while mixing up the strength of your swing could open up opponents depending on their positioning. The katana has a battery that depletes with use and can be recharged either by taking a battery or manually charging it by quickly moving the Wii Remote in a suggestive motion.
One of the most memorable things about No More Heroes is its use of Wii mechanics. The waggle mechanic involved in reloading the beam katana is just one example. The tilt function of the Wii Remote is largely related to mini-games. The Wii speaker is also used for in-game phone conversations between Travis and Sylvia.
No More Heroes 1 and 2 have been ported to the PS3. Although these ports greatly improved the game’s performance, much of the charm of using the Wii’s perks was lost. The satisfying final swing before finishing off an opponent wasn’t the same when tied to a simple thumb thrust and not a glorious fat swipe with your Wii Remote. The PS3 added PlayStation Move support later, in fairness.
After the release of No More Heroes 2 in 2010, it took many years before another game in the series appeared. After Travis Strikes Again, a collection of mini-games for Switch released in 2019, Nintendo has signed off on a third game in the series which will be released in 2021, with ports to other systems coming later this year.
No More Heroes is the story of a game that exceeded all expectations and became cult. Goichi Suda’s subsequent work shows that there is still room in the video game industry for innovation, and that doing things a little differently can still result in successful IP.