Like Quentin Tarantino, No More Heroes designer Suda 51 draws heavily from trash culture when concocting his gonzo game plots. His profane, violent, immensely fun Wii debut follows Travis Touchdown, an anime punk who wins a working lightsaber on eBay. Urged to violence by French ingénue Sylvia Christel, Travis embarks on a killing spree, targeting the world's top 10 assassins.
According to Suda 51, No More Heroes was inspired by Alejandro Jodorowsky's hallucinatory Western El Topo. But the game's 10-fight structure feels closer to Seijun Suzuki's Branded To Kill and Pistol Opera. Of course, the shadow of Star Wars looms large. Suda 51 beat LucasArts to the punch in realizing lightsaber battle with the Wii remote. And damn if the upstart's duels don't crackle like green plasma.
Motion controls punctuate the face-offs with lethal, combo-closing slashes. Weaned on a smorgasbord of violent pop, Travis doesn't limit himself to staid samurai swordplay. Between slashes, he unleashes lucha libre-inspired power-bombs and piledrivers, also triggered via visceral Wii-mote movement. Game nods also show up in quantity. The city of Santa Destroy is Vice City re-imagined as a SoCal border town. But instead of smothering players with an overload of sandbox options, No More Heroes keeps non-mission busywork to a minimum. Granted, Travis still gets sidelined with chump work. Odd jobs, such as lawn-mowing, kitten-catching, and graffiti removal are a mandatory, surprisingly fun, part of his climb to the top. Santa Destroy could easily be in the same Thomas Guide as Tarantino's Los Angeles, a place where the mundane and the grindhouse mingle. In Kill Bill, you only get to observe the wacko world. No More Heroes lets you live there.
Beyond the game: Suda 51's Killer 7 used a similar cell-shaded style, and was also plotted like a Takashi Miike movie. Some weren't fond of the game's experimental controls, but it's still a must-play for anybody interested in the creative fringes of video games.
Worth playing for: No More Heroes takes frequent left turns. Surprise mini-games, plot twists, and changes in style and tone are the rule.
Frustration sets in when: Some boss fights are damn tough. They aren't unfair, just demanding. Mastering each enemy feels all the more satisfying.
Final judgment: Fucking awesome.