Our review of the No More Heroes and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle Nintendo Switch ports is still in progress, but after a weekend spent with the games, it's safe to say they're each a masterful reiteration of the 2008 and 2010 cult masterpieces. And despite a few key sacrifices necessary in adaptation, they're a great sign of bigger and potentially better things to come with the 2021 sequel, No More Heroes III.
The two remasters retain buttery-smooth controls on the Switch console, and we know enough about No More Heroes III to know it will retain its predecessors' original control scheme. Which only means fans and newbies are in for a treat when No More Heroes III launches next year.
Last week, Nintendo announced what a handful of Nintendo fans have yearned for years: A port of No More Heroes (2008) and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (2010). Directed by Goichi Suda, also known by his moniker "Suda51," the games tell the story of slacker assassin Travis Touchdown, who wields a lightsaber ("beam katana," to avoid Disney's lawyers). He's tasked with killing the world's top 10 killers to become recognized as number one.
There's plenty to love about the games even now, more than a decade after their release on the Wii. We'll get into the creative merits another time. For now, newcomers or young ones who missed out the first time should know for context that director Suda51 is arguably the closest figure in gaming to an artist like Quentin Tarantino. Like Tarantino, Suda51 is a brash auteur whose fetish for pulp, pop culture, and vulgarity often mask genuine technical proficiency.
It's that proficiency that shines even when the jokes of No More Heroes have faded. (Be on the lookout for a jab at Duke Nukem Forever, or plentiful Star Wars references that came from a place before The Force Awakens.)
Just like on the Wii, the game is best played with a Joy-Con strapped to each hand. Veterans will find dormant muscle memories activated as you instinctively slash with the A button, dodge with the left stick, and use empty-hand melee attacks using ZR (formerly the "B" button on the Wii remote). When prompted, you pull off pro wrestling moves like piledrivers and powerbombs by swinging the Joy-Cons in specific directions.
While it's possible to play the game using the Pro Controller or in handheld (the game's few motion control prompts are relegated to joysticks), No More Heroes really wants you to feel like you actually have a beam katana in your grip. Truly, nothing beats pressing the "A" button to ignite the sword at the top of each mission. It still feels friggin' great.
If you've played No More Heroes before, you know the deal, and you'll be glad to know the game exists in tip-top shape on the Switch.
If you haven't experienced these games before, you'll probably still find the controls intuitive. And we all hope the ports preview the fun in store when No More Heroes III arrives next year. It works so well that I can't help but wonder why No More Heroes hasn't been ported to the Switch sooner. (We're not mentioning Travis Strikes Again on purpose.)
There's still more to talk about when it comes to No More Heroes in 2020 we'll save for our review. Just recognize that the mechanics have been adapted to the Switch flawlessly, while other crucial elements have been diluted.
You can't shake off a feeling of compromise with the universe for finally delivering a dream port on a dream console.
At its core, No More Heroes is a game whose identity was once intrinsically tied to the Wii. An M-rated game that resented and relished being on the console is some important context that's lost on the Switch.
While Animal Crossing is the Nintendo game of 2020, there are far more M-rated games available on the Switch than the Wii ever had. No More Heroes stood out in the early aughts as one of the few "mature" games on the Wii. That made it an even rarer breed — and it made it legitimately great and fun. (Sincerely, when's the last time anyone talked about Red Steel?)
No More Heroes gleefully thumbed its nose at the Wii's family-friendly image all while being tighter and better than most Wii games.
Whenever the game needed you to "jerk" the Wii remote to "recharge" your katana's energy (with a victory bleep at "climax"), you picked up what Suda51 was putting down. On the Switch, it just comes off like the cheap joke it maybe was all along.
Another loss: Sylvia's calls. The Wii remote had an audio speaker only a few games took advantage. No More Heroes had the sultry Sylvia Christel, the French femme fatale who assigns Travis his missions, call you as you approached every boss fight with hilarious (and dark) de-motivational speeches. On the Wii, the remote acted as Travis' "cell phone" with Sylvia's voiced pipe through the controller's speakers. The Joy-Cons lacks similar functionality, which dilutes Sylvia's speeches into an unskippable cut scene. Again, the game's fundamental identity as a Wii game is just a little compromised on the Switch.
We'll have more on No More Heroes and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle soon. Meantime, there's just something electric about No More Heroes and its anti-hero protagonist Travis Touchdown (who deserves to be in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, gosh darn it) being back in their purest form. It speaks volumes about how No More Heroes III will play on the Switch, although one can't help but fear what else will be lost along the way.
No More Heroes and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle are available now on the Nintendo Switch.