Wednesday, March 05, 2008

idolizing yr kills with Suda 51

Ey!  Occupado!

Two of the most interesting writers on these 'nets are Leigh Alexander and Alex Kierkegaard.

Alexander says this:

a glorious exercise in simultaneous reverence and irreverence

Kierkegaard says this:

This game fucking sssssssucks and I fucking hated almost every moment I spent playing it.


Is this the garden of madness?

Predictably, they're both talking about the same game: No More Heroes. As far as reviews go, Kierkegaard wins on points, mainly for the above sentence, perhaps the greatest opening sentence in the history of reviewing. On the other hand, Alexander is right: No More Heroes is an absolutely fabulous game. I just finished it, and turned right around and started a new campaign on Bitter (=hard).(1)

I like long walks on the beach...

Reviews abound for this piece, and I don't care to rehash them. I just want to heap a little praise on the best game I've played in 2008, and point out two things nobody seems to have mentioned much.

Got something for you!

The first is that while this is a savagely violent game, with blood fountains that'd make Samurai Assassin's creators blush, a lot of the boss battles feature genuine emotional content. Yr protagonist, Travis Touchdown, is a complete prick about most of these moments, which actually only adds to the feel. --I'm at great pains to avoid the dreaded SPOILER here, but I will say that the final cutscene of Holly Summers touched me more than any videogame moment in my career.(2) And there's a lot of laughs, as well: the game intro is presented like a movie, a Tarantino movie, actually, and there's a couple lines in it that brought forth my trademark gleeful cackle. Quite a few lines and gags brought this forth, all the way to the end of the game.

The second is that the game is simply drenched in women. The plot is driven by Touchdown's (desire for a sexual) relationship with the delightfully batty Sylvia Christel. A couple of the best bosses are women, and the best cutscenes, pre-and-post-fight, involve these characters.(3) You buy your weapons from a contemptous Doctor Naomi, and if it's not clear already, this little game is going to inspire some seriously pervy cosplay.

She can build (for) you.

I suspect strongly that these two game elements are related.

A couple other notes. There's a set of cat-interactions--not quite minigames--that I think are an explicit nod to Shenmue. Then there's a couple minor features that are absolute trademarks of Grasshopper Manufacture (Suda 51 & Akira Ueda, afaik), a couple features I am a HUGE SUCKER for. One is a whole lot of visual character customization.(4) Nearly 100 shirts, a dozen jackets and pairs of jeans, a bunch of belts, a couple pairs of sunglasses. I spent around 27 hours on the game, and a surprising portion of that was playing dress-up with Travis. Another killer feature is on display with the customization: huge inventories of items, many with flat-out-funny item descriptions. It's these little touches that make Grasshopper originals must-buys for this kid.

Anyways, this game was thoroughly fun to play, and masterful at doling out rewards. I dunno if I'll play a better new game this year. If I don't, I won't be sad in the slightest.

Play a sappy song.  Please.

-Fat(5)

1.
Well, admittedly I did start it up on continue mode, so that I have all the unlocked stuff. So it's still pretty easy.

2.
The emotional content is accessible because of a beautiful localization job--the script (translations) and the voice acting are both outstanding. The game is admittedly unpolished in some other areas, as every review proclaims, but the work in these areas is without fault.

3.
No offense, Destroyman, but you just don't rate next to Shinobu, Bad Girl, or the SPOILER. Rest In Peace, Holly.

4.
Confidential to Suda 51: accessorizing is important. Changing belts and sunglasses is crucial, and I'm glad you built this in. (Jackets, shirts, jeans, anybody can do this--it's yr attention to accessories that makes us know you love us.) But man...it's gotta be the shoes. I want to change Travis' shoes! Next game, you best make this happen.

5.
Okay, okay. The Eurogamer review is excellent. And it occurs to me that I was led to Alexander's work by the most interesting writer on Kotaku these days: Maggie Greene. Worth noting.

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