Sunday, July 28, 2013

Analysis: No More Heroes

This post is dedicated to everyone who responded negatively to this video.


What is the artistic statement of No More Heroes?

What is the authorial intent? What is it hoped that the player will take away? What is it attempting to comment on?

Before I hypothesize about that, let's set up three major things set forth by the game.

A) Travis Is A Poor, Friendless, Sexless Otaku Loser
B) The UAA Is A Scam That Travis Fell For (Because He Is An Otaku Loser)
C) Travis Represents "You, The Player" In Some Way Because He Is A Loser Otaku

Those are pretty inarguable parts of the game's narrative, which is to say, it is clear that those are things that the game wants us to believe based on the things that characters tell us. These are the things from which the game draws its "art" value because other than that it's just a bunch of murder and sex jokes.

Now let's start asking questions.

look at this ugly neckbeard sack of shit
Question 1: Why Doesn't Travis Have Any Other Friends?
It is established early on that Travis is a loner with only one real friend in the entire world - Bishop, the owner of a nearby video store. This is important to characterize Travis as a loser, and it's important because in the second game Bishop is murdered, which spurs Travis' revenge plot.

But why is Bishop the only friend Travis has? Surely in a town as large as Santa Destroy there must be some anime clubs or fight clubs or motorcycle enthusiast clubs. Travis has a wide range of hobbies. What is stopping him from hanging out with people who share those hobbies? He's not terribly ugly or even particularly shy, so it's not like his social awkwardness is an issue. He has no problem talking to people in any other context. Nothing about him suggests that he's even an introvert. The only thing preventing him from having other friends is that he's unable to talk to other people within the game, unless they are selling something or training him. It's almost like it's a forced contrivance to attempt to artificially reinforce Travis' status as a loser otaku.

Question 2: Why Can't Travis Get A Girlfriend, Or At Least Get Laid?
Travis' journey to the top of the rankings is spurred onwards by Sylvia's promise to have sex with him when he's #1. But, like Bishop, I am forced to ask: are there not any other people that Travis could have sex with? I understand that he finds Sylvia attractive, but the setup is that Travis is a terrible otaku virgin and that's why he's so desperate to have sex with Sylvia.

Again, the only constraints visible on Travis' socialization is the invisible, un-addressed barrier known as "the game won't let you". Why can't Travis hit the club and find some willing ladies? He's got style. He's good-looking. He's confident. He has about as much chance of having sex as any other man - probably more, when you get down to it. Sure, the anime covering his motel room might creep most women out, but it's not like there's not other places they could go, and it's not like it's established that he's tried and failed. He's just an unexplained virgin and this is a source of great shame for him.

Question 3: If Travis Is So Poor, Why Does He Have A Lasersword And A Rad-Ass Bike?
It's set up that Travis bought a sword on an online auction and has his giant bike because [mumbles, trailing off]. But it's ALSO set up that Travis is laughably poor, since he lives in a motel instead of a big fancy house and his internal dialogue during the Rank 10 fight is all about how he wants more wealth and power out of the whole "assassin" thing. This poverty is why Travis has to take humiliating jobs in between assassinations, such as coconut collection and scorpion wrangling.

The economy of Santa Destroy is unfortunately inconsistent to attempt to make a cohesive statement about "wealth" or "poverty"; some shirts cost tens of thousands of dollars, but so do enhancements for legitimately lethal laser swords. There's basically no other kind of store, and Travis never has to make payments on his bike. He doesn't even seem to have to pay rent. There's no way to tell what being "poor" means, or WHY Travis has to take demeaning jobs when it also turns out that-

Question 4: If The UAA Isn't Real, Why Was Travis Being Paid To Murder People?
In one of the first game's later cutscenes, Travis talks to Sylvia's mother, who explains that the entire "ranked fight" thing was a scam. This would work if the entire game was about building up money via menial tasks so you could pay off Sylvia and she would arrange for you to fight another assassin, at no real benefit to Travis. However, that's not the case. Travis IS given jobs to murder people for money, and  as it turns out he's really good at it since the world is infested with people who are barely one-hundredth as strong as he is. This is not a hallucination or a setup since one of those assassinations is the canonical reason for the entire chain of events in No More Heroes 2. So Travis is in fact being paid to murder people, including the CEO of a major corporation, and yet he has to take menial jobs to make basically the same amount of money. Also, the organization paying him for murdering people doesn't exist, even though it is paying him and there are legitimate reasons given for the contracts assigned to him.

Question 5: If Travis Is Such An Otaku, Why Is He A Buff-As-Fuck Ubermensch?
Travis is superhuman. This is undeniable. There are a huge number of humans around Travis, and he is stronger than almost all of them by an insane margin. Travis Touchdown found a lightsaber on the internet and took some wrestling tips down at the gym and now he is stronger than every trained thug and professional goon thrown against him. Not "just as strong", not "a little bit stronger", but so strong that he can wade through them and murder them all. Why is this. Why is he so much more powerful than them. Is it because this is a video game and not an intelligent, cohesive plot. What part of this is commentary on him being an otaku.

Question 6: Who Gives A Shit About Jeane?
Jeane comes in at the end and is like, hey, Travis, you totally forgot that your parents are dead and you swore revenge against me. And Travis is like, oh, you're right, I did! And the audience smiles. Now we know why Travis is a loser: because he forgot about his revenge quest. Because he let petty desires cloud what he truly needed to do with his life. Now it all makes sense.

It doesn't actually make sense. The fact that Travis was seeking revenge for his dead parents is already a childish escapist plot, so you can't shoehorn it into a narrative as a representation of serious adult behavior that's being deviated from. Revenge isn't "the real thing Travis should have been focusing on", it's a thing that's just as ridiculous as trying to have sex with Sylvia. It's a goofy terrible goal and not a grounded or mature objective in any way. So who cares. What did Jeane showing up matter, artistically. It's just a plot twist, it doesn't actually influence Travis' character at all.

Question 7: Is It Because He Jacks Off To Anime Porn
I think that's why Travis is supposed to be a loser otaku. I think that's the reason. I think the fact that he's a buff, confident, handsome, stylish man with a giant bike and a lucrative job is meant to be pushed to the side and the fact that he jerks off to anime porn in a motel room is meant to convince us that Travis is a loser. Okay. Fine. I can work with this. Jerking off to anime porn is pretty bad I guess. Except that the entire fanbase for NMH also jerks off to anime porn, because only those kinds of people would buy into a game where you murder hundreds of people with a laser sword.

Conclusion: There Is Literally No Real Commentary In No More Heroes
Sorry, guys! I know you thought there was but there isn't. It's just a series of basically unrelated events with no actual cohesion, because fiction is a lie and lies don't have to be plausible. There's no artistic lesson to No More Heroes, no moral, no concepts. It's just a random bunch of shit that Suda thought was cool but he wanted to maintain some of his credibility from Killer7 and also wanted to explain why No More Heroes was so boring and unfun.

Oh, wait, no, I almost forgot.

Question 8: Punk's Not Dead
There's nothing "punk" about No More Heroes. Suda51's appropriating a culture and he doesn't even care.


  1. Taking No More Heroes seriously is aking too taking Twilight or Percy Jackson with same serious approach to reading Alice's Adventure in Wonderland or The King of Elfland's Daughter.

    Also I suspect Susanne Clarke being sexist herself because all the women in her first novel is just damsel in distress and no representation of anachronistic perfect strong female lead.

    1. If you don't think Suda51's fanbase is rabid & thinks of him as being a genius, click the link at the very top of this article and look at the number of downvotes when someone says that Suda's new game is a sexist piece of shit.

      Also was that little side-jab supposed to accomplish something because yes women are capable of being sexist and no a woman being strong is not "anachronistic" unless you think entire generations are defined purely by the societal standard and not by their own individual personalities.

  2. What exactly is the purpose of this article? Unless there's some group out there holding up NMH as high art it seems kind of pointless. None of these observations are particularly tough to come to. You haven't posted about many games I've played, so perhaps I haven't got a good sample but normally you are pretty insightful or at least non-obvious, or given me something to chew on regarding how I think about and consume media. Here, NMH is trashy and dumb? Yeah. I didn't know that was ever under contention.

    What do you mean about the fanbase part? I played NMH once through when it came out and I liked it, so perhaps I'd call myself a fan, but what part of being a fan entails "buying into it"? I'm sure plenty of people are huge fans of porn where the curiously old pizza boy gets seduced by a lusty housewife, but do people really "buy into it"?

    re the video: Yeah that sounds stupid. I guess up to the point with the glasses it might have worked as one of those dumb ideas you bring up with your friends as a little joke, that it actually got made as part of a mainstream game is pretty cringe worthy. Wouldn't be the first time someone produced one gem and a heap of crap, not that I've played killer7.

    1. If you don't think Suda51's fanbase is rabid & thinks of him as being a genius, click the link at the very top of this article and look at the number of downvotes when someone says that Suda's new game is a sexist piece of shit.

    2. Ha, hadn't even thought to look at the youtube comments. I could totally believe people going apeshit about something or someone being called sexist no matter what or who it is. That people are considering Suda a genius still sounds inexplicable to me, but I guess that's the way of things.

  3. What point are you trying to make exactly? That No More Heroes is a random, just-for-kicks entertainment game with no real artistic statement? I thought everybody knew about this already... Unless I'm more, Suda51 has never pretended anything else about NMH and the reason a sequel exists at all is only because people continuously asked of him to make one. Killer 7 is supposedly very deep (I've only played the first couple of stages myself) but really one game shouldn't be your basis of judgement for everything a developer does thereafter, much like you shouldn't judge a writer or a musician's entire repertoire by comparing it to a single piece of work of theirs. Ah, whatever. I'm probably just being an asshole again.

    1. If you don't think Suda51's fanbase is rabid & thinks of him as being a genius, click the link at the very top of this article and look at the number of downvotes when someone says that Suda's new game is a sexist piece of shit.

      Oh, and the rest of Suda's games are worse.