Virtual grasscutting? What am I, The Lawnmower Man?!

No More Heroes (2008)

I just want to put it on the record that I absolutely despise cutting the grass. I think I could like it, if I had one of those sit-down lawnmowers that I could just swing out of, almost rallying it through my heavily undulating garden. Perhaps I could even rig up some rope pulley system, attach it to the steering wheel, fall asleep and have it mow the lawn in a nice, automated circular pattern. It beats having to push your pathetic little banger-mower against the Amazon rainforest anyway.

Me and a couple of pals once formed a partnership and went around for, oh, probably about two weeks, cutting people’s grass for money. We didn’t get many customers, and consequently we didn’t get many shekels either, and that was before we divvied the proceeds up. I reckon we all secretly hated doing it as well.

This is why I’m going to outsource the lawnmowing job the first chance I get. One day, there’ll be that blessed knock on the door, and a couple of rough looking young fellas will be there to greet me with a pilfered lawnmower. I’ll probably sink to my knees in gratitude when they do. “Oh yes, thank you thank you thank you, lo! What a blessed day!” It doesn’t even matter how much of a lousy job they might do, so long as the neighbours don’t twitch their curtains and stare. That’s why I won’t get out there and do it myself, you see, because I’ll look a pilchard. From the front, you’ll see my sweaty mush. From the back, you’ll catch a glimpse of my grassy bum.

Cutting other people’s grass was about as lucrative as it got for money-chasing young kids like us, even if our landscaping empire never took off. Cleaning windows was something we advertised as well, although we never got any punters for that either. That’s probably because we didn’t have a ladder, nor did we look particularly clean ourselves, let alone trustworthy. I don’t think our water was even all that soapy. So that was out.

We tried selling berries from trees that we harvested into a big bucket (the one that never saw any window-cleaning action) and of course we didn’t get a sniff there either. Nasty looking things some of them were, and a fair few of the ones we were trying to pawn off were probably poisonous now that I think about it.

They wouldn’t give jobs to us 11-year-olds, and I think giving paper rounds to children had been banned by the European Court of Human Rights (so much for sovereignty), so what is a young boy supposed to do for money? Pester his parents of course, but that didn’t bear much fruit (or rancid berries) for me either. The only option left for a greenhorn with no green like me was to just sit idly at home and wait to become rich. Well, I’ve been trying that tack for 20 years now and still no success. But good things come to dossers who wait, right?

The labour revolution. Will it ever come? I can tell you we were all waiting for a Hardcore Revolution to happen on the Wii, as we bore on into the year 2007. Nothing to do with porn for once (and that’s definitely not an avenue we children could have gone down), I’m talking about this hardcore vs casual debate that seemed to dominate the discussion when the Nintendo Wii was flying high.

Actually, the mocking jeers of “kiddy games” had dogged NIntendo for years, even right back to the 16-bit days. But now it was becoming really blatant – I loved them, don’t get me wrong, but games like Wii Sports, Wii Play and WarioWare Smooth Moves really told the story of what direction the Wii was set to go down. Yes, there was Zelda Twilight Princess, though people were quick to brand that as a GameCube game to suit their argument. And there was no point in mentioning some other supposedly hardcore early games on the system either, like the painfully average Red Steel, and the laggiest rendition of Call of Duty 3 you’ll ever see. They cut no ice at all with detractors (if only we had the tractor for our gardening escapades) – the Wii needed something hardcore, and fast.

There was a lot of blind hope therefore pinned onto the then upcoming No More Heroes, a new Wii exclusive game from Goichi Suda, or if I can delight you with a Japanese pun to tell your friends, Suda 51. Suda is the type of man whose picture you’d probably see next to “madman” in any good dictionary, but I can dig that – I’m all about game designers ripping up the rulebook, flouting conventions and spewing out whatever nonsensical garbage comes into their minds, if they still have a mimd left that is.

I don’t Adam & Eve this though – half of No More Heroes involves doing the most mundane tasks and chores around the oddly titled Santa Destroy city, in order to make money. Cutting grass, collecting rubbish, you name it. God, and I thought I’d left that life of peasantry behind in favour of sitting on my buns until the lotto numbers come on. Your otaku nerd loser protagonist, who you might grow up to be like one day, is named Travis Touchdown. Great name that, must look great on the motel guestlist. Anyway, for certain reasons, he needs to do these shit-shifting jobs to stump up entry fees to fight his way up the league of assassins.

That’s the whole cycle of the game: earn some cash through clearing someone’s gutters, then chase down the next ranked killer on your list and slice them up with your not-quite-lightsaber. If you’re thinking that it sounds a bit like Kill Bill, and might play like The Bride’s rip roaring rendering of revenge… it doesn’t. Perhaps that’s because Travis Touchdown, as the name might suggest, seems to be a sendup of an all American weeb, right down to the podunk city he lives in. Between assassin duels, you can ride your chopper around the city, and enjoy hassling the locals, dodging traffic, collecting stuff and hitting up the shops. If you think that sounds a bit like Grand Theft Auto, and it might play like the Wii’s own version of the incredibly popular open-worlder… it doesn’t either.

But God, how we all hoped that’s what the game would be. No More Heroes wasn’t the hardcore saviour of the Wii’s reputation, then, and perhaps some of this is down to how its swordfighting segments made use of the dreaded waggle, although this did cross over into a genuinely funny parody when you had to recharge your lightsaber batteries periodically through what essentially amounts to Wiimore masturbation.

You’ll meet some cool characters, there’s good music, the graphics were nice and stylish for the time – and I particularly loved the feature where Travis would receive a phone call (typically from the sexy French maid Sylvia, who only adds to the otaku fantasy) and you could listen to the conversation in its entirety by putting the Wii Remote to your ear and playing it through its fairly tinny speaker.

That was a beautiful piece of innovation, a lot more likely to put a smile on your face than virtual grass cutting. You’ll get a bit of playtime out of No More Heroes, I can’t deny that. It wasn’t any kind of hardcore Wii pornography, nor was it very deserving of several sequels, but it’s decent fun for what it was. I wouldn’t spend too much on it though, especially if, like me, you find money particularly hard to come by without breaking your back.

14 December 2021

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