Something that always get on my mind would be designs. To be honest most of my favorite things usually catch my attention with their character designs. This was even one of the big reasons why something like Ace Attorney always stayed in my head. Character designs to me are some of the most important designs to any visual entertainment. Sure the posters for a movie are important too, but in the end there has to be that character that just makes the franchise. The early days had it pretty easy where a single man in usual martial arts gear worked for both Street Fighter and Virtua Fighter (even though I prefer Akira’s alternate design). I will easily bring up many series and games into this discussion. To start off though it has to be No More Heroes, my all time favorite product. It even has my all time favorite character designer, Yusuke Kozaki who has worked on both games and is working with the current project as well. Kozaki has also helped with other Grasshopper projects and even some big Nintendo products as well. To me though his greatest work comes from No More Heroes and I will go over pretty much all the designs of the first game.
Of course we start off with the main man himself, Travis Touchdown! Now something that has been obvious and revealed is that Travis’ design was inspired by Johnny Knoxville a man famous for the Jackass series and movies. A big reason why they went with this choice is that Johnny is very much a man who did not care for what people thought of his choices. Johnny was also quite destructive with his choices and if you have ever watched Jackass, you clearly know what I am talking about. One clip that Suda made people watch to get the feeling of Travis was the clip of Knoxville with the baby crocodile. Suda said that would get the team to feel who Travis would be. How I feel about Travis in the first game is that he is a destructive man both to himself and others. A small aspect that can also show this would be his ripped jeans, quite small detail, but to me this does show some recklessness because I bet he ripped that himself. Travis does have some flash to him as well with that amazing red jacket and then the anime t-shirt have this interesting clash. Again a jacket like that easily has this punk feel to it. With the anime shirt it kinda destroys that image because it has these three cute girls on it. The badass jacket does not work with cute anime girls and yet that shows the chaotic mess Travis is. He wants to appear like a badass yet he cannot hide his obsessions because he loves his magical girl shows. Then there is the Beam Katana, I have talked about this thing before and it is a giant penis! Travis jerks the thing off to charge it and again it just adds to his attitude. Imagine someone with a flashy blade and just jerking it around, what would you think? Overall, Travis is a punk with a reckless attitude and again his design is short and simple by showing that.
Death Metal has always been one of my favorite designs in the whole series. I find it interesting that No More Heroes starts off with two old men for the two first bosses. Both easily show wealth in different ways. Death Metal shows his wealth in a more scary fashion since he has these piercings in his face and that tattoo would so fit in a Yakuza. So this easily establishes that Death Metal has easily killed some people in his life. Now his age really does fit in with another style then. Something I have seen in Yakuza films or even in the video game series, Yakuza is that some of the characters have a sense of honor towards themselves or their gangs. It is quite hard to see in this image, but seeing the character move around and express really shows more of an honorable man. The man even talks about titles like the “Holy Sword” so he has honor in his fights. So we have a quite scary demeanor and yet an honorable man in the end. Then for a small tidbit, his tattoo really shows off the aspect of death and maybe it did seal Travis’ fate if we base that on the original ending.
Dr. Peace easily shows off his wealth through his fashion and weapons. He literally has golden guns! He is a well dressed man with that nice suit too. The bird on his back which could be a hawk or an eagle does show his Native American roots. This character also shows off many western stereotypes, back to is guns they are revolvers which are the suitable type for showdowns. His shoes both add to the classy and western ascetics because they are slightly plated and really work well for dress shoes. Then something that is interesting that connects back to Death Metal would be the flames both of these characters have. They are both older men and there is a saying for romance with the old flames, but these old flames do not get to reignite, they burn out just like some older men do in general. Both Death Metal and Dr. Peace work well in contrast to each other, both old flames that die out and funny enough both of their names start with the letter D, you know for death which is a common thing in the old west as well.
One of the fan favorite characters in general and I will say I do love the No More Heroes 2 design more, but the first one has more to say about who Shinobu is. Clearly she is a school girl and she clearly works with the darker skin look which comes from a look that some girls get. Usually it is more tan that just black, but there is no doubt Shinobu is showing this theme. The big hint would be how the lips really stand out which is a common thing with those girls. The kogal style has these tanned girls with interesting additions to their school outfit and again their lips always stood out. Shinobu even has some additions to her uniform and I love the flower in her hair, showing a growing woman. Now the best part of her design would be her sword or the case of it to be more exact. It actually adds some innocence to her since she is just another product of someone who is a bit obsessed with what they like. She has little charms on her case which is similar to the charms that usual girls would have on their cell phones. She literally has the same girls that Travis has on his shirt. A cool way to connect the two characters and a good reminder of who they are. Shinobu is one of the best school outfit designs I have seen, it really stands out and has a bit of bite to it as well.
Another character with the letter “D” in the beginning, again this was clearly a motif here. Anyways, Destroyman is one of the best parodies on superheroes. He easily goes through the concept of who is the real identity issue, but that is more of his character. The design of Destroyman really points to Superman and some Japanese heroes like Kamen Rider. He clearly has a red, white, and blue color scheme going on and there are even stars on this outfit, AMERICA! Even Superman has a red and blue color scheme going on and he is a white man so red, white, and blue, AMERICA! Destroyman even has the silly look of having this underwear like thing outside of the suit which only took just recently for Superman to have a design get around that. Destroyman also has this big “V” on his chest, this is clearly for the meaning of victory because heroes are victorious! Then we get to his belt which again that is more of a Kamen Rider accessory and it has an “X” which points to Kamen Rider X. Also for an interesting side note that really makes me think is that on his back is this gadget that looks like a spine that is connected to the belt. High chance it is for how Destroyman can shoot beams from his head. Destroyman is one of the best bosses from the first game and his radical design really makes him memorable.
My favorite boss from the first game and the one that made me get into analyzing No More Heroes in general. She is a really special character to me and she is a simple design, but again there is a lot to say about it. The most obvious thing is her prosthetic leg. It is an obvious battle scar since she is armed to the teeth and the whole stage getting to her is full of army men. She is a general of some type I just know it. Holly is also a model from where she came from and again her figure and being able to show it off with a bikini points to that well. The swimsuit even has a camo color scheme and even though she looks good in a blue bikini in the PS3 Very Sweet Mode, I prefer the green camo since it works with her theme. Also the model and army theme work together when it comes to her weapons again she is armed to the teeth with grenades and surprisingly enough she wears them like a fashion design. She even wears a high heel on her actual leg which again points to the modeling aspect. My favorite part of her design though would be her eyes they have eye shadow around them and while that is a beauty aspect to me it also shows how hard she works herself. To me it shows how tired she is because if she is a model and some sort of general or war leader, that must be tiring! Overall, an extremely beautiful woman who clearly shows that roses have thorns or to be more accurate… explosives.
We never got the chance to fight Letz Shake himself, but god damn he still has an amazing design. Now if Travis is more of a punk in terms of him just being an idiot, Letz Shake is the punk in more of a musical stance. Again Suda 51 loves his punk, so of course this would fit in somewhere. Letz Shake also has this Mad Max feel to him. The crazy hair, the scarf over his mouth, and the guitar! Along with that would be the wristbands he wears, the black leather coat, and how he shows off his chest. There is also a diamond thing going on in the chest region. Also another reason Letz Shake gives off a Mad Max feel would be the giant machine he has with him. Mad Max usually shows off some crazy vehicles and this giant brain can still move around on its own, so I can imagine this thing being used in Mad Max. Again we never get to fight him, but this crazy punk still leaves a nice image.
Harvey Moiseiwitsch Volodarskii
Look how sparkly this man is! Harvey is an amazing magician and his design really shows that well. My personal favorite touch would have to be the mask he wears. The spilt mask really gives off the dual personality concept. One is the magician and the other is a killer! The use of blue and adding sparkles to it really feels magical to me. I do remember when some movies or even a Grasshopper game, Killer is Dead, they would use blue for darkness. I feel like that is why they are doing with the use of blue and the sparkles are stars. It gives off this mystic feel to him and magic is quite mystical. What also helps with that space and mystic feel is how the blue soon turns to pitch black at the end of the sleeves. Another cool addition to his design would be his two swords. One has a skull with red lights around it, clearly showing death. The other has an angel with blue lights around it and while the skull and red is threatening, the angel with blue is so calming. It is the dual reality of a magician’s performance, while it can be scary and life threatening a performer must keep calm. Also the wings of an angel could be a reference to pigeon wings. An amazing magician with a design that is as wonderous as his performances.
To start off this character is a witch and an interesting tidbit I just noticed in the art is that at the bottom of her dress are those same sparkles. Again this is showing off a mystic vibe since this character actually has real magic. Her being old and yet still wearing high heels, fish nets, showing off her back, and having a large chest tries to give off a cougar feel to the character. Speed Buster always likes to talk about how foolish men are and seeing how she dresses, she likes to still think she is well… still in the market. Her most amazing feature has to be the cock cannon she has called the Buster Launcher. I also feel this character has a huge rack just because her actual name and her weapon name have “bust” in them. What is interesting about the cannon is that it hides like a shopping cart. She literally has groceries in the cart too. This easily just works with the old lady cliché and again this works with how Speed Buster says men are foolish, since some men do help an old lady. Now the chicken theme with the cannon is a huge joke to a penis and since Speed loves to make fun of men she is literally just showing she has a bigger cock than them. Speed Buster is probably the most bizarre in terms of designs for the first game, mostly because of that god damn cock cannon!
If Holly shows roses have thorns, Bad Girl shows that some roses has a baseball bat! Bad Girl is literally wearing a Gothic Lolita outfit. Bad Girl has more of the Sweet look going on and high chance that is used because Bad Girl is not sweet at all. It is meant to be a polar opposite to really establish her character. Again the bloody baseball bat with the pink outfit is really confusing and scary. Bad Girl is even a blonde bombshell a sexual cliché in American culture. Bad Girl has many sexy traits to her and that is all there because is a clear representation of a dominatrix. They just decided to change her style of wear because in the end the Gothic Lolita still has some sexual drives to it just like the leather of a usual dominatrix. Bad Girl is easy to talk about because of how clear of what she is, but it is so shocking to see how they portrayed this with the concept of a “sweet” design.
This is my absolute favorite design in No More Heroes 1 and it my second favorite overall in the franchise. Jeane really comes off as a fighter in the purest sense. So many of these previous assassins have crazy themes and then Jeane is the closest we have to a real fighter. Just by looking at her you can tell she has a kick boxing style. In her design card, on the side of her boots you can read “UWE.” High chance this is just a reference to UFC as her wear really shows off that look. The tank top, the gloves, the shorts, and her overall build is just like a female UFC fighter. Then the overall red and white color scheme work so well with her pale skin. The white really stands out and it really helps make the red stand out even more. What I love the most are those markings she has on her body, I guess they could be tattoos though. Red can be shown to mean the will to survive and knowing Jeane’s character, yea she really did all she could do to survive. The red also gives this masculine feel which could have been hard to show with a female character. I even love that her eyes are red, this is literally a person full of energy. Jeane even has some sexual things in her story which again red shows that off. The white then can actually show how she perfected her style. Jeane is a professional fighter and has trained to work with her energy and control it for her fights. I just adore this design since it is a simple use of white and red, but there is so much done with it to make her feel empowering.
If Jeane shows off how a real fighter looks like, then Henry shows what a hitman looks like. He is well dressed, but the big coat gives off this mysterious vibe. Something that would blend in with the crowd. Even when Henry walks during his battle, it really gives off this menacing feel. It feels like a literal assassin hunting you down. Now an interesting touch to Henry is his sword having purple energy to it. Purple has the stimulation of red and also has the calmness of blue. Again this speaks true to Henry since he walks slowly and calmly, but when he goes in for the strike he goes all out. I will say I also like his first look more than his second look because having the coat really establishes his hitman feel. Also another cool design aspect that is present in some other characters would be a cross. Henry literally has that with his sword. It is quite a religious symbol of death since the cross has been used for execution something assassin are quite familiar with. Henry just literally waves that symbol around.
To finish things off I want to speak about the first character we saw for No More Heroes. This character was only in the trailer and still to this day I cannot forget this character. I said before that characters can attract the viewer and that is what happened with me and Helter Skelter. He looked like a main character right off the bat and one aspect would be the white long hair. I cannot tell you how many important characters in entertainment have white hair. It literally became a trope back in the days. What is cool with this design is that he is a precursor to so many design aspects. First off, he has the cross on his sleeves and wears one has a necklace. The classy look is around which I have talked about before with Peace and Henry. There is even a demon like face on his belt buckle which reminds me of Death Metal. Even his name points to many design aspects of No More Heroes, as it comes out as “in disorderly haste or confusion.” You clearly see how confusing these characters can be simply based on their designs. Even if this man has white which is perfection (a pointer to Jeane) another big color would be grey the indecisive color and the unemotional color. This character was just nothing in the end which is funny because he was just in the trailer. All of this effort and this is my third favorite design in the overall franchise and he is only a character for the trailer, just amazing.
He is also one the only character with smoking, probably really pointing to how he is going to die soon (smoking kills, do not smoke this has been a lovely PSA from No More Heroes, now go out and kill some assassins).
This is why I love character designs when they are done right. It really shows hard work that they really made these character stand out and easy to understand who they are. It is a great use of visual arts which is something I love with Suda 51 and his works in general. So much just speaks out loud for No More Heroes and most of it is thanks to those amazing character designs. Now for the reason I did not put Slyvia in this post, is because she has so many outfits and is simply a tease for Travis. There is also Dark Star, but in the end he is literally just a Darth Vader rip off for the sake of a joke. Dark Star still has a nice design, but just not enough to talk about. Overall the designs for No More Heroes have stuck with me over the years and are the best in video games to me. Next time I go over character designs it could be a two parter for a certain fighting game franchise or simply the second No More Heroes game.
Still excited for the new game!