Want the fun of the original, but without the boring? Goichi Suda’s got the formula down in this ultra-violent action title.
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Release Date: January 26, 2010 (NA)
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is like a good steak. Delicious meat with just a little bit of fat mixed in, and a little bit of extra fat on the outside that you can do without. Designer Goichi Suda of Suda51 has done a good thing with this game, and it’s what every designer needs to do from now on: He actually looked at the previous title, decided what worked, made that better, and got rid of what didn’t.
The tedious parts of the first game are gone: The Grand Theft Auto-esque overworld? Gone. Now, you just select where you want to go from a list menu. Raising a ton of cash to enter each ranking fight? Gone. Each ranking fight is now 100% gratis. When you do enter a ranking fight, they are, on the whole, a lot shorter.
So, what is Travis fighting for this time? Revenge. Delicious, sweet revenge. After leaving the UAA ranking system torn to shreds in the last game, he just walked away – making him a mysterious enigma to the assassins that have decided to enter the fray in his wake. Without much reason, Travis’s friend Bishop is murdered, and to get to the man responsible, he’s got to fight his way to the top once more – through 51 assassins this time, including a lolita sniper, mecha quarterback, and a lovesick schoolgirl.
Travis isn’t doing all of this alone. The game features the return of two of the last game’s characters, and you’ll get to play as them, as well – one for far too long, and the other not long enough. Ultimately, if I had any complaints, these segments would be it (along with the fact that Travis can’t always hit people on the ground, but that is minor). The slightly modified controls for one character make a boss battle halfway through one of the most difficult sequences in the entire game, and you’re likely to pull your hair out if you don’t get the hang of the controls right off the bat.
So, even with the help, you’re killing a lot of assassins. Don’t worry, you won’t have to fight all 51. I wouldn’t be writing this review yet if you did. I’d still be enjoying the deceptively simple combat system, which amounts to button mashing and remote swinging. A much-appreciated addition to the combat system comes in the form of a tiger. A small tiger that counts as your ecstasy gauge goes from resting to roaring, and you can activate ecstasy at any time as long as you have a full meter, which comes in endlessly handy during especially tricky boss battles.
The better your beam katana, the easier it is to kill, naturally, and you need money to upgrade. This is where one of the best parts of the revamp comes into play. Side jobs that took place in the overworld last time have moved to an 8-bit paradise, accompanied by the sounds of blowing into a cartridge. You’ll cook steaks, eliminate insects, deliver pizza, gather coconuts, and four more games that all fit in seamlessly to the game’s retro-loving style. Some of them are obvious moneygrabs, but they’re almost all fun. What you’ll like depends almost entirely on what you used to play “back in the day.” Character strength and stamina upgrades also depend on 8-bit games, and playing with your morbidly obese cat, Jeane, does indeed have a purpose besides cuteness.
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is a game that definitely doesn’t struggle to find its voice. Its highly-stylized art features some of the best Wii graphics around, and the gratuitous violence and cursing (some baddies only have curse words for dialogue, but this is a family-friendly site, so you can figure out what “****!” means for yourself), not to mention the sexual innuendo, make this game’s M-rating a no-brainer. The game continually breaks the fourth wall and entertains from start to finish. It knows its genre and lampoons and skewers so many different parts of gaming culture that you’ll giggle out loud at each reference. If you loved the first, this is a no-brainer buy. If you love fun and are mature enough for that M-rating, you can pick this up without knowing too much about Travis’s past, either.