No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle Review

It’s hard to put a label on Suda 51’s games. The head of Grasshopper Manufacture, the development house behind Killer 7, Contact, and Fatal Frame 4, has made games that defy convention and skewer videogame cliches to make games that are original, but bizarre and off-putting. The original No More Heroes, for instance, parodied video games and otaku culture, even going so far as to include poor videogame design ideas in order to make a statement on the degrading creativity of the industry. Some people were in on the joke, while a majority, like myself, thought it was just poor design and better ideas could be used to convey this message.

Luckily, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle does away with everything that didn’t work in the original game and distills what did work into a pure and tightly woven experience that is one of the best games on the Wii.

Slicing and dicing

NMH2 picks up a few years after the first game. Travis Touchdown has walked away from the United Assassins Association after climbing the ranks and becoming the number one ranked assassin. When a close friend is brutally murdered by the new number one, he re-enters the tournament to find out why his friend was murdered and to kill the number one.

In the original game, you started at rank 10 and had to navigate an uninteresting and poorly designed open world to get to ranking battles and find side jobs to gain some extra cash. It just made the whole experience unsatisfying and made you lose interest since traveling anywhere was a chore. NMH2 goes bigger though, by starting you at rank 51 and eliminating the open world completely. You instead are shown a map of Santa Destroy and choose where you want to go next from a menu. This change is one for the better, focusing you on what the NMH games have done well, which is combat, style, and minigames.

The combat system returns from the original NMH, so if you are familiar with the first game, you’ll feel right at home here. You swing your beam katana with the press of a button, and pointing your Wii Remote up or down changes between high and low attacks. You can also execute melee moves that can break opponents’ guards and set them up for your grapple maneuvers, which are executed by doing specific motions with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck. You can combo almost any of these moves together to really dish out some pain, and it’s one of the most fun aspects of the system. Some enemies require different tactics to dispose of them quickly, and while you can just mash on the controller if you want to, it becomes extremely fun to discover these moves and vary up the pace at which you deal out death during the game.

8Bit Coconut Grabber

The epic boss battles from the first game also return, and are even more insane and fun than ever before. You won’t be fighting 51 bosses as your rank will lead you to believe, but NMH2 doubles the boss count from the original and each one is more original and awesome than the last. Each boss has to be approached with a different strategy and feels like a true and personal fight to the death. Like boss battles of the 8- and 16-bit generation, you have to learn their attacks, plan your moves, and execute on them. It’s a very satisfying and fun experience that always compelled me to seek out the next bizarre boss character I would be facing and tackle the challenge they would present.

While you may be thinking that all of this brawler-style gameplay can get boring during your 7+ hours with NMH2, Grasshopper Manufacture has thrown in some minigames to alleviate all the killing and bloodshed. All of the minigames are 8-bit homages that can be played to earn extra cash for raising your attributes or buying new clothes and weapons. A few examples include “Bug Off,” a top-down shooter that sees you sucking up bugs and placing poison bombs, and “Pizza with a Vengeance,” an OutRun-style racer that sees you dodging cars and oil slicks to deliver pizza on time. These 8-bit diversions have been crafted with such attention to and respect for the original games they draw inspiration from that you can’t help but smile when you see them boot up, Duck Hunt style, with a slow-scrolling splash screen. You even hear Travis blow into a cartridge and insert it into a system to play each game. These games actually made me want to go out of my way to play them over and over again because they were so fun and quirky. It’s a brilliant idea for a way to both earn money and break up gameplay and will make any longtime, nostalgic gamer smile ear to ear.

NMH2 is one of the best-looking games on the Wii. The cel-shaded visuals have been overhauled, giving Travis and his anime-inspired friends a greater level of detail. Instead of the flat, uninteresting textures from the first game, character models look more pronounced and fluid. Clothes and hair move in the wind and with the characters, and their facial expressions are more lifelike. The environments don’t fare as well though; most of them consist of generic locations, save for a few boss arenas. They aren’t terrible, but nothing stands out as visually interesting.

All of this still combines to produce a game with awesome anime visuals, visceral, blood-spattered combat, and loving homages to the video games of yesteryear. No More Heroes 2 is a game for gamers who remember playing on their NES while trying to watch bootleg VHS anime tapes. It lampoons and praises our hobby while providing an amazing gaming experience all its own.


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Author: Matt Erazo View all posts by

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