The original No More Heroes is one of the better games in the Wii library. There are two responses to that out in the wild, the first of which is, "That goes to show you how poor the Wii’s game selection is" and the other, which is, "Absolutely, No More Heroes is just that awesome". It was different from anything else on the systemâ€”and still is, in terms of franchisesâ€”as it delivered Suda 51’s (Killer 7) brand of dementia and adoration for all things retro and nerdy while also steeping the player in ultra-violence, a la Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1.
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Jan. 26, 2010
I’ll be honest and say I fit into the latter camp, the one that thinks the original is a flawed masterpiece of sorts, working as both a creative gameplay experience as well as a smart critique on the present day gaming landscape. The game has its problems, yes, ones even a fan such as myself cannot deny the existence of, but when No More Heroes 2 was announced, and things started to take shape, you could see that Grasshopper had done its best to answer the calls of the original’s critics in order to deliver a tighter, more enjoyable, and more intense thrill ride. For many reasons, Grasshopper and Suda were able to deliver with No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, giving the Wii an early contender for its game of the year category.
Here’s the deal: if you loved the first game, then you need the second one. It’s not that much of a leap forward for those of us who already enjoyed the sadistic tendencies of Travis Touchdown, but for those who took issue with the first oneâ€”the pacing, the sidejobs, the repetitive nature of combatâ€”you will be happy to know that these items have been worked on and smoothed over for you, in order to produce a much tighter, fast-paced and enjoyable experience. For those people, Desperate Struggle is a giant leap forward, and gives the franchise the credibility that those of us already in love with it had, simply by trimming the fat and replacing it with high-quality awesome.
The gist of the story is that Travis has returned, no longer the #1 ranked assassin as he was at the conclusion of the previous title. There are those who want revenge on him, and in order to get his attention, they murder his friend Bishop in cold blood. Travis goes into a rage and vows to end the life of anyone involvedâ€”conveniently enough, the #1 ranked assassin is the corporate mastermind behind Bishop’s death. It works well, just like in the original, with cutscenes delivering humor, violence, and very likableâ€”though oddâ€”personalities throughout.
Combat is largely unchanged, with the direction you angle the Wii Remote in (high or low) still making for high or low attacks, while the A button does all of the swinging. The B button is still for melee and initiating your wrestling movesâ€”leave it to Suda to include both lightsaber type weaponry and a Tiger Driver fluidly in a combat system. The one major change is that the slot machine system from the original has been tweaked so that you can see your progress on an "Ecstasy Gauge", which you can steal from at any time when there’s enough in order to deliver more powerful attacks. Also, if your gauge fills completely, you may turn into a tiger. Why a tiger? I asked the same, but then realized this allowed me to maul enemies in one hit as they crawled on the ground away from me, and decided not to ask any more questions and just get back to maulin’. You also get a nice grindhouse sheen on the screen during these slot machine events, as everything looks grimy with that burnt-film quality to it.
The overworld, largely derided by critics, was scrapped in favor of a menu system that allows fast travel to any area you need to go to. No more driving across the city to retry missions over and over, and, for that matter, missions have been revamped as well. With the exception of one side job, you now play 2D, 8-bit NES style games in order to earn extra cash. This cash also no longer goes towards entry fees for fighting the next ranked assassin, and instead can be used for sword upgrades, new duds, and paying for training at the gym. You can do as much or as little of these as you want, but you will find yourself playing them not just to earn cash. They are a fun diversion after slicing heads off of countless anonymous thugs.
As for the gym, these workouts have also been given the old-school treatment , though with a little less success than the side jobs. The treadmill works fine, as you just need to be facing the correct direction while mashing the B and Z buttons alternatively, but the muscle exercise, which finds you pinching and kicking free weights thrown at you, requires too much perfection in order to passâ€”this is a good way to waste huge chunks of money as you advance, as the price climbs and climbs. You don’t make much money in main missions either, so all of that cash is going to have to come from side jobs. This is the closest thing to grinding for cash in the game though, which is a big improvement over the first title’s system.
There are two other non-story diversions for you, in the form of Revenge Missions and your cat, Jeane. The Revenge Missions find you slicing up a number of baddies before the clock runs out, and then you have to find the boss of those particular thugs in order to slice him up and clean up the streets. As for your cat, Jeane has put on quite a bit of weight in between titles, and now weighs 24 pounds. By playing with her, lifting her, massaging her, and feeding her well, you can get Jeane to lose weightâ€”drop her far enough over the course of the game, and you will learn a very My useful and powerful technique that’s activated by the Nunchuk. It’s more than a worthwhile reward for what are actually well-designed mini-games.
Graphically, the game is superior to the original, and not just because the overworld has been removed. Everything looks a bit cleaner and more polished, and the animations and lip-synching are all improved. The sound is also wonderful, with various genre remixes of the main theme spread out across all of the levels and missions. The bad guys do not have enough catchphrases to keep their last words from being annoying after awhile, but it gets so repetitive at times that it’s hard to tell if it was done on purpose in order to mock other games with the issue, or because they didn’t put the effort into this one area. Either way, it’s an annoyance, but nothing major.
My only complaint with the game worth anything is that the bosses are nowhere near as interesting as those in the original. They lack the fleshed out personalities of their predecessors in most cases, and do not verbally spar with Travis for anywhere near as long prior to the fights. The battles are still tests of your abilities and the best part of the gameplay, so not all is lost, but it’s just a little disappointing that I don’t feel like I knew my adversaries as well as I did in the first, when they were given such powerful, unforgettable personalities. I guess not every assassin can be a drunken school girl with a fetish for baseball and gimps, but a little more spIotlight on who they are would have been appreciated.
Blast Factor: No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is superior in every other regard to the first game though, and is a must-own for anyone with a Wii, a sense of humor, and a penchant for lightsabers. In what looks to be an impressive year for Nintendo’s white box, Desperate Struggle has set the bar at the outset with its entertaining story, lovable and despicable cast, and improved, tight gameplay. Desperate Struggle is not to be overlooked, even if you could do without the original.
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is available exclusively on the Nintendo Wii, and retails for $49.99. A copy of this game was purchased for reviewing purposes.