No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle proudly continues the absurd, action-packed traditions set by the original
- Excellent presentation, some much-needed tweaks keep the gameplay fresh and innovative, addicting and original mini-games, killer soundtrack
- Framerate chugs occasionally, combat can become repetitive, Shinobu's jumping mechanics are hit-and-miss, wonky camera
Quirky, crass, and incredibly fun, Suda51's stylish sequel to 2008's No More Heroes slashes its way onto the Wii with even more boss battles, much-improved gameplay, and loads of worthwhile new content.
An ambitious deconstruction of the tired hack-n-slash genre, 2008's No More Heroes introduced gamers to hot-headed otaku-turned-assassin Travis Touchdown's blood-soaked trek to the top of the United Assassins Association charts. Wildly successful in North America and Europe, No More Heroes brought already established Grasshopper Manufacture and director Suda51 into the stateside spotlight once more with its absurd sense of humor, bucketfuls of blood, and plethora of pop culture references. It was a bona fide hit, even though it debuted on the Wii, a platform where "mature" titles usually don't succeed, and its close-quarters combat, eye-popping art-style, and killer soundtrack makes it one of the most innovative titles to date.
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle proudly continues the absurd, action-packed traditions set by the original with plenty of noteworthy new content and some much-needed gameplay tweaks. It's evident from the game's tutorial battle that Suda has paid close attention to what his fans wanted out of a No More Heroes sequel, and Desperate Struggle delivers from start to finish.
The majority of the game is still delivered via the business end of a beam-katana, with the core mechanics behind Travis' frenetic slicing-and-dicing remaining largely unchanged. Tweaked enemy AI adds a welcome new challenge in opponents that actively dodge, block and learn from Travis' attacks, and the option to switch katanas on the fly is also a worthy addition, asking players to mix-and-match weapons for better results against certain foes. Travis' signature special moves return in all of their outrageous glory, including (but not limited to) the ability to transform into a blood-thirsty tiger and rip your opponents limb-from-limb. Desperate Struggle's considerable focus on combat can be a bit tiring at times, particularly during some of the later, more crowded levels, but seasoned assassins will feel right at home.
Desperate Struggle also thrusts schoolgirl samurai Shinobu and Travis' snarky sibling Henry into the playable mix in a nice bit of fanservice, each offering up their own unique perks. Light on her high-heeled feet, Shinobu can swiftly slice-and-dice with the best of them, even if her ability to jump is occasionally hampered by the game's temperamental camera. Henry controls similarly to Travis, but you only get to play as him for a short period of time; too short, really, as you never get a chance to really appreciate or master his frantic dashing ability and projectile attack.
One of Desperate Struggle's more welcome changes comes from doing away with the oft-criticized open world in favor of a more traditional map system, allowing Travis easy access to side-jobs, revenge missions, training, shops, and ranking matches. The side-jobs and training routines in particular have seen the biggest revamp, entirely reinvented as innovative 8-bit mini-games that ooze retro charm. The infamous UAA entry fees have also gotten the boot, meaning the mini-games serve as fun diversions rather than necessary money grabs, greatly adding to their appeal. Add a nice level of variety, from sucking sewer-dwelling vermin into a super-powered vacuum to man-handling chunks of Santa Destroy's trash (INNN SPAAAAAACE), and No More Heroes' side-jobs have made an easy recovery from the last installment's occasionally tedious grind.
No More Heroes' inimitable presentation has also seen a nice bump in quality. The cel-shaded visuals pop off of the screen -- expertly bringing Yusuke Kozaki's stylized character designs to life -- and are neatly complimented by longtime Grasshopper collaborator Masafumi Takada's stellar soundtrack. Desperate Struggle does occasionally suffer from a bit of slowdown, particularly during some of the more crowded levels and busier cut-scenes, and a handful of clipping issues do surface from time to time, but such technical issues are really minor squabbles in the grand scheme of the game: nine times out of ten, you'll be too busy eviscerating a room full of yakuza thugs to even notice the intermittent stutter.
Early Internet commentators have already made quite a fuss about the game's 9-10 hour span, and seeing as how Travis does conveniently shoot through the UAA ranks on a number of occasions, their complaints aren't without merit. While the absence of the open world and cash-grinding side-quests has certainly shortened the overall experience, it really just feels more like trimmed fat than any great loss. There are still plenty of foes to disembowel, weapons to upgrade, outfits to unlock, and a morbidly obese kitty to slim down.
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is a worthy successor to its 2008 predecessor, and an excellent swan-song for one of the most bizarre, crude, and hilarious protagonists in recent memory. Love it or hate it, there's nothing else quite like No More Heroes, and at the end of the day that only attributes to the game's outlandish appeal.
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