When a sequel is being made, one would think that looking back on the title before it and keeping what was good and getting rid of what was bad would be a sure way for success. Despite this seemingly simple idea, there are many big franchises that are not able to accomplish this. In its second installment for the Wii, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle manages to remove almost everything that was a hindrance to the first game and focus on what made the first No More Heroes fun to create a superb follow up.
The game starts with main protagonist Travis Touchdown facing off against one of his fallen enemy’s brother after having been out of the line of assassinating for three years. After finishing him in Travis’ typical arrogant style, Sylvia returns to inform Travis that the man he just disposed of was a ranked assassin and that Travis is now eligible to start climbing the ranks again, although this time from 51st place. Although not pleased, with the temptation of the thrill of an assassin and Sylvia’s flirtatious mention of yoga positions she can show him, Travis accepts. While there was apparently more going on between this three year gap, the game lets you know that this isn’t important and neither really is the plot for the remainder of the game. This isn’t a bad thing, as the less cumbersome plot to distract the player from the fast paced fighting the better.
One of the main distractions from the last game was the free roaming on motorcycle or foot that was required to get from missions, shops, and the hotel. This has been removed altogether and instead the player chooses where they wish to go or what missions they wish to do from a list of options. This makes the game’s pacing much faster and enjoyable and removes literally hours of boring and unnecessary traveling that bogged down the first game. The motorcycle is still included for those that might miss riding around, although the amount of time spent cruising is very short.
Another improvement is the side missions themselves. These missions have been replaced with old retro games that mimic titles such as Super Hang On and Pipe Dream that are simple and fun to play. Most of these games consist of several different levels that make playing through them all to completion entertaining. One of the most fun games is also the simplest and requires cooking a steak for a customer to the desired taste (rare, medium, or well done) by just holding the ’A’ button for a certain amount of time. Being told my steak “tastes like shit” in a barely discernible digitized voice never gets old.
These side missions are pretty fun if you are into retro games, but if you’re not then it’s no sweat. This time around the game does not require money to proceed through the game. Instead of paying entrance fees to enter a ranked battle, money is primarily only used for buying new weapons, training, and clothing. Doing side missions over and over to gain access to the next level was another thing that tarnished the last game’s polish and having it removed makes a big positive impact on the flow of the game.
The combat system has gotten revamped a bit since the last game as well. The positioning of the Wii remote for choosing high or low attacks now has more of an effect on gameplay. Keeping the Wii remote pointed up will result in fast, weaker attacks while angling the remote down will have Travis swing slower, but cause more damage to the enemy. Switching back and forth between these two stances can result in a longer combo with a steady stream of slashes. The new weapons available are also more varied than they were before. Instead of being just different in aesthetics and power, this time around the varying beam katanas involve more of a trade off. One sword is long and inflicts tons of damage but swings extremely slow, while another is a set of two short beam katanas that have smaller range but are very fast (and make Travis look like even more of a badass).
For those that don’t want to have to tilt their Wii remote back and forth during combat, an interesting addition that was made is the option to use the classic controller instead of the standard Wii remote and nunchuk combo. While the game maps out the buttons in a way that is intuitive, there is something satisfying about finishing an enemy with a quick flick of your wrist that using the classic controller lacks. For those familiar with the controls from the first game, there is really no reason to switch. Having more options is never a bad thing though, which is too bad since Nintendo can’t seem to recognize that several key titles such as Punch-Out!! and New Super Mario Bros. Wii could have benefited from classic controller support.
Another new addition for the second round of assassinations are different playable characters. Helping Travis during his quest back to the number one spot is Shinobu, an old adversary from the first game who returns – this time in playable form. Shinobu adds a new element to the game with a jump ability and lightning fast dual blades, sans beam. Jumping around does allow for a little variety with fighting, however the few platforming sections feel clumsy and the camera doesn’t perform as well. Appearing near the middle of the game and only for two levels (don‘t forget to save your game, wink wink), Shinobu (as well as another brief playable character) adds a nice little change of pace and then you are switched back to Travis who you want to be playing as anyway.
In terms of keeping the good stuff from the last game, No More Heroes 2 features another array of crazy boss fights that are the highlight of the game. Some of the main baddies include an assassin who attacks using a boombox and a room filled with traps, a goth girl who fights with both a sniper rifle and scythes while her own theme music plays, and some returning contenders who aren’t too happy to see Mr. Touchdown. The game is jam packed full of fights like these and all of them deliver off the wall humor and inventive attack patterns which make them a treat every time.
What is disappointing however is that, as fun as these bosses are, very few will put up much of a fight. Very rarely (especially compared to the first game) will you see the retry screen against bosses and even more infrequently will you see it during the level to get to the boss since normal enemies seem to be little more than filler to get to the marked assassin on your list. This is due to not only enemy attacks not causing much damage, but there are health pickups aplenty and a dark side mode that allows super and insane abilities is not only activated by roulette but also on demand if the ecstasy gauge is filled from dishing out consecutive damage without taking it. There is a third difficulty that is unlocked upon completion of the game that ups the challenge significantly, but not until after you’ve cakewalked the normal setting.
Despite the low difficulty, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle features more fantastic boss fights than the first game, the same frantic combat and removes the snail paced free roaming and money requirements that stopped the last game from meeting its full potential. The game is shorter than the first, taking around 12 hours to complete down from 20 hours that the first game offered, but this 12 hours is all killer (literally killing) and no filler. Not only when you’re controlling the action is the game fun, but the top notch voice acting and hilarious, sex charged cut scenes are just as enjoyable. For those that didn’t care for the first game, give this series another shot. It is a title that truly fixed almost everything that was wrong with the original and stands up among the top of the Wii’s library.
+ Tons of insane bosses that are unique in design and attack style
+ Elements that hindered the first game (free roaming, mandatory money collecting) have been removed
+ Retro mini games are a big improvement from previous side missions
– Lowered difficulty makes the game a little less intense
– Regular enemies are space fillers to lead up to the bosses
– Platforming and camera issues when controlling Shinobu