Monday, 28 February 2011

REVIEW: No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle
[Wii] [Grasshopper Manufacture]
One of my Blog's high points last year (in my opinion anyway) was my review of the astoundingly brilliant Wii title, No More Heroes. It was a truly excellent game that was glazed with many coats of imagination and flair, despite a few issues with the actual gameplay. I gave it a high score for a good reason, and the  title still stands as one of my favourite games ever. However, No More Heroes isn't a standalone title. In fact, last year it spawned an infinitely better sequel that improves on the first game in pretty much every way. Subtitled 'Desperate Struggle', No More Heroes 2 is easily one of the Wii's best games and one of the most hardcore-pleasing titles available. Now that I've played through the game for the third time (I still loved every minute of it, too) I'm definitely ready to review it. So, without further ado - Let the carnage commence! 

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is not a direct sequel to the original game. Instead, it takes place 2 years after the original. Protagonist Travis Touchdown has fled the city of Santa Destroy and in doing so, he has walked away from the brutal Assassination game held by the UAA. After the introduction sequence a cut-scene begins, showing a lone assassin armed with a modified revolver and a huge sword standing on top of the same building that Travis begun his first killing spree in the original game. A lift rises towards the ceiling, and when it does, the lone assassin shoots through the doors leaving hundreds of bullet-holes. After the doors open, a cloak drops to the floor with no-one to be seen. Then, Travis Touchdown himself is seen behind the assassin, holding his legendary beam katana next to his neck. The No More Hero has returned, and has resumed work as an assassin.

After the excellent first cut-scene in which Travis and his opponent switch some epic lines, you begin the first Boss Fight immediately. This battle is essentially a tutorial for newcomers to get to grips with No More Heroes 2's beat-'em-up-esque antics. It is instantly made clear that No More Heroes 2 is a massive improvement in terms of visuals over the original game. The first boss takes place on top of a skyscraper, with realistic and atmospheric snow falling from the moonlit sky. It's the first time snow has ever fallen on Santa Destroy for over 200 years and my god - it's pure awesome. After Travis manages to behead his oppenent, Sylvia Christel enters via a United Assassination Association chopper. Sylvia was Travis's UAA 'Agent' in the original, and in No More Heroes 2 she returns to do the same job once again. Unfortunately, it turns out the first boss isn't dead (seriously? Travis cut off his head!) and he blurts out some poetic lines that basically translate as: "I may be dead, but I'll still get my revenge", before ripping off his own head. Soon after, the action moves to the Beefhead Video Rental store where Travis' best friend Bishop is murdered. The following day, Travis finds Bishop's head thrown through his window inside a paper bag, and the protagonist is instantly filled with huge amounts of hate and a urge for revenge. A 'Desperate Struggle', if you will. Travis soon finds out that the man behind Bishop's murder is coincidentally Rank 1 in the UAA tournament that he just got himself involved in. Fuelled by his revenge, Travis sets out to get to number one and take out Bishop's killer.

The level designs are much more 'out-there' this time. No more bland corridors!

My explanation of the game's opening segments really is bleak compared to the real thing - It is truly brilliant, especially for those who played through the original and loved it to bits like yours truly. This is going to sound kind of weird, but the 'choreography' in the cut-scenes is excellent throughout No More Heroes 2. It's kind of like a movie in a way, but with some awesome gameplay layered on top of it. Speaking of the gameplay, No More Heroes 2 improves on the original when it comes to that aspect too. As I previously mentioned, the first bit you play is the very first boss fight. The tutorial takes you through the controls as you advance through the fight, such as pressing A to attack with your beam katana and pressing B to perform melee attacks. The same system as the original is used in the sequel; You hold the Wii Remote either high or low to take a high or low attack stance. While in a stance, you can perform slashes with your beam katana to slash through your opponents or a variety of kicks and punches to stun them and perform wrestling moves. A new attack is the running slash, where you shake the Wii Remote to do a quicker slash while running, which is a good way to start combos. As in the first game, you perform a finisher move to take your enemies out of their misery when they are on their last breaths, however, you actually have to swing the remote in the direction shown on-screen this time, rather than simply waggling in any direction you wish. It's little subtle enhancements like this that make No More Heroes 2's battle system an improvement over the original's blander antics. On top of all this, NMH2 also features some amazing special attacks, one of which involves Travis transforming into a deadly tiger. If that isn't awesome then I don't know what is.

Later on you'll unlock the amazing dual Beam Katanas. SWEETNESS!
No More Heroes 2 takes the same wash, rinse and repeat formula as the original No More Heroes, which I explained in detail in my review of that game. However, you now no longer have to pay money to enter ranking battles, instead they're just a click away on the brand new map system. That's right, they've ditched the original's hub and gone for a more simple approach in the form of a menu. From this menu you can select several options which take you to different places; From your ranking battle to several returning shops from the first game and the awesome new retro-ified minigames. That's right, they've sorted out the jobs too. The original No More Heroes' hub sections forced you to play dull minigames and slightly more exciting but at times impossible assassination missions in order to make money to enter the next ranked battle. Now, the minigames have been replaced with 8-Bit awesomeness - Each game is designed to look like a retro NES title, complete with the sound of a person blowing into the cartridge before each one 'starts-up'. While many of these minigames are a little dry, some of them are pretty fun and a cool way to earn money. Better than mowing down grass, anyway.

The assassination missions have now been replaced by No More Heroes 2's Revenge Missions. A little while after the game begins, Sylvia tells Travis that she has found out the exact men who killed Bishop, but they could be in any Pizza Batt-owned building. It's up to Travis to visit these locales and kill either a certain target or a certain number of opponents. Every Ranked Battle you play unlocks several new Revenge Missions, until you beat all ten unlocking a fairly awesome clothing option. The Revenge Missions and Retro Minigames are a huge improvement over the original No More Heroes' efforts, and if you don't like them then you don't even have to play 'em! However, if you wish to buy some awesome new threads for Travis at Airport 51 then you'll have to play the side-missions, as they are what reward you with the most money. Also, the Beam Katana shop returns too, and the new katanas are some frankly amazing pieces of kit that you wouldn't want to miss out on. If the original's minigames returned for the sequel, it would be a shambolic and annoying mess. Good thing the developers sorted it. Aside from the minigames, you can go work out at the Gym to increase Travis' stats or freely walk around in the No More Heroes motel, playing Travis' awesome anime video game, cutting down the fat on your cat or simply dropping a nice save.

Some of the later bosses are extremely epic, but I won't spoil 'em of course!

The main thing in No More Heroes games however, is the ranked battles themselves. In No More Heroes 2, you'll come across some of the wackiest, epic and downright insane bosses in the history of videogames. Throughout the game you'll find yourself fighting some truly ridiculous characters, as well as some returning bosses from the original game. Of course, I won't spoil anything at all, but one thing I will say is that No More Heroes 2 has a much better selection of bosses in comparison to the first game. You're gonna hate a few, but there's 15 boss fights in the sequel which is five more than there was in the original, so it's all good. Not every boss is followed by a level, but since the levels you actually do play are much better designed than the original's admittedly bleak efforts. You're gonna enjoy what's on offer here, so much that you'll want to keep playing and playing. Which brings us to No More Heroes 2's flaws...

As I've mentioned throughout this review, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is such a huge improvement over the original Wii game. So many of the first game's flaws have been fixed and topped off with a fresh layer of awesomeness. However, the sequel does have one rather large flaw: The length. If you choose to rush through No More Heroes 2, you'll have it done in around five or six hours on the standard difficulty. But, that is if you choose to rush through the game. If you sit back and take part in the other activities Santa Destroy has on offer in-between ranked battles, then you'll find that the game is a few hours longer. This shouldn't be a problem if you're a devoted No More Heroes fan like myself - I did say this was my third playthrough and I'm still loving it - but it would be a good idea to take your time if you want to enjoy NMH2 to its fullest. The main meat of the game is one fresh serving that must be chewed down in small portions, or you'll have the game finished before long. What an awesome meat it is though.

So there you have it. My review of No More Heroes 2, over. So, what score did I give it? Find out below. Look forward to my future posts! This is Noodle saying please buy this game and leaving



Kezz said...

Great review Noodle and I must say it's very well written. NMH2 sounds way better than the original and the original is just awesome. So I'll definitely be picking this up sometime soon. :D

Mart2006 said...

Another excellent review, Noodle. :) Once I've finished the original, I'll definitely be picking this up if I see it cheap anywhere.

Noodle said...

Yeah, it's an astonishingly good game. The end bits are just so epic, wait until ya get to rank 6/7 and you'll see what I mean. BTW Mart it's 8 quid in CEX I think.

Noodle said...

My word, this review is absolutely disgusting, I must admit. I really haven't done the game justice and honestly my opinions of it have changed since I wrote this atrocity. Pay no attention to this review and read my re-released, improved version when it's up.