No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle
No More Heroes 2 is about, well, something, but you’d probably need a direct line into barmy director Suda 51’s cerebral lobes to have even the slightest inkling of what the point might be.
Let’s set the scene. Travis Touchdown, our perpetually horny and frustrated protagonist, is standing in Santa Destroy’s football stadium. 24 identical cheerleaders on roller-skates dash out. They’re blond, display copious amounts of underboob and chant, in unison, their support of violence and their love of Charlie MacDonald, who confidently strides into the arena under a sign bearing his name. A moment of silence leads into some brief small-talk, with Charlie stopping to congratulate Travis on an excellent surname, and then they all fly into space and jump into a giant robot.
Back on terra firma, Travis hops onboard his motorcycle. “I thought something like this might happen,” he mutters, before nipping into his own robot, Glastonbury, and duking it out with the football star and his cheerleader groupies. It’s all quite barmy.
The fight, No More Heroes 2’s third boss battle, poses far less of a challenge than its previous two, so within a couple of minutes (or, worst case, a continue) you’ll be 25 steps closer to the top of the game’s assassin rankings, getting revenge for the murder of Travis’ friend and securing some personal time with the blonde, buxom and French Sylvia Christel.
Travis works (or, as the game puts it, whores himself out to) a diverse range of odd-jobs in the meantime – exterminating vermin, delivering pizzas, cooking steaks etc. – which are all portrayed as charming 8-bit mini-games, which both surpass the original’s tedious side missions and neatly bleep and bloop their way into the game’s love of kitsch videogame history. The funds procured from these mini-games can be spent on further mini-games, which include boosting stats in the gym or forcing your overweight cat to lose some weight, or simply on new clothes and weapons at the store.
Navigating Santa Destroy is now handled by a rather stylish map, which guides you from area to area with a set of stylish transitions and tiny, although noticeable, load screens: the first game’s jagged and unwieldy open-world sequences are nowhere to be seen.
Changes to the rest of the game are less pronounced, but the combat system worked well in the original and still does now. Minor shifts to the controls help sweeten the experience regardless of whether you’re playing with a Wiimote or Classic Controller – I preferred the additional precision afforded by the latter, although the former is more than acceptable.
Regular enemies, which litter the beginnings of each stage, are defeated by a mix of beam sword and melee attacks, allowing for flourishes of creativity without the complexities of its contemporaries. Lock-on to your enemies and they’re encircled by a clock face of their health, which is steadily worn down with each of your attacks, and killed with gratuitous, blood-spewing finishers.
The HUD is as entertainingly baffling as ever. A smiling phallus sits in the top-right to signal the strength of your beam sword, recharged by shaking the Wiimote up and down, and a tiger rests at the bottom of the screen to signal how close you are to reaching a powered-up state where your attacks are twice as fast.
Move on and you’ll reach the boss fights, an assortment of creative opponents that bring out the best of the game. As is to be expected, each has its own knack to defeating – there’s a good amount of variety across the game’s 15 encounters, culminating in a showdown between Travis and the boss of an oppressive pizza chain. Along the way you’ll fight psychotics, apparitions and a hip-hop assassin who attacks you with a transforming boom box.
The game also does a spectacular job of towing the line between furthering the storyline and wiping the narrative slate clean for new players. Travis became the #1 assassin at the end of the last game, although he had a spectacular, and unspecified, fall from grace in the interim period. There are a few nods to the first game, such as in some recurring bosses that help foster a gentle link between the two titles.
No More Heroes 2 is a better game than its predecessor, with improved controls and far less wonky moments. Its streamlined presentation, tightened mechanics and buoyant exuberance help shape a superior game, albeit one which lacks in some of the more adventurous moments that littered the original.
It’s clearly an overblown production, revelling in sex, hyperviolence and (quite literally) toilet humour. There are noticeable highs and lows to the script, with some jokes working and others falling flat, but the solid combat engine running through the proceedings makes up for any negatives. Whether or not you’ll warm to it depends largely on if you enjoy the game’s maniacal atmosphere: if you are, or ever were, a slightly juvenile adolescent male with a penchant for videogames and movies – and I think that covers most of us – there’s a very good chance it’ll go down a treat.
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