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No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (Wii) artwork

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (Wii) review

"Travis Touchdown could have gone out like a punk, but punks don't give up so easily, especially not without a fight! Certainly no one was expecting a sophomore effort from crazy game designer / frontman Suda 51 and his self-proclaimed 'video game band'. With a string of commercial flops to its credit, it seemed No More Heroes was destined to become no more than another cult classic for Grasshopper Manufacture(GhM). It would have been a shame though, since it is Suda 51's most acces..."

Travis Touchdown could have gone out like a punk, but punks don't give up so easily, especially not without a fight! Certainly no one was expecting a sophomore effort from crazy game designer / frontman Suda 51 and his self-proclaimed 'video game band'. With a string of commercial flops to its credit, it seemed No More Heroes was destined to become no more than another cult classic for Grasshopper Manufacture(GhM). It would have been a shame though, since it is Suda 51's most accessible game to date.

Much to my surprise, the series returns for an encore with GhM's first proper sequel. Despite being a modest success, the original's inventively trashy style didn't quite catch on with everybody -- Western gamers would have preferred a better looking game or at least a better designed GTA clone. Japanese gamers were probably too apathetic to even care, wanting an FFVII remake instead. Rightfully so, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle addresses those concerns with a leaner, meaner effort. The game's title suggests the sequel is just as confrontational and iconoclastic as ever. What better way to prove it by kicking things off with a boss battle!

The prelude to Desperate Struggle comes out swinging early and doesn't miss a beat. After a three year self-imposed exile, Travis Touchdown -- the Otaku loser who won't amount to anything except getting his fix on the latest anime and porn -- returns to the place where it all began, on a rooftop building where he first made his rousing debut as an assassin. Travis is no longer ranked #1, but someone wants him dead. That someone is a young grey-haired assassin, who also happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to Cloud Strife. The look and mannerisms are intentional. He seeks vengeance against Travis for the death of his older brother. The references will give NMH1 fans feelings of deja vu. Newcomers to the series will be treated to a crazy spectacle only Suda51 could conjure up. After a few fighting words, both combatants draw their weapons and they clash -- Travis, in the left corner with his trademark beam katana versus doppelganger Cloud and his Buster-like beam sword on the right.

Unlike the first game, players will get to partake in the ceremonious slaughter. Travis' first opponent is no pushover though, unless maybe you are playing on sweet(easy) mode. Luckily, Travis' killer instinct is still intact, along with a couple new moves he's picked up since his abscence. Players can do a preemptive running slash before unleashing into standard attacks by swinging the Wii-remote. For a split-second this will give you the advantage to land in a few more blows. To cap it all off, the sequel this time lets you perform deathblow finishers on the bosses, prompted by an onscreen arrow and the swing of your Wii remote! Like the fate of his deceased brother, Cloud's decapitated head becomes the sacrificial lamb and Travis is once again initiated into the seedy world of professional assassins.

Sadly, the impulsive energy that was there from the start of the game begins to wear off about halfway through. Don't get me wrong though, I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the game. The 2D mech fight, while short, was cool. The fight against Travis' morbidly obsessed fan girl who wants to behead him to prove she is the most hardcore #1 Travis Touchdown fan is laugh out loud funny. Her flute even turns into Darth Maul's double-ended lightsaber! Whoa! The first several bosses were able to hold up my interest for awhile. Even the side jobs kept me entertained for half-hour sessions at a time.

The problem with Desperate Struggle is everything is too convenient and streamlined. The most noticeable change is the absence of a GTA-style city. Every location is now easily accessed from a menu map without the headaches from horrible sandbox environments and clumsy bike controls. While this might have seemed like a good idea at first, it's as if GhM took the easy way out and did a quick fix. I wonder why they didn't try to improve it, instead of forsaking it simply because fans despised it. The No More Heroes universe could have benefitted with a richer, expanded version of Santa Destroy. I miss the tangibility of traveling to my destination and as dumb as this sounds, I miss going dumpster diving for T-shirts.

The Area 51 clothing store is still around though, but everything seems more expensive. The T-shirt designs themselves aren't as catchy or funny to be considered worth the purchase. Even going to Naomi's Lab seems pointless. Aside from buying two beam katanas which you'll probably seldomly use or from checking out Naomi's much improved swaying bust, there really isn't much reason to come back. You can no longer buy upgradeable parts to power up your weapon like in the first game. Travis has a new gym trainer this time. Thunder Ryu is replaced by an even more blatantly homosexual trainer named Ryan. In Ryan's Gym, they've cut the training sessions down from three to two and turned them into 8-bit mini-games. The first training game has you trying to keep Travis staying on a treadmill, but its not particularly interesting. The less dull 2nd game is a sparring session where you punch and kick flying dumbbells while dodging floating hearts from your trainer.

Perhaps what makes the No More Heroes series infectious is Suda 51's love for retro video games. Its even more apparent this time in the sequel. The retro motif from the last game has expanded into delectable bite-sized 8-bit mini-games accompanied by punkish chiptunes. Travis' elated retro garbles "YESSS!" and "ha-ha's" when completing a stage gave me a few chuckles. The funniest game though is "Man the Meat" where you must cook steaks rare, medium or well done. Mess up and the patron will lodge a fork to your head. "Pizza with a Vengeance" is like a Mach-rider style racer. "Bug Out" is my favorite where you suck up all the rodents and critters with a vacuum in a maze-like game. Its a shame none of these games go past 4 stages.

After six hours of playing time, monotony begins to rears its ugly head. At this point, I had dispatched about a half-dozen assassins, unlocked every side job and almost nearly every other unlockable available. It's too bad the developers spoiled players way too early because there is simply not much to do in the second half of the game besides playing the ranking battles. GhM tried to keep things interesting though. One stage has stealth elements but it is so poorly implemented that it is irrelevant. Later on, you get to swap Travis and play as two other characters for a stage or two. Although interesting at first, even they have their share of flaws. Shinobu can jump fine during a fight but when she is tasked with jumping on platforms, it is an entirely different matter. Somersaulting over ledges and getting knocked off rooftops by gunmen is not fun. Another stage takes place in a parking lot where you have to grind your way through waves of enemies for what seemed like half an hour.

The game's second half suffers from uneven pacing. The bosses which are supposed to be the game's tour de force, also suffer from being hit or miss. I feel like I can toss some names out since you don't find out their name until they die. Cloe Walsh and Million Gunman are my least favorite bosses. They are predictably easy and boring. Matt Helms is annoying to fight because of the claustrophobic arena. The only two fights I felt were epic were against Skelter Helter and Alice Twilight. While I had fun fighting the other bosses, they don't feel as epic as they should have been.

It's a shame because they improved the visuals and the combat feels more free-flowing. I liked Desperate Struggle but unfortunately it is overshadowed by the original.


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Community review by jiggs (February 28, 2010)

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