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• No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle

developed by Grasshopper Manufacture / published by Ubisoft
1 player / Nintendo Wii / 2010.01.26

Travis Touchdown returns to the seedy town of Santa Destroy after his friend, the owner of a local video store, is brutally murdered. Little did he know that there would be a laundry list of twisted assassins itching for a chance to match swords with him. When he left three years earlier Travis was the top-ranked assassin in the United Assassins Association (UAA), but in his absence dropped all the way down to #51. He’ll have to climb his way back to the top on a mountain of corpses if he wants a shot at avenging his friend.

Cutting the fat

Reviewers took issue with certain aspects of the first game, and these criticisms weren’t ignored. Originally players had to do a lot of boring driving around town just to get to each destination. Now players warp directly from one location to the next on a map screen.

And before, Travis had to pay an entry fee to take on each new mission – which meant taking on odd jobs to earn cash. In this game those entry fees have been axed, meaning you can get right to the action if that’s what you want. You can still take on side jobs to earn money, but that’s mainly if you want to purchase optional stuff like a couple extra weapons or beef up your stats by training at the gym. When compared to the first game, these cuts reduce the total play time by about 2-3 hours.

The side jobs and gym training are also a real treat, because they’re designed to look and play like classic retro arcade games. There’s eight side jobs, which range from exterminating bugs in a maze, to delivering pizza on your motorcycle. They’re simple but well designed mini-games in their own right, with most having four levels of increasing difficulty. Training is much more basic, but will test your reflexes. Finally, you can also play a modern vertically-scrolling shoot-em-up in your motel room, which has three levels of difficulty. These all provide fun diversions from the main game.

Combat

The battle system hasn’t changed much from the first game, with simple two-button combat. You can lock onto enemies and tap the “A” button to swing your beam saber, and press “B” to throw punches and kicks. You can easily button-mash to string together combos, and perform satisfying finishing blows by swinging the Wii remote as directed by on-screen prompts that freeze the action for a second. If you’re enemy is dizzy, you can grab them and perform a suplex for an insta-kill by swinging both the Wii remote and nunchuk at the same time. If your beam saber’s battery gets low, you’ll have to pause fighting momentarily to recharge it – which leaves you vulnerable.

Rather than having to hold the Wii remote at different angles to change up your combat stance, in this game the power and speed of your attacks is determined by what beam saber you have equipped. Eventually you’ll have access to four different types, with some offering quick but weak attacks and others that are slow but powerful.

Story

Similar in style to the Metal Gear Solid series, each boss encounter is pretty unique and features flashy cinematic story sequences to introduce them. They’re definitely an odd bunch, but you won’t have to fight all 51 assassins ranked ahead of you (there’s actually only 15 boss fights in the game). These goons are typically protected by hired thugs – and the closer you get to the end of the game, the more thugs you’ll have to take out. In truth, it can get a bit tiresome in some of the later stages, but thankfully there are a few missions where you practically jump right into the boss fight. You’ll also play as a couple of Travis’s friends, which adds further variety.

Conclusion

No More Heroes 2 is a fairly simple action game that corrects many of the issues found in the first game.  The designers clearly know their target audience – and pander to our nostalgia for 8-bit games and giant robot cartoons. While there isn’t much depth on offer here, the combat is dumb fun and the outlandish characters and funky style should keep your interest throughout its 8~10 hours.

Quick Run Down

PROs:

  • Funky style and soundtrack
  • Fun button-mashy combat
  • Entertaining characters and voice acting
  • 8 mini-games with a retro feel

CONs:

  • Combat lacks depth
  • Mission structure gets repetitive

One Sentence Review: Improves the original formula to give more of what we want and less of what we don’t.
One Word Review: Entertaining.

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