Travis Touchdown is not a well-known name in gaming. Despite this he still has no problems with taking names, taking ranks, and kicking a lot of ass. He’s back for round number two in No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle for the Nintendo Wii. It might not be the game you play in front of little children or even an impressionable girlfriend or wife, but No More Heroes 2 is a game definitely worth experiencing. But is it worth owning?
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle takes place three years after the original No More Heroes. Travis Touchdown’s name is a legend after he won the UAA’s (United Assassins Association’s) assassin contest, defeating the top-ranked assassin and becoming number one. Just when he thought he was out, they pull him back in! After his friend is mercilessly murdered, Travis seeks retribution for the cruel act. The only way to get revenge? Entering once again into the UAA’s contest. The catch? He has to start all the way at the bottom at rank fifty. The story of No More Heroes 2 is quite odd. It can be downright nonsensical at times, but there’s something still very intriguing about it. Though the ending does leave a lot to be desired.
While there are forty-nine ranks to go up in No More Heroes 2, you won’t be controlling Travis through forty-nine ordeals. Instead, there’s about twelve ranking battles that you actually fight. Others are taken care of through story elements and new playable characters Shinobu and Travis’ twin brother, Henry. Each of these secondary characters are only available to be played during a couple levels each, and they each have their own feel to them so you don’t get the feeling you’ve just playing as Travis in another character’s clothing.
Gone are the tedious money requirements to enter ranked battles and gone, too, is the free-roaming overworld. Now you simply select locations on the map to access them. There’s the gym where you can work out and get stronger through two 8-bit mini-games, a clothing shop where Travis can spend his hard-earned cash on new jackets, shirts, shoes, pants, and glasses, and a sword shop where his trusty beam saber can get upgraded. The map is a much more streamlined approach, and while I’ll miss being able to freely explore the town of Santa Destroy, it makes the game’s pacing all the more better. You go to the UAA building, get briefed on Travis’ next target, and select the location of the next ranked fight.
It would be a boring game if all you did was participate in ranked fights (though these are incredibly enjoyable). You have to fight through waves of enemies, progressing through room after room, area after area, as you inch your way closer to the ranked fight. There’s some exploring to be had in these mostly linear sections of level. There are treasure chests revealing cash, unlockable items, health, and battery power to Travis’ collection of beam weaponry to discover while you’re mowing through enemies. As for the ranked fights themselves, each have their own gimmicks (I don’t use the word gimmick in a negative connotation) to endure. One you’ll be facing a boss in a room full of dangerous obstacles and hazardous lasers while another is a two-on-one battle against a familiar foe from the previous No More Heroes. One notable bout pits you against a giant robot as you two duel in giant mechs on a 2-D plane. The game has no problems with keeping things fresh though one or two battles are purely of the throwaway variety.
The combat of No More Heroes 2 remains relatively unchanged. When you’ve got a good thing going, why risk ruining it after all? As usual you can lock onto targets and swipe your beam katana by pressing the A button. Motion controls only come in to power up Travis’ sword as well as awesome finishing moves. When an enemy is dazed you can grab them, move the Wii remote and nunchuk in the proper direction, and bam! Suplex. You can also do finishing maneuvers with Travis’s sword. It works the same as wrestling move finishers save you only need to use the Wii remote. The aftermath is a fountain of blood to rain down and cleanse Travis’ soul. …Yeah, right. After each foe that is slain, a slot machine appears on the bottom of the screen. Three icons in a row and a multitude of happenings happen such as a powered up beam sword, a one-hit kill spin attack that annihilates every enemy in the room, or the turning of Travis into a tiger that can prowl around a level, killing baddies with one swipe of the claw.
No More Heroes 2 will take most gamers 5-10 hours depending on what mode players conquer (there’s two to begin with and one that unlocks). In addition to that, there’s an item collection that tallies all unique items and costumes gathered throughout the game, a new game plus option that keeps all of your cleared data stats intact when you start a new game, and 8-bit jobs and revenge missions to tackle. There’s around eight 8-bit jobs total, and these take the boring jobs of the original game and translates them into an 8-bit video game. From vacuuming up insects to collecting coconuts in a backpack, these games give off a great bit of nostalgia. Plus they’re plain fun to play. On the other hand, revenge missions are ten scenarios where Travis gets retribution on those that killed his best friend. These all have the same two goals– kill all enemies in a certain amount of time and kill the targets before time runs out. Completing all of these awards Travis with the option to take off his jacket. Apparently, getting revenge on the goons who killed his best friend makes Travis remember he can take his clothes off.
While not a graphical powerhouse, No More Heroes 2 showcases a great truth about Wii visuals. Style over realism wins out any day. The game uses a unique cel-shaded art style that’s much easier on the eyes than the previous game. Everything runs smooth as a baby’s bottom, and things are pleasant to look at. Sure, the camera might not always cooperate, but that’s the price you pay for being a kickass assassin. Meanwhile, the soundtrack still features that infectious main theme and some excellent, laugh out loud voice acting with it.
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is hands-down a better game than its already great predecessor. The pacing is much better, the side-jobs are more fun to play, and getting around Santa Destroy has never been easier. While the motion controls don’t always work the way they’re supposed to, they are very forgiving, and honestly better than the hard-to-work-with classic controller which is an option for those strongly against waggle (you bought the wrong system *wink wink*). Ultimately, No More Heroes 2 earns top honors as yet another great Wii game to kick off 2010.