Blood. Money. Revenge. Huge beamswords, red leather jackets and a badass attitude. If I was describing a movie right now, the first thing you'd probably think of is Quentin Tarantino. And yet, while No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle does channel a lot of the cult sensibilities you'd see in Pulp Fiction, it does so while maintaining a Japanese flavour that makes the presentation feel like SUDA 51's own.
The first thing you're treated to when you start the game is an ambiguous cutscene that has former United Assassin's Association boss, Sylvia Christel, detailing the journey of Travis Touchdown's return to the top of the rankings. This is a story that you then start to play out, with the game returning to Sylvia's recollections in a seedy club every now and then to explain more about the personalities of each boss that awaits you.
It makes for an interesting premise that covers one aspect of this game that has improved upon its prequel tell an engaging story. In the original No More Heroes
, Travis Touchdown was an outgoing otaku who wanted to be the king of all assassins. At the end of that game, he reached the top, packed it all in and went home.
adds some depth to the proceedings, kicking off with the classic concept of 'an eye for an eye.' With Travis not considering the consequences of his past actions, a shocking reality hits him as he learns of the murder of his weapon-tinkering brother, Bishop. Worse, his killer sits at the #1 position in the UAA ranks, with Travis dropping to 51st since his absence.
What's a brother to do? Kill everyone in a blind rage to face the murderer, that's what! Obviously. This is where the game leaps from cult-film appreciation to pure unadulterated gameplay chaos, as you go around seeking assassins and beating them up in brutal ways to climb the leaderboards.
This time around, you don't need a specific amount of money to pay for your entry to the next fight when you leave the No More Heroes motel, you're presented with a top-down map of the Santa Destroy area. It's a lot simpler than the open-world scenario we saw in the original No More Heroes
, but this is a good thing you head straight into the action instead of trundling about in a bike battling clipping issues.
After the tutorial battle, Travis begins at Rank 50, but you won't be fighting 50 bosses to complete the game. At first, you will be climbing up several places as the UAA changes rules and applies certain regulations to ensure your victory. It also keeps the action from going too stale; each of the assassins you'll fight are insane in their own way.
Matt Helms is a huge towering fat man with a hammer and a baby mask, and will break down a creepy wooden house in order to kill you. An early battle will see you leap 25 places as you fight a bulky American footballer plus cheerleaders in a massive robot suit against the cityscape, pulling all sorts of references from Godzilla. Alice is one of the later bosses and is attached to a huge metal frame with multiple appendages rocking a beamsword in each robotic hand.
There are different ways of killing these bosses, and more-than-satisfying ways of execution for both assassins and the goons that you sometimes face before the main battle. The controls are similar to the original the A button swings your sword, and a the B trigger acts as a melee move to break guards. Z trigger targets and the D-pad evades attacks.
As you beat down low-level enemies enough, an arrow appears on screen move the Wii Remote and/or the Nunchuk in that direction and you'll slice them in several pieces in slow-motion. It's perversely uplifting to smack the hell out of a chunky guy, swing downwards to slice and hear the goon shout Mama! or What the hell! before being decapitated. Good times.
Every time you kill an enemy, a reel will spin at the bottom of the screen, which can give you one of various power-ups if you manage to match three icons. These range from super-speed to fireball-shooting weapons and even the ability to transform into a tiger and maul your enemies. Add the option to switch to different weapons my favourite is the double-beam katana and buckets of blood you have a game where the ultra-violence has been cranked up to eleven.
You won't just be playing as Travis either faces from the first game re-appear as playable characters. Asian assassin Shinobu is able to jump into the air and perform mid-air assaults, while Travis' brother and rival Henry gets one whacked-out boss fight all to himself. He has a rather nifty dash attack. Your bike also returns and will be used for an epic face-off with a Samurai electro-warrior too.
When you're not slicing people in half, there's a multitude of different activities to engage in the best involving the job mini-games, which are presented in an excellent 8-bit retro flair. Seven of these can be played, and range from Hang-On
-esque delivering of pizzas to cooking beef on a hot-plate. And yes, there's a mountain of sexual innuendo in Desperate Struggle
as well ('Man the Meat
It's incredibly hard not to recommend this game to anyone with a Wii. Almost everything that made the first No More Heroes game a chore to play has been wiped out and re-engineered to great effect. The presentation is absolutely stunning, the fourth-wall breaking and humour is priceless, and there's enough Japanese referencing in here to keep any Nipponophile engaged. All-in-all, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is one hell of an immersive, brutal ride, and should be on every Wii-owner's wishlist.
SPOnG Score: 93%