by November 25, 2020 @ 8:20 am
I still remember how I felt after I played No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle on Wii for the first time in 2010. This game is perfect, I thought to myself. Well, a decade later and now No More Heroes 2 has arrived on Switch, courtesy of Grasshopper Manufacture and Engine Software.
And you know what?
No More Heroes 2 is still perfect.
The Desperate Struggle Is Real
After being away, Travis Touchdown has returned to Santa Destroy. He eliminates an assassin who happens to be related to one of his previous opponents from the first No More Heroes and is quickly informed by Sylvia Christel that the UAA is bigger and better than ever. Dropped all the way down to 51, Travis questions why he needs to fight his way back to the number one spot. It isn’t long before some nice cinematic conflict is introduced into the mix. A hit is placed on one of Travis’ dearest friends: Bishop from Beef Head video rental.
It turns out the orders to kill Bishop were placed by the heir to the Pizza Bat throne. I guess you could insert a “previously on No More Heroes” tagline here as we look back at the assassination side missions from the first game. You know, the ones that tasked you with bringing down the crooked Pizza Butt empire? No, that’s not a typo — the chain was called Pizza Butt in that game and for some reason is now Pizza Bat, and it’s run by Jasper Batt, Jr. Wait, Butt… Bat… Batt… what? Anyway, let’s move on.
As fate would have it, Jasper Batt, Jr. is the — wait for it — number one ranked assassin in the United Assassins Association. Yup, in a move fueled by sheer revenge, Jasper has Travis’ best friend killed after ascending the ranks of the UAA. This revenge, in turn, inspires Travis’ own retribution.
The story setup of No More Heroes 2 is incredibly strong and has a darker tone this time around. Thankfully, that Suda51 level of outrageous antics, offbeat characters, and humorous dialogue lives on in this sequel, even if the story has taken a bit of a twisted turn. Interestingly, the story sequences and character interactions feel a bit more rooted in pulp noir with a nice dose of grindhouse grittiness.
Now Returning to Santa Destroy
As amazing as the original No More Heroes is — and it’s a damn great game — everything about No More Heroes 2 is even better. The story is deeper and makes you care about Travis and the rest of the characters even more. Beyond that, though, even the gameplay feels more polished. Everything is more fast-paced, and the hack-and-slash mechanics are beyond smooth.
No More Heroes 2 goes into total power fantasy levels of insanity. On the medium difficulty setting, you’ll be outnumbered by dozens of somewhat formidable underlings. That shouldn’t faze you, though, because you’ll be able to wipe out those fools no problem. This is especially true because you now have an Ecstasy Gauge (in the form of a pixelated tiger) that makes you practically invincible when full. By triggering Travis’ Ecstasy Gauge, you’ll be able to deliver ridiculously quick attacks by just mashing the buttons.
It’s interesting because even though these moments are pretty breezy, the ranked fights are still challenging. Once again, you’ll face off against a large cast of colorful killers — some more likable than others, but all of them extremely kill-able. While some battles are straightforward fights to the death, No More Heroes 2 mixes things up nicely. One early battle, for example, has you jumping into a mech and fighting another giant human-controlled robot with the city of Santa Destroy acting as your arena. Oh, there’s also an astronaut and a giant talking brain. This game is brilliantly insane!
In addition to the awesome boss battles, you also get to play as a couple different characters in No More Heroes 2. Shinobu and Henry (Travis’ twin brother) from the previous game return here, and their playable chapters are definitely highlights. Both characters feel different enough from Travis that it makes their parts more than just skin swaps. In addition, they take on two of the game’s best bosses, which makes these moments even more memorable.
Compared to No More Heroes, this sequel moves a lot faster. Gone are the high entry fees Travis had to pay just to enter the next ranked fight. Instead, you can just jump right in and take on assassin after assassin with no barriers keeping you from reaching the sinister Jasper Batt, Jr.
The open world setting of Santa Destroy from the first game is also absent here. Instead, you can fast travel anywhere you want at any given time. If you liked roaming around the city on Travis’ motorcycle, you might miss it, but honestly, progression feels much snappier in No More Heroes 2. Not to mention, despite technically being an open world game, No More Heroes didn’t offer much to see, do, or discover in Santa Destroy, so this is definitely an upgrade.
On the fast travel map, you can visit Dr. Naomi for an upgraded beam katana, hit the gym to improve Travis’ stats, or do some part-time work. That’s right, the side jobs are back in No More Heroes 2, though they now take the form of pixelated, arcade-like mini-games. These feel retro in all the best ways possible, and they’re a great deal of fun to play. Mini-games include an exterminator challenge where you move through a maze eliminating pests and a racing game where you deliver pizzas, among others.
Faster, Stronger, Crazier
Graphically, No More Heroes 2 is pretty similar to the first game. The game has a simplified look to it that goes nicely with the insane character action. Aesthetically, though, you’ll see orange-colored evening skies, strange enemy designs, and larger, more cinematic environments. It’s a nice improvement that goes a long way in breathing even more grindhouse charm into the game.
The voice acting is also very strong. Characters range from super serious to highly exaggerated, but they’re all awesome, and their lines are delivered excellently. The game’s music is also fantastic, with some real bangers to give an added sense of badassery as you cleave your way through assassins.
There are games that withstand the test of time, and there are games that will live on in infamy forever. Travis Touchdown’s second outing is arguably his best, and it’s extra sweet now that it’s on Switch. No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle transcends time and will forever be one of the greatest 3D hack-and-slash action games ever made.
Score: 10 out of 10
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