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Platform

Wii

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Ubisoft

 

Developer

Grasshopper Manufacture

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

January 26, 2010

 

 

- Insane, off-the-wall style
- 8-bit homages that are both nostalgic and entertaining
- Hacking and Slashing is simplistic but also sufficient

 

 

- But it’s still simplistic
- New control issues hinder more than help
- Textures and camera angles often pedestrian, if downright poor

 

 

Review: Rabbids Go Home! (Wii)

Review: New Super Mario Bros. Wii. (Wii)

Review: Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers (Wii)

 

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No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle

Score: 7.5 / 10

 

no more heroes 2          no more heroes 2

 

Beware the mind of a game developer hopped up on pop culture and alternative conventions, especially if he’s Japanese. Goichi Suda, aka Suda 51, has enjoyed a cult following from gamers worldwide thanks to his off-beat, almost Tarantino-like approach to game design and storytelling. The lucha libre-loving developer first earned players’ attention with psychological action title Killer 7, and had fans already lined up for his debut Wii title No More Heroes, starring the psychotic otaku

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Travis Touchdown in his bloody conquest to become the number 1 ranked assassin, as well as the chance for some one-on-one time with sexy Frenchwoman Silvia.

With its fourth-wall references to older (and more coherent) games combined with a tongue-in-cheek humor and a dash of gratuitous ultraviolence, No More Heroes gained critical

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acceptance as well as placing it as Suda’s most popular game yet. But once the credits rolled, the odds of a sequel seemed as unlikely as Travis getting some French poontang.

Taking place three years after the first game, No More Heroes 2 begins with Travis facing off against a blonde-haired adversary wielding a massive sword that should instantly be familiar to most players. Once Travis pulverizes the pushover parody, he is greeted again by the opportunistic Silvia, who declares him Rank 51st in a brand new assassin game. Travis is reluctant to start the games over, but thanks to some extra “incentive”, the anti-hero is ready to partake in another bloody campaign across the corrupt city of Santa Destroy.


Like the first game, No More Heroes 2 is fueled by its insanity. The new assassins Travis must face are just as random in design and personality as the first game’s adversaries. No two encounters are alike, and numerous twists and turns will keep players glued to the TV just to see what manner of crazy will occur next.

Despite this, it’s ironic to say that Desperate Struggle is the most coherent of Suda 51’s games, since it follows an established continuity along with returning characters (including a few thought to be very, very dead). Travis is every bit the ego-inflated loser with a garbage can filled with crumpled tissues, but has also developed a bit of a moral code that puts him at odds with the disturbingly carefree Silvia. Former enemy assassin Shinobu returns, now as a devoted ally to Travis, while older brother and rival beam-wielder Henry also joins in the fun. To say anything else would be a disservice to the madcap insanity that overshadows the plot, so allow me to remind you that there’s still a game underneath all that LSD coating.

The first noticeable change in the sequel is the merciful omission of Santa Destroy’s overworld. No longer an excruciating parody of Grand Theft Auto’s sandbox structure, traveling is now an instant process thanks to a selectable mini-map. You can quickly visit Naomi for weapon upgrades (and believe you me, the weapons aren’t the only thing to get “enhanced”), Aiport 51 for some overpriced but alternatively stylish clothing, or Ryan’s gym to engage in quick exercise routines to boost your maximum health and attack power. Or you can hang around your apartment and help Travis’ beloved cat Jeanne lose some weight through a regimen of amusing mini-games.

 

no more heroes 2          no more heroes 2


Another (thankful) omission is that you’ll no longer need to collect a hefty sum of cash in order to advance the story; once a Ranking Battle is available, players can instantly join in and face the next assassin. However, choosing to ignore the gym training and weapon upgrading can result in a more challenging battle, so side-jobs still serve a purpose to rustle up the cash.

In what is possibly the biggest revision for the sequel, most of the “Wiicific” mini-games have been replaced by original 8-bit throwbacks, serving as authentic throwbacks to the NES days of yesteryear (complete with cartridge blowing and digitized, often ineligible voice samples). These oldschool homages aren’t just aesthetically charming, but also entertaining, as well as featuring different play styles and objectives; such mini-games include a top-down bug catching excursion, to delivering pizzas in a Road-Rash styled racing game, to cooking steaks to customers’ specifications. A few mundane missteps, such as arranging a series of sewer pipes to create a working stream of water, to fitting in several Tetris-like tiles into a window pattern only slightly detract from the overall enjoyable games within the game.

The hacking and slashing that helped make the first game a hit is back as well, and still features a beat-‘em-up mechanic of slaughtering waves of enemy fodder before being allowed to proceed to the boss, but some new control schemes have ended up hindering the game rather than improve it. The directional buttons of the Wiimote are now used to dodge four different directions, essentially cutting out the free-roaming camera, which can and will result in several instances of unseen enemy attacks. Wiimote swinging, originally relegated to finishing off enemies or fending off parried attacks, now has a third function as a slashing move while Travis is in motion. This can be useful to catch opponents off guard, but it has the unfortunate side effect of interfering with side-stepping sudden attacks, which often grant a small window of opportunity to unleash a fury of beam attacks while time is slowed down.

It’s unfortunate to say that combat has actually become worse rather than improve itself from the original title, and the game still keeps its creative endeavors separate, with regular enemy battles bland and mundane while boss battles serve as the real shift in variety. Two new playable characters help keep things fresh in the form of Shinobu and Henry, although the former’s ability to jump lends itself to some awful platforming segments.

Suda 51 has been praised for his madcap style, but criticized for his gameplay mechanics. It’s unfortunate that No More Heroes 2 does little to fix his flaw as a game developer, but it also showcases his eye for insane detail and offbeat humor. If you enjoyed No More Heroes’ style over substance, then you’ll love Desperate Struggle. Hopefully Grasshoper Manufacture will be able to balance the two for its inevitable third game, or even the most diehard fans may label it as “No More Excuses."

 

- Jorge Fernandez

(March 11, 2010)

 

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