Be notified of site updates. Sign-up for the Newsletter
sent out twice weekly.
Enter E-Mail Address Below:
More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle
Score: 7.5 / 10
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
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
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.
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
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