FEATURE | Desperately Struggling (No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle)

by Vincent K.

Finally, it is over. Without spoiling anything, the final boss of this game is brutal. BRUTAL. He’s the type of boss you fight so much that you start memorizing lines of the script. But I finally beat the smug bastard and his cheap, insta-kill moves! So how long did it take me to destroy this man? (Crap! Spoiler!) What? About a day? OK, I guess that makes sense, but what about the game? What did you say, me? Four days? That’s it?! I paid $50 for this game! *punches guy who was telling me all this stuff*

OK, I’m being a bit hard on the game (and that guy whose jaw I just broke in half), it’s quite awesome. Hell, the first boss in the game has you slicing off somebody’s head before he yells at you for cutting it off. Confusing, right? Well, that’s the No More Heroes experience: you play as diarrhea stricken Travis Touchdown, an assassin whose blatant disregard for stealth and influencing the world with his killings would make Ezio sneak into the city just so he’d have a chance to stab Travis in his angry neck. (Weird that Ubisoft made both this and No More Heroes. Wrap your head around THAT.)

For whatever reason that’s never explained, Travis has jumped down 50 ranks in the fake assassin’s organization. Now, at rank 51, Travis must fight his way back to the top. The twist? There aren’t actually 50 battles in the game.

Every now and then, No More Heroes 2 pulls a cheap plot device from nowhere and eliminates several of the promised fights. Hell, after two non-tutorial fights, the game rockets you up about 25 ranks just for the hell of it. I realize that a mandatory 50 boss fights would have made the game longer and more repetitive than it should’ve been, but if you knew that, why’d you bother starting us from rank 51 in the first place?

That’d be like me promising a long, in-depth look at this game and then wasting two paragraphs on the story. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, and this game does, too. Also like me, Desperate Struggle is willing to make fun of anything it can grab. Anime? Got it, even if it isn’t NSFW. Shooters? Bam. Horror movies? Here. Something that isn’t Japanese? How about stealth and platforming? See, it gets EVERYTHING. Including itself.

For example, remember how everybody’s been comparing the beam katana to the lightsaber? Guess what happened? You get to use a lightsaber as an actual weapon. Sure, it’s about as easy to swing as a 10 foot log, but….actually, I forget where I was going with that, the lightsaber just plain sucks. Perhaps an insult to the concept in general or something? Also, do any of you recall how the first game had you jacking off your sword to recharge it, because the same people who make those shakeable flashlights are just 10 year olds with a crapload of money?

And how that didn’t get any controversy whatsoever? How did Suda 51 change that? Did he give Travis a blood-powered sword? Did he make it regular-battery powered? None of those. Instead, he did the exact same thing, only now the icon to represent your battery power is a giant dick that gets larger as you shake your sword. Good thing Jack Thompson’s dea-er, disbarred.

Notice how I said that he didn’t change anything. Also notice how sword recharging is still a major part of the game. The major complaint I’m getting at is that there are times in battle when you have to run away from the chainsaw wielding thugs so you can jack off your sword in the corner, breaking the flow of the game and forcing you to yell “NOT NOW, JUST GIVE ME A MINUTE!” constantly.

Sad, too, since this game has a nice flow going for it. And so we’ve come to the main part of the game: slashing the fuck out of everything, since everything is a blood-filled pinata and Santa Destroy is caught in perpetual Cinco de Mayo.

Although that sounds very easy, I’ve noticed that the combat has more strategy than it seems at first; OK, fine, so you still mash the A button into a fine powder, but you’ll find yourself adjusting the Wii-mote to continue combos constantly, stopping at just the right time to dodge your enemy and then shove your sword up their ass. Or wrestle them, if you prefer that. I don’t know why you’d prefer that, given that you’re often doing the exact same move, but whatever, maybe you’re into that.

Me, I’m into the boss battles. Like that wasn’t obvious before, given that I bought the game. Whatever, so you get to the boss battle and again find out that there’s quite a bit of strategy to these fights. OK, so it’s mostly “dodge and stab”, but you still have to know when to dodge and how long you should stab. Otherwise, prepare to die. A lot. Some of these battles will kill you so many times that you’ll start thinking that a lot of the enemies are just your past corpses dressed up in suits and strings.

Of course, this leads to quite a bit of repetition, doing the same things in the same boss fights over and over again, hoping that this is the time when you get to kill your foe with a quick time event that you can’t fail. Literally, I was unable to fail the QTEs, no matter how much I tried. So why even have them?

Of course, this same question came up after Travis’ post-assassination crap, when I found myself playing with my cat to make it lose weight. They’re inaccurate (cats don’t stretch like that, and actually getting them to play requires a small baggy of catnip and the music of Jefferson Airplane) and are specifically designed to destroy your fingers.

The reward is decent, but the lack of realism isn’t. If you’re going to put a cat in the game, at least go the extra mile and show them for what they are: kinda lazy pets who know that the mouse is made of fucking plastic.

When thinking about old school design, you didn’t go the lazy old school route; you went all the way. These actually feel like lost NES games, simple, somewhat punishing, and fun enough to distract me for a long time. However, one of the things not in there is “necessary.” The only practical reason to play them is for the money (missions are now available all the time), but even the most powerful swords (all two of them) cost about as much as a used smoothie, and Travis never carries less than the entire Zimbabwean economy in his wallet.

They’re a nice touch and a decent distraction from time to time, but they always seem to raise the question, “Why are these here? Why couldn’t I get more bosses?”

Same goes for the two new characters. Yes, they’re game changers, but only for the brief periods of time in which they’re playable. So what do all these changes add up to? Well, according to my expert math guys, their calculations yielded…*reads print-off*…absolutely nothing. Hold on, what have we here? An asterisk? It says that this does not mean that the new features don’t change or add anything. It’s just that they’ve revealed some underlying flaws in the game or didn’t go far enough or whatever, I don’t know, I’m not a math expert.

The point is that all these equations add up to zero or whatever, meaning this game is of the exact same quality as the original No More Heroes. Decent quality, though; for those of you who thought that Kingdom Hearts needed more tiger transformations and copious amounts of blood, well, here you go. Keep in mind, though, that instead of playing as Haley Joel Osment while Goofy drowns his miseries in your hi-potions, you play as an angry otaku while a random nurse lectures you on some dead guy.

Synopsis

  • Keep pressing A until the ending. It’s that satisfying. (The slashing, not the ending.)
  • Parodies abound, along with random, incomprehensible names.
  • Wow, this is short, but at least it’s honest, earning it the Open Personality Award. Now I just wish some other games were that honest. *wink wink*
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