Game Music, Reviews

Kill or be Killed: No More Heroes 2 Desperate Struggle (Game Review)

March 20, 2010 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Kill or be Killed: No More Heroes 2 Desperate Struggle (Game Review)on Twitter

While nobody I know outside of the gaming industry has played the original No More Heroes, it apparently did well enough to warrant a sequel. It’s one of my favorite games on the Wii, so I was understandably shocked but ecstatic at the news of a sequel. I loved the quirky otaku humor of the first game, and it looked as though there was more of the same with some improvements in the sequel.

The ending of the first game was so ridiculous that I had no idea how they were going to continue, but they’ve done it.  Lots of things have changed in Santa Destroy, and for us here at OSV where we focus on music, Masafumi Takada’s departure left a huge question mark as to how the sequel would feel.

Well, let’s get on with our review after the jump!

When you start up No More Heroes 2, you are immediately thrust into the action. It’s been three years since the events in the first game, and our unlikely hero, Travis Touchdown, has disappeared, forfeiting his rank as the UAA’s number one ranked assassin. He’s back with a veagence, however, as his best friend has been murdered at the hands of one of the new top-ranked assassins, and that’s where this new journey begins. You of course have to start from the bottom, but rather than having to deal with the mere dozen or so combatants that stood in your way in the first game, there are now 51!

Now, don’t go expecting to slice-and-dice through 51 unique boss matches in No More Heroes 2, as you will end up climbing the ranks faster than you’d expect, but I should avoid saying too much about this to avoid spoilers. While you’ll mainly be controlling the hilarious Travis Touchdown with the same control scheme featured in the first game (lock on and button mash to attack), but they’ve added the ability to wield dual beam katanas, which is majorly rad. This isn’t one of those sequels where you mysteriously lose all your power at the start of the game, either, as you definitely ‘feel’ stronger in No More Heroes 2, which is probably helped by the flashy visual effects that are triggered during fights.  They’ve also added more power-up attacks that are unleahsed as you defeat enemies, including a mode where Travis turns into a tiger and mauls his opponents, and another where he performs a massive shockwave attack that kills all nearby enemies. There are also sections of the game where you play as either Shinobu or Henry from the first game. Shinobu is very agile, and has the ability to jump, but aiming her jumps can prove frustrating as times as I found myself missing platforms much too often.  I still had a lot of fun with her, though, and I love her save sequence that involves her taking a shower (Travis still takes a trip to the toilet to save the game).  Henry feels very light on his feet as well, and has a rather elegant fighting style that I also enjoyed.  I’m not focusing too much on either of these characters because the bulk of the game features Travis.

While there’s aren’t necessarily 51 distinct ranked battles, there are a lot of unique match ups and a varied cast of common enemies that you must cut in half and maim on your way to the main attraction.  The areas are generally smaller, creating more of an emphasis on the boss battles, but even the common enemies are much more varied and fun to fight than in the first game.  Regarding the various areas, there’s a cool section that has you sneaking around to avoid enemies and guard towers in typical Metal Gear Solid fashion.  In terms of bosses, you’ll have epic sword duels, fights with robots, do battle by ramming your opponent with your motorcycle, and even see some returning characters.  I admit that the assassin’s weren’t as memorable this time around, which is a shame, but I enjoyed them nonetheless. To mention a few, the first assassin you take on, Skelter Helter, looks an awful lot like Cloud Strife, while Nathan Copeland’s boom box arms are ridiculously awesome. My two favorites, however, are a gothic lolita chick who is accompanied by a fun pop track, and another assassin with 8 robotic limbs that each wield a beam katana.  You even get the chance to defend your rank against a lower ranked assassin who is obsessed with Travis and insists he read her love letter to him out loud to much hilarity.  Oh, and the best thing about ranked matches in No More Heroes 2? No more collecting huge sums of money to enter… they’re available whenever you’re ready with no entry cost.  In terms of difficulty, the game was kind of easy on the medium setting (I was able to plow through the game in 10 hours without much dying), but there is a hard mode that you unlock after beating the game that is nearly impossible.

So what’s the purpose of money, and where do you get it? You can buy new beam katanas from Naomi’s lab from the first game, you’ll also be spending your money on training. You can train at Ryan’s Gym to raise your stamina and strength by playing through some mini-games. As far as Ryan is concerned, he’s a hairy man who wears pink tights (this is something Audun would really appreciate) and throws dumbbells at you during your workouts, and he has a killer taste of music as the gym features this quriky disco track that’s a lot of fun.

You get money by doing side-jobs, like in the first game, except now there’s a twist: all the mini-games (inlcuding the training mini-games) in No More Heroes 2 are 8-bit. Yes, there are a large number of 8-bit mini-games to choose from, including a side-scrolling coconut-collecting game, a motorcycle racing like, and one that involves cooking burgers titled “Man the Meat” that will have you holding on the A button for set durations of time to make rare, medium, or well-done burgers. This one was particularly great as the customers would yell at you in all their 8-bit glory, “This sucks!” or “Tastes like shit!,” which was barely discernible with the 8-bit compression. For some reason, the annoying scorpion collecting mini-game from the original NMH is here, but it’s not 8-bit. These jobs appear separately from side beat-’em-up sessions that were the mainstay of fundraising in the first game. These mindless side missions are called “revenge missions” in No More Heroes 2, and often yield rare items including weapons and clothes, making them a fun side thing to do if you’re interested, but not necessary by any means.

In terms of story, just like the first game, No More Heroes 2 is pretty minimalistic, but for what it lacks in substance it makes up for by being absolutely convoluted and ridiculous.  A lot of the game’s story is told through a narrative style as a character reflects back on the events of No More Heroes 2 from the future, which I thought was an interesting approach. However, there are some inconsistencies with some of the things that happened in the first game, including the return of the sexy French UAA staffer, Sylvia (remember what Henry said about her in the first game?), but even these didn’t detract much from the experience. It’s supposed to be a silly game, and while it does have an angsty edge that fits the game’s theme of vengeance, it never loses its sense of humor, continually taking players out of the game by having the characters make comments about the player from time to time.

One of the biggest changes in No More Heroes 2, however, is the navigation system. People got rather fussy about driving around the mostly empty town of Santa Destroy, so this time, all the game’s navigation is done in a menu-based fashion. Not only is it faster and cleaner, but the map is actually the same map from the first game, and I love the zoom in and zoom out animations that they implemented when you enter and exit a location.

There’s also a lot to do at your hotel. Not only can you change your clothing (there’s an awesome The Outer Rim T-shirt!) and save by taking a break on the crapper, but there’s also a fun weight-loss mini-game (not 8-bit!) involving your cat, Jeane. She’s gotten quite heavy over the past three years, and you can play an assortment of short, simple, yet charming mini-games to whip her into shape. Also, you can check out the TV to play one of Travis’s videogames that is essentially a top-down vertical scrolling shooter with anime-based characters (jiggly breasts included) and a catchy J-pop song in the background.

As far as the No More Hereoes 2’s visuals, the game certainly looks better than the first game. There is, of course, plenty of blood and gore to go around, but there is also a wider variety of locales to explore, as mysterious, unexplained wormholes take you do locations outside of Santa Destroy, including a graveyard, a bank, a sports arena, and a number of other places. The anime stuff in the videogame mini-game (does that make sense?) is also well done, and they’ve added destructible environments along with moving obstacles to some of the boss battles, which adds a lot of interactivity to the game.

Now on to the music. You’ll find it interesting to know that the memorable No More Heroes theme from the original game is not used very much here. Masafumi Takada left Grasshopper Manufacture last year, and Jun Fukuda was therefore left to handle this game’s score. They borrowed a lot from the Dark Side remix album, including The Outer Rim’s version of the No More Heroes theme and a few other tracks.  Fukuda’s original music is generally grunge rock in style, which is appropriate given the game’s theme of revenge. Even the hotel track is rather dark, which really motivated me to go out and kick some ass. As I mentioned, there are a lot of 8-bit mini-games in NMH2, and Fukuda also handled these amazing well, creating some very catchy melodies throughout the game. I mentioned the goofy disco track at Ryan’s Gym, and the pop song that plays during one of the boss battles, but I really need to note just how badly this game needs a soundtrack release. Come on, Grasshopper Manufacture! Also of note is the fact that Akira Yamaoka contributed one piece to the game, but was credited under a pseudonym as he was at Konami at the time. I don’t recall which track it was, but you should definitely look for it if you’re going through the game. I also don’t want to ignore the stellar voice acting in the game (I love how Shinobu uses some of Travis’s lines), and the amazing blend of realistic sound effects and 8-bit jingles that are scattered throughout the game.  Strong work on all ends.

No More Heroes was one of my favorite games on the Wii, and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle improves upon it in nearly every way. Gone are the annoying jobs and brawl matches that players had to trudge through in the first game to acquire the funds to progress, and gone is the empty world of Santa Destroy, replaced instead with a clever and visually impressive overworld map. There are more bosses, more characters to control, more weapons, and lots of 8-bit love from top to bottom. The music and voice acting are also fantastic, making for an all-around well-polished product.  If I had to come up with one complaint about No More Heroes 2, it’d be that it’s only 10 hours long, but hey, there’s always the hard mode, and honestly, I’d rather have a brief and extremely enjoyable playing expereince over a long, mediocre one. You owe it to yourself to check out both No More Heroes games, and pick up The Outer Rim’s album featuring some English vocal drama from No More Heroes while you’re at it. Suda 51 says he’ll work on another No More Heroes game if there’s a big enough demand, so please, support hardcore gaming on the Wii and pick this one up!

SCORE: 9.0/10

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