February 10, 2010

Review – No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle

No More Heroes 2
Margaret waits patiently on the rooftops of Santa Destroy, another female sniper, distinguished by her Gothic Lolita attire and the player’s knowledge that her song is enough to kill. Charging toward her like a bull causes her to fire bullets on cue, which are either blocked at the expense of blade energy or dodged.

When I can get in close enough for the kill, the action is a mash of hack and slash that lands like sloppy kisses to push her back, save for that precise and precious moment where our blades lock and I fall off the edge of the couch from the force of spinning the WiiMote.

During every fight I’ll end up standing on the couch before the end, consistently overcompensating the actions needed as my health drops lower and I run out of pizza slices. I’m earnestly sweating after nearly every encounter as if my life were on the line over this stripped down story of revenge. It doesn’t really matter if the story seems straightforward though, because it’s much more about the player than the adventures of Travis Touchdown this time around.

No More Heroes 2

Complacency makes it easy to say that No More Heroes 2 is everything and nothing. But there’s every possibility that it is a rare example of the medium, where the more deliciously unpredictable elements of chaos conjugate with the sharp lines of order necessary to create the code that has completely consumed me.

This isn’t a first time high-school romance either. This Yin and Yang fuck like well worn adults destined to become honored veterans that achieve a unique medal of kink to call their own, using the stained carpet, wrecked furniture, and dimly lit hallways as if such set pieces were a king sized sleigh bed in the master suite.

In many ways the action is refreshing for not trying to refine the WiiMote into precisely coordinated samurai swordplay. It’s a sloppy mix of luck, endurance, and some elegant pattern recognition that doesn’t start of well at all.

No More Heroes 2

The game trips to make an entrance, the first two confrontations proving about as charming as hearing the sounds of awkward sex coming through thin apartment walls while trying to read.

Minions are a bit like piles of vegetables, either because there is no idea toward making a better meal, or someone was afraid of leaving the plate half empty.

To get to Margaret for instance, the player has to fight their way through what is every bit the 3D realization of 2D beat em’ ups – fighting skinny guys, fat guys, skinny guys with guns, and fat guys with chainsaws for such an extended period of time that you’ll be forgiven for wanting to give the designer of that level a kick in the ass with a cold boot.

What compels the repetitive kills that lead to button mashing? Just how much can be written off to humor and parody?

One possibility the game suggests through the words of Alice is that we are prisoners of the game, drawn to fight until there is no fight left within us.

No More Heroes 2

There’s always plenty to read into Suda51, conversations that lean toward the recognizable habits of his style and excuse plenty of flaws along the way.

Having nothing to apologize for this time around, No More Heroes 2 doesn’t need any excuses, and yet we’re left with so much to talk about.

Turning all of your money making mini-games into NES styled nostalgia gives us writer-types plenty more to talk about for instance. That design choice opens up all sorts of talking points about the way No More Heroes 2 is a nexus containing everything that is videogames.

It’s hard to separate elements of games from the entire product, but No More Heroes 2’s streamlined channel-surfing interface makes it a little easier – the way it seems to cater to complaints about the original while still saying something about our attention span in the breakdown.

Flipping steaks, vacuuming up bugs, and laying pipes had me thinking back on Retro Game Challenge quite a bit.

The quick history is that Retro Game Challenge was a game that constituted not just a love letter to my youth, but a living document that grabbed at every piece of nostalgia to exist as a living memory bubble for a time and place that plenty of us remember well.

No More Heroes 2

Where Retro Game Challenge was about what was, the mini-games of No More Heroes 2 speak more to what is – pondering where all those old gamers got to.

Plenty of people make the obvious statement that No More Heroes 2 is a walking tour of Suda51’s personality, a designer with no-inbetween – either loved or hated, with a few stragglers leaning toward dislike despite expressing their love of style. No More Heroes 2 has changed my appreciation of Suda51 in-so-much as the game is an expression of my wasted life, of a bond that cuts him from the same cloth as myself.

There’s a certain amount of thinking back to how much time I spent playing simple repetitive games like the ones appearing in No More Heroes 2, and even while contemplating that I continue playing them anew.

What’s more important is the way this contrasts the activities of the game proper, of slashing and hacking skinny and fat thugs over and over again in a 3D space that recreates the 2D action – the more things change the more they stay the same after all.

There’s something very true and fun in that, that games might look a lot more shiny now, but are just as simplistic as the good ol’ days – a bit of a piss in the face that’s hard not to smile at because of the circus spectacle the game overwhelms us with.

I feel a lot like Travis Touchdown. I feel like I look at all these activities of life as a game. I feel like I’ve failed at job after job because videogames lied to me and there is no stage progression and resets. And in between this monotony I fantasize about living something brighter and more significant while getting laid and remembering to feed the cat before settling in to play anime shmups.

No More Heroes 2

It was just going to work better having elements in an 8-bit form from a marketing standpoint. But it works to the fact that the game pulls in everything like a culture vacuum. Cowboy Assassins, Mecha battles, Hip-Hop, Sci-fi robots, horror shows, ninja’s, and a sub-plot narrative device that may be the most elegant in any game to date – No More Heroes 2 asks us to suck it all up and swallow, bringing us in to stand at the center of its swirling vortex, where remarkably we might start finding threads of commonality and comprehension in all of these juxtaposed elements.

It’s not all rainbows and kitten whiskers – the final confrontation fails to capitalize on the way the game shifts back and forth between comedy and tragedy. Also, whoever decided that suddenly and temporarily adding jumping into a battle was a good idea can go straight to hell.

Most immediately, the game is a culture whore’s wet dream, sucking it all in like a cash hungry hooker – it’s worth the price of admission based on that alone, creating a legitimately memorable experience. But there’s also plenty more to say about a control scheme that is sophisticated in the way it doesn’t try to do more than is necessary to bring us into the fight, to engage us at just the right moments.

The only thing left for Travis in this tale of revenge is the appreciation gained from the people that have to be cut down to achieve that vengeance, an evolution that shows No More Heroes capable of maturing without sacrificing the charms that brought us back for the sequel.

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle
DeveloperGrasshopper Manufacture
System – Nintendo Wii
Release Date – January 26, 2010

*A copy of this title was purchased by Gamesugar for review


  1. To sum up: Go and buy the 1st one if you haven’t, and then buy this one as well?

    I’ll be getting NMH 2 next month due to budget reasons (turns out an unexpected $150 expense crept up on me).

    Oh, on regards to Flower, Sun and Rain. I’m at the half way point and the best way to review it is to say it’s a Suda 51 game and you take from that all the info you need. Some of the optional puzzles are hard or waaaay obscure, but overall the game is great. I paid $5 for a new copy, so it definitely is worth THAT price, and might be a good purchase all the way up to a $20 price tag. Also many sounds effect from it are actually used in No More Heroes, so that’s how I’m able to bring it up again on this post.

    Comment by EdEN — February 10, 2010 @ 4:57 pm

  2. oh I guess if you want to sum it all up then yes :) If you don’t have the first one, play this one, and you might be surprised at the urge it gives to pick up the original.

    In other news, I think Flower, Sun and Rain needed the hotel guide as an actual printed document in NA, which sounds like a small complaint, but it would have made a big difference for me.

    Comment by Jamie Love — February 11, 2010 @ 8:50 am

  3. Oh, I own the 1st one, along with Flower, Sun and Rain, Contact, and Killer 7. I was basically summing up your review for the others visiting the site. Hopefully Michigan and The Silver Case get re-released soon (Michigan on Wii would make a lot of sense considering what the game was about).

    And as for Flower, Sun and Rain, yeah, having the Guide printed would have greaaaatly helped since then I could check it anytime instead of having to go by two screens just to get to the main guide screen and then look at pages one by one. All in all, FSR is not a bad game, but it can get crazy on you at times and try to break your mind with some of it’s puzzles.

    Comment by EdEN — February 11, 2010 @ 12:07 pm

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