A Look at No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle
When developer Grasshopper Manufacture launched the first No More Heroes on the Nintendo Wii, there’s no doubt that the game took gamers by surprise. The company, headed by industry genius Suda51, managed to successfully deliver one of the most enjoyable adult games on Nintendo’s family-friendly console, and it did so with tons of blood, violence, and sexually-powered content. That said, the experience was anything but a cheap blend of these elements–it was a great amalgamation of everything the hardcore Wii owner could ever want. Unfortunately, No More Heroes wasn’t perfect. A lackluster open world, a tedious system that required players to grind for cash to progress to the next ranked battle, and a few monotonous mini-games kept this stellar title from being as close to perfection as possible.
So what did Suda51 and Grasshopper do to remedy the first game’s faults in the sequel? They took a step back, listened to the fans (something not many video game companies do), and they put together a game that could only be called a complete tour de force in gaming. They created No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle.
Removing the Open World
Tha major change that the developers carried out with No More Heroes 2 was removing the open world environment. In the original game, players could drive around, taking protagonist Travis Touchdown to undertake different odd jobs throughout the city of Santa Destroy. Aside from that, however, there was really nothing very compelling about traveling through the open city. There weren’t many notable landmarks, there wasn’t much hidden with the exception of cash and some extra outfits, and there just wasn’t much to see. Upon removing the free roaming aspect in No More Heroes 2, Grasshopper created a much more linear, to-the-point experience that didn’t waste gamers' time with unnecessary objectives. And while some disgruntled gamers may complain about the lack of an open world, even they can’t argue against the fact that the original game just didn’t offer anything very compelling in its environment. This omission was certainly an excellent move on the part of the developers.
Going Old School
One aspect of the original game that Grasshopper decided to overhaul instead of completely removing was the side quest structure. In the original game, players had to repeatedly complete side jobs just to accrue large amounts of cash in order to proceed to Travis’s next assassin battle. Here, there’s no entry fee (which is a total blessing), but there are mini-games that players can engage in to earn some cash in order to buy Travis some new threads. These mini-games are charmingly old school in their design, and there’s plenty of challenge and fun in each job. Some gamers may grow tired after playing the mini-games over and over just to buy all of the apparel in the game, but because this is only a requirement for the most rigid of completists, how tiring the mini-games get depends on how badly you really want Travis to sport some new clothes.
With that said, there’s no denying that the retro-style mini-games are full of 8-bit appeal, and their sound and graphics most definitely boost the authenticity. Hearing someone blowing on a cartridge moments before you play one of these mini-games provides the utmost nostalgia, and if you ever gamed on a NES, SNES, or Genesis, you’ll likely be reminded of the days when blowing air into your games was supposed to make them work. (It didn’t.)
The first No More Heroes featured a crazy tale about a loser otaku who just wanted to get laid and entered an assassin’s tournament because he needed the money. Not the stuff of legends by any means, but Suda51 made you care about Travis Touchdown. He turned this loser otaku into a loveable, enjoyable, realistic protagonist who you just couldn’t help but cheer for, no matter how crazy the plot got. No More Heroes 2 does this exact same thing, but it amps up the insanity and absurdity of the storytelling to the _n_th degree. The assassins Travis encounters are much more ridiculous this time around. The story is even crazier than before. And the dialogue is brilliantly hilarious. It all comes together seamlessly to create one hell of a story that, no matter how absurd it gets, always makes sense. Because of all that, the attitude of No More Heroes 2 is a spectacle in and of itself.
A Game That Feels Like a Game
In an industry saturated with simulation sports games and military first-person shooters, it’s hard to find a video game that, well, just feels like a game. No More Heroes 2 is the perfect representation of a game that harks back to the 8-bit and 16-bit days of gaming while adhering to today’s modern standards. It effectively combines a classic vibe while never feeling ancient. In short, No More Heroes 2 is a gamer’s game. It’s a title designed to appeal to the senses; a game that’s not realistic in any manner–the way games used to be, and the way games should be.
The wonderful linearity, art style, music, and constantly satisfying hack-and-slash gameplay all make No More Heroes 2 a perfect throwback to a simpler time in gaming. This was a time when we didn’t need open worlds. It was a time when a game could capture us despite its simple mechanics. It was a time when the plot of a game didn’t need to be by the book to be enjoyable. No More Heroes 2 is the perfect combination of contemporary game design and old school ideas, and as baffling as that may sound, Grasshopper makes it work incredibly well throughout the game’s duration.
For me, there is no better Wii game than No More Heroes 2. This is because it embraces the idea of rewarding gameplay and engrossing fun, giving a big, fat middle finger to many of today’s critically acclaimed games. And because of that, this sequel is possibly my favorite game of this entire console generation.
Video games are supposed to be fun. No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is exactly that.