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Jarrod Mawson
31 May, 2010

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle Review

Wii Review | Revenge is a dish best served crazy.
The soft hum of the beam katana and its neon blue glow illuminates the night sky. Snow falls gracefully to a blood stained rooftop, resting atop a decapitated talking head. A seductive stripper masks her identity, and between breaths of her cigarette speaks of poetic mysteries. The helicopter flutters above, its occupant barely clothed, and the fourth wall shatters like the most fragile of glass under the weight of what is to come. “It’s been awhile, Travis”, coos the ever alluring Sylvia Christel, and she’s right. It’s been two years since we last entered the garden of madness, and if there were any doubts that this sequel would be unable to replicate the insanity of the surprise hit No More Heroes, let it be known that all of the above happens within the first fifteen minutes.

Having left Santa Destroy after hitting rank No.1 at the end of the first game, and subsequently plummeting back down to rank No.51 due to absence, Travis Touchdown has returned to confront the greedy corporation Pizza Butt, who have since taken over and turned the city in a tourist nightmare, and are responsible for the heinous murder his close friend Bishop. A less cheerful tone than the original, Desperate Struggle steers the story down a grimmer path. No longer seeking fame and glory, Travis is driven by anger and revenge, and won’t stop the bloodshed until his friend’s killers pay with their lives. It would seem the only reasonable way he can accomplish this is to again kill his way through the many ranking UAA assassins and confront the murdering mastermind at the top.

If looks could kill.

If looks could kill.
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Really though, even with darker themes the game hardly takes itself too seriously. The writing is fully loaded with jokes and self-referencing humour, sparing nothing in its onslaught of parody, and a kaleidoscope of larger-than-life character personalities wrapped in a ludicrous plot sees you jumping from one moment to the next with the kind of wreckless abandon that would make a rock star blush. One minute you’re sneaking past security guards into an offshore prison to fight the supernatural, and the next thing you know you’re towering over a city as you pilot your own personal mecha. It’s all to the rhythm of an incredibly varied soundtrack ranging from up-tempo funk and dirty rock to thumping techno and slick hip-hop, and presented with a sheek artistic grace that endlessly references pop-culture entertainment as well as the 8-bit origins of video games.

But the real fun is in the gameplay, with the core combat and level mechanics remaining pretty similar to the first game, and thankfully just as satisfying too. Its beat-em-up nature has you rapidly slicing and dicing through legions of unfortunate thugs and gangsters, finishing them off with responsive motion controlled execution and wrestling moves, all to be rewarded with glorious dismemberments and a shower of crimson rain. High and low stances let you choose between slashing in rapid succession or heavier hard hitting blows, and the slot-machine reward system for each kill returns with some new power-ups, one of which sees Travis transform into a huge Bengal tiger, chomping into enemies as they run and cower in fear. There are a few new toys to play with, including an awesome dual beam katana, and as the game progresses you’ll jump into the shoes of two fantastic additional characters, each with their own unique powers and abilities to separate them from the norm. Each of these main levels ends in one of the numerous ranking boss fights, an assorted cast of killers including but not limited to a high school girl, an anime inspired robot, and a disillusioned astronaut, each with their own diverse range of flashy attacks, with final battles capped off with an interactive spectacle of gore controlled by context sensitive finishing moves.

Desperate Struggle in all its uncensored gory...err, glory.

Desperate Struggle in all its uncensored gory...err, glory.
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Desperate Struggle really goes a long way in keeping the combat a bit more varied than the first game, which is probably a good thing as the pacing of battles has dramatically increased. This faster pace comes courtesy of response to the much complained about hub world of the first game. Removed entirely, along with ranking fees, there’s no need to dwell on mini-games and side-job anymore, grinding to earn big bucks just to progress the story. Jumping from battle to battle, as well as traversing Santa Destroy, is as simple as selecting options from menu.

That’s not to say that all the fat has been cut. Optional odd job mission still exist, and have Travis flipping burgers, exterminating insects, collecting trash, delivering pizza, and much more, with many of these games rendered in glorious 8-bit style, complete with midi sound effects, and even an opening audio cue of blowing into the cartridge. If you fancy something a little more violent, there are also combat focused revenge missions to kill some time, each throwing you against waves of enemies and against the clock, with the goal of either killing a unique individual or simply everyone in the room. Most of these optional missions reward you with hard cash, and with ranking fees no longer putting a hole in your wallet money can be directly spent on new clothing and weaponry, as well as training at the gym to buff Travis’ health and attack power.

Fat cat is fat.

Fat cat is fat.
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Even then the optional extras don’t end with odd-jobs and revenge missions. Travis’ now overweight cat can be played with in a number of hilarious minigames to help her shed some kilos, and switching on the apartment TV will boot up a vertically scrolling shoot ‘em styled after Travis’ favourite anime; Pure White Lover Bizarre Jelly. Suffice to say, there’s never a dull moment or a lack of things to do, and being optional rather than forced makes them all the more appealing, and a great diversion from the main missions, going to great lengths in extending a play-through to around ten hours.

It is sad then that with all its improvements in some of the most important areas, Desperate Struggle falters in others. One of the previously mentioned additional characters has a jumping ability, which is utilised in platforming segments for their stages. Though brief, these parts of the game are clunky and frustrating at best, with poor collision detection and difficult jumping controls making it too easy to miss a landing, forcing you to backtrack and start again. There are also some technical issues, with the framerate occasionally dipping quite low, though thankfully these incidents are restricted mostly to cinematics. Ultimately, the biggest issue with Desperate Struggle is the essence of missing content in certain areas of the game. Naomi’s weapon shop, for example, will sell only two new weapons throughout the entire game, and no weapon upgrades unlike the first game, making it seem a little odd that an entire menu option was dedicated to something so basic.

Yeah dude, this totally makes sense.

Yeah dude, this totally makes sense.
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Yet, like previous Grasshopper Manufacture titles, it’s almost as if the rough edges add their own personal charm. There’s no decision that appears unintentional, even when questionable, and no moments that seems unnecessary, no matter how absurd, and when combined with the sharp style and quick wit of the rest of the package it delivers something truly unforgettable. Like an exploitation film damaged after so many watches from underground circulation, there’s a richness and purity applied to something that isn’t afraid to be different, to disregard conventions of its medium and abandon all reason in favour of absolute entertainment and joy, even if it’s not all perfect.

Ultimately, being different is where Desperate Struggle succeeds above all. It really isn’t like anything else out there. Outside of the first game, it’s a totally unique experience, one of which has taken a number of measures to fix many complaints found with the previous title, making for an arguably better experience. It's fast, it's brutal, it's positively crazy, and it's fun-first mantra is one you can’t help but wish was echoed by more developers. What we’re left with is not only one of the best action titles on the Wii, but one of the most memorable of this generation.
The Score
Astonishing madness and action packed gameplay drenched in gallons of ultra violence and style. Not to be missed.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle Content

Preorder No More Heroes 2, get Travis' shirt
20 May, 2010 Look as classy as the hero himself.
Suda51 discusses No More Heroes 2
21 Dec, 2008 Including the open world and why the Wii.
Preorder No More Heroes 2, get Travis' shirt
20 May, 2010 Look as classy as the hero himself.
21 Comments
3 years ago
awesome debut review icon_y1.gif great to have you on board icon_smile.gif
3 years ago
Imma gonna get this, but do you miss a lot if you haven't played the first game? I missed it on purpose, to boycott the driving around in the open world.
3 years ago
Yeah, you do miss quite a lot. Not only does the story continue on fairly strongly, but there's recurring characters who won't make a lot of sense if you haven't played the first game. The open world really wasn't that bad, it was more than worth putting up with considering how good the rest of the game was (and still is).
3 years ago
Nice review! I loved every minute of this game. There's no part in the game which isn't fun, besides one sidejob.... but is that the developer making a point? The game has so many underlying messeges that we'll probably never figure out what exactly mr suda51 was trying to get across to the player.

My personal highlight of the game: Mimmy, she's so crazy.
3 years ago
I also havent played the first one. I think I might give it a crack though, is it possible to find the non-gimped version in PAL?
3 years ago
^
Nope. And the PAL version is actually the real version(Same as Japanese). They decided to add blood to US version because Ubisoft thought it would make it more appealing to play. True facts icon_razz.gif

Anyway, completely agree with your review icon_y1.gif. Even to the score. Although in my opinion the 1st game does a better story. This revenge story doesn't have as much charm compared to some of the WTF of the 1st game. That and i feel some of the ending cutscenes to some of these ranking fights feel a bit rushed/short and don't have the same feel to the ones in the 1st.

Lastly, anyone wanna sell me one of those Bonus T-shirts GAME are giving out? icon_lol.gif
3 years ago
SumAznGuy wrote
^Nope. And the PAL version is actually the real version(Same as Japanese). They decided to add blood to US version because Ubisoft thought it would make it more appealing to play. True facts icon_razz.gif
I dont buy the PAL/Japanese version being the 'real' version. The only reason it lacked blood in Japan was because they have harsh censorship against violence in games. A lot of the cutscenes in NMH are shot in a way that takes into account blood sprays and dismemberments too, such as the Holly Summers end scene which doesn't make much sense unless you've got the uncensored version.

Both are good, but as far as I'm concerned NMH looks its truest when uncensored.
3 years ago
I completely agree, there's no way that the Japanese version is the "real" one, there's just too much evidence in the game that points to blood being a part of it. I think it looks much better uncensored, so it's a real shame that only the censored version is available to us PAL folks. Well, even if you're unable to play the U.S version, at least the game is still good - it just loses some of its impact.
3 years ago
there is no way that the pal version is the 'real' version. watch this video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwL_kaLSKTE

now tell me pal is real.
3 years ago
I don't think the first game would has been as *great* censored. Thankfully I can play the sequel without having to import and look at dodgy ways for playing it on my up-to-date firmware Wii.
3 years ago
BUY THE FIRST ONE AND BUY THIS. Sales were not the best for the first its amazing that they made a second. It is the best non nintendo game on wii and is one of my favourite games well ever. I just pray they keep making these, but I just started the second shall see how this ends as an indication I guess.

ps - BUY IT!!!!!!!!!!!
3 years ago
fair enough. I meant real as in original version.

Probably should've worded it better icon_annoyed.gif
3 years ago
Sigh icon_sad.gif
Always wanted to get into these games (loved Killer 7) but couldn't bring myself to play the censored version.
Usually I am not such a prude about gore making a game etc. but when you have a developer who considers games an artistic vision, I find it impossible to play the games they produce in anything but their full form.
3 years ago
Give this one a go then Nic, as its uncensored.
3 years ago
Been playing it for sometime now and it is awesome! icon_biggrin.gif
3 years ago
Let's be honest... Killer 7 wasn't that good and was so stylistic people wanted to like it so it would make them feel better about their gaming as art arguments.

His DS game was self absorbed pap and the original NMH was a stupid stylised ultraviolent waggle fest. "Oh wow, i can save while pooing. How clever!"

I also feel his name Suda51 adds to his whole appeal and if he was called Satoshi people wouldn't nearly be as interested. His name compliments the artistic want we gamers want in our media form.

Perhaps I'm being overly cynical and i should applaud his uniqueness, but to me it's just an emperors clothes situation.

[Awaits flames]
3 years ago
tetsuwan your entitled to your opinion, but to call it a wagglefest? you hit with A and the only waggle is the finishing hit which is more of a slash lol. Only waggle is charging the sword and you must admit that its pretty amusing
3 years ago
Nice review, pretty much sums up how I feel about the game. Although was I the only one who felt like this game takes itself a little too seriously when compared the the first NMH?
3 years ago
Tetsuwan wrote
Let's be honest... Killer 7 wasn't that good and was so stylistic people wanted to like it so it would make them feel better about their gaming as art arguments.
Nope. I love Killer7 and strongly believe games are NOT art. You know, it is possible for people to enjoy the games engaging characters, story and fun gameplay mechanics. We aren't all "Games are an art form" snobs.

Of course, I don't doubt there are morons who think its cool to like crazy games like that (Yahtzee being a perfect example of these morons)
3 years ago
^Seconded on both accounts. As much as I'd like to go on a rant about how I don't think games are art, I don't want to derail the topic icon_razz.gif

I've ordered both NMH games on the cheap from the UK last week. It's been a while since reading a review has pushed me into buying a game (laugh)
3 years ago
el_supraman wrote
ps - BUY IT!!!!!!!!!!!
Ummm, what he said.

Played, clocked, wowed
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