NO MORE HEROES 2 REVIEW
Otakus. Often outcast in society, they circle the toilet bowl of the social ladder when it comes to their level of importance in the world. Therefore it should be no surprise that in No More Heroes 2 we find one such individual who is hoping to redefine that stereotype, one body at a time. His name is Travis Touchdown and he’s back to wreak some havoc with his beam katana. Does he perpetuate peoples’ views on the sub-culture group he belongs to or does he show us that otakus are not just sad geeks who masturbate to anime and own hug pillows of their favourite luchador? Read on to see.
The game begins with Travis duelling with the brother of the first assassin he beat in a ranked match from the first No More Heroes. Looking ever so similar to the lead character from a famed Squaresoft RPG, (Final Fantasy VII if you’re wondering) he calls Travis out to a duel to avenge his fallen brother. Travis, having no recollection of the event, proceeds to take out Skelter Helter in bloody fashion. Before Skelter's death knell he announces to Travis that ‘You are the loser…..you will feel the burden of another’s death soon’. It is shortly after this showdown that Travis’ video rental store-owning friend Bishop (who returns from the first game) is murdered and his head thrown through Travis’ motel room window. After the agony, rage and desire to take revenge take hold of Travis the catalyst is created for what is to unfold in No More Heroes 2.
Travis is informed by the ever-sultry agent of the United Assassins Association (UAA), Sylvia Crystal, (now sporting a fitting dress coat, hot pants and shades) that having lost his former position of no.1 in the UAA and having been knocked down to 51st place in the rankings that he has to work his way back up with the incentive being reclaiming the organisation's top spot and finally taking Sylvia to bed. This sets the tone for the sort of gaudy and subversive humour you will experience in NMH2 as Travis takes on some of the most bizzare assassins ever in his efforts to reach the owner of the Santa Destroy's main fast-food chain Pizza Batt and Bishop’s murderer, Jasper Batt Jr. From Irish hip-hop priests to American football stars and their harem of cheerleaders piloting giant robots, Goth-Lolita dressed duel-axe wielding ladies to Russian cosmonauts, NMH2 perhaps doesn’t one-up the previous game as that had some truly imaginative boss encounters but it does hold its own in presenting some interesting characters that you will encounter through the different ranked fights in the game.
Players will find that the controls are responsive with the Z button used to lock onto enemies, the A button to slash the opponent with high or low blows based on how high or low you hold the Wii-mote and the B button used for melee attacks as well as wrestling moves when the opponent is stunned. Travis also has the ability to safety roll out of danger by pressing the relevant direction on the D-pad. These manoeuvres give Travis the flexibility he needs in battle to take down the enemy and continue to duck, weave and block incoming attacks whilst looking stylish all at once. Travis will also get to choose from four types of beam katana through the game, from the default katana he starts out with to a more traditional looking katana, duel-wielding katana for fast attack strings as well as a large katana that takes twice as long to swing but is twice as big and powerful as the other katana available. Players can switch between these in battle by pressing the 2 button on the Wii-mote and choosing the relevant beam katana, allowing for greater variety and fun in battle. Compared with NMH1 it’s something that you may have managed without previously but once you have it you just can’t go back.
There are also ranked fights in the game that allow players to take control of two of the characters from the previous game, katana-wielding schoolgirl Shinobu Jacobs and the ever stylishly-dressed anti-hero Henry. They are a brief reprieve from controlling Travis and are a nice (albeit brief) change from the game's main star.
If you’re finding it difficult to progress to the next ranking match in the game you can always go to Ryan’s gym and through mini-games done in the style of 8-bit classics of yesteryear improve Travis’ strength, stamina and health. It’s a nice change to the approach other games take and may even make you chuckle once or twice as you remember how addictive (or not) those sorts of games used to be.
Although No More Heroes has always been unique in how it looks compared with other titles there’s no reason why its sequel should not look the best it fabulous as well as unique. Thankfully NMH2 improves on its predecessor in this department. Edges appear sharper, faces more distinct, bolder and the environments have more detail added to them than ever before. They serve their purpose, sure, but it doesn’t hurt for Grasshopper Manufacture to show what they are capable of when it comes to adult-looking games on the Wii and pushing the capabilities of Nintendo's console. The soundtrack is equally striking with a combination of rock, punk, funk, anime, ambient and outright strange tracks brought together to make a collection that suitably underlies the action unfolding (and also take the piss out of one or two musical genres whilst we’re at it with some of the lyrics that accompany the in-game songs).
NMH, despite the game’s intricacies. Given that the gameplay is mainly a hack-and-slash affair it is not too surprising that some players may quickly find the game laborious and if the game’s humour doesn’t strike a chord players may not be patient enough to reach the no.1 spot in the United Assassins Association’s list of registered assassins.
Detriments and retreading of old ground aside, No More Heroes 2 reminds you of why you like and play games. An enjoyable hack-and-slash affair, it has the cockiness and subversiveness to set itself apart from the pack together with a unique soundtrack and graphical style to boot. It is one of Goichi Suda’s more accessible games and is a positive beacon for showing that quality, adult games can be made and are released on the Wii. It may not change your opinion of otakus much but when you control Travis Touchdown you have to cut him some slack when he comes out with such one-liners as ‘Some people fuck at funerals; I cut off heads’. Certainly upfront and bold but NMH2 will give you a ride like no other game. Comes recommended to those who don’t faint at the sight of blood (the UK version is uncensored so prepare for pools of it here) who want to experience a good attempt at what a Star Wars game should aim for on the Wii (the game is abound with references to this paramount of geekdom by the way). Give the otakus a break and give NMH2 a whirl. You may just enjoy it for what it offers.