Friday, 23 July 2010

Game Review: No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle

It permeates everything. Everywhere you look, you can see it: on T-shirts, in music, branded across the backs of particularly enthusiastic followers. I am of course talking about the wave of Retro-cool that is sweeping the world, or as I like to call it, Geek-Chic. There used to be a time when being a geek was frowned upon and we were shunned from society, forced to indulge our secret passions behind closed doors. Now I can't go five minutes without seeing someone with a faux-vintage Nintendo T-shirt or hearing an 8-bit chip-tune dance track, and some of you may have noticed that the last two games I reviewed had a definite retro appeal.

No More Heroes 2 is the epitome of this fashion, combining hack-and-slash gameplay with old-school-cool. But fashion is such a fickle mistress. Can Suda51 score another touchdown with their freshest franchise?

No More Heroes 2 picks up where its predecessor left off, with legendary otaku Travis Touchdown once again racing to become Santa Destroy's number one ranked assassin. However, when I say assassin, I don't mean the 'stealthily-hang-around-on-rooftops' kind, I mean the 'show-up-at-your-house-and-kill-absolutely-everyone-in-sight' kind. The majority of NMH2 gameplay consists of you navigating Travis around fairly basic environments, slashing away at the no-brainer enemies and using a combination of martial arts and wrestling moves to dispatch them. The combat is simple but very satisfying, allowing even the most cack-handed of players to create spectacular action sequences. The motion-sensitive wrestling moves and death-blows are definitely a highlight, but since the level and enemy design is fairly bland, things can get a little monotonous after a while.

The real meat of the previous game were the boss battles, and the rest of the game seemed to be filler to build up the tension between these climactic clashes. Boring chores, entry fees, training and literally commuting between missions all made Travis' life seem boring and pedestrian in comparison to his exciting existence as a ranking assassin. Players will be pleased to hear that all of the above has been thrown out, as there are no longer entry fees to the ranking battles, the bland overworld of Santa Destroy has been replaced by a menu screen and jobs and training now take the form of 8-bit style mini-games, and are entirely extra-curricular.

While I saw this as a massive improvement, I did feel that the gaps between bosses felt strangely empty, sometimes going straight from one to the next without even a proper stage separating them. The bosses themselves are great fun, but seem to lack the variety and flair of those from the first game.

The main selling point of NMH2 is its style and presentation. The principle characters are snappily designed, the music is catchy and stylish, and the entire affair oozes cool. While the graphics aren't the best in existence, the cartoony visuals are some of the best that I've seen on the Wii. However it is the little touches that leave the biggest impression. The self-references, the spot-on anime satire, the subtle and not so subtle breaking of the forth wall. The sound of someone blowing into a cartridge when the 8-bit mini games start up. The first time you realise that the batteries depleting in Travis' beam katana mirror those in your Wii-mote. NMH2 is full of cool little moments like these.

No More Heroes 2 is a fun and stylish game, but rather than concentrating on improving on the original, Suda51 seems content in simply removing elements that critics didn't like. Suffering from the same repetitiveness of its predecessor, NMH2 does break the monotony with some unique segments and occasional alternate characters, but ultimately comes across as style over substance. But it’s got a hell of a lot of style.

Lukao gives No More Heroes 2 7 powerbombs out of 10

Luke Rosales McCabe
CeX Rathbone Place

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