No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, Wii
Genre: Action
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Release Date: June 9, 2021


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PC Review - 'No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle'

by Cody Medellin on July 19, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle continues the tale of punk anti-hero Travis Touchdown, who once again must work his way up to the #1 spot of the UAA (United Assassins Association) rankings.

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle faced an unsure path to existence. The original game sold rather poorly in Japan, even when you include the ports that later hit the Xbox 360 and PS3. The North American and European regions transformed the game into a success. The renewed confidence greenlit the second game after Suda51 initially wanted the original game to be a "one and done" deal, but the sequel only arrived on the Wii despite the option to play with the Classic Controller from the get go. A decade after that release, the game got a Switch version, and that's the version that has been ported to the PC.

The story is set three years after the events of the first title, No More Heroes. Santa Destroy has become a sprawling metropolis rather than a sleepy town. Travis Touchdown, once the top-ranked assassin in the world, has walked away and essentially retired. That retirement didn't last long, though, as the 50th-ranked assassin called him out for killing his brother. At the same time, the world's new top assassin has killed Travis' best friend, Bishop, to send a message. While the 50th was merely an annoyance, the death of his best friend puts Travis back in the game and sets him down the path of revenge as he climbs up the ranks again to take on the new top assassin.

The story isn't as radical as before, since we've seen revenge stories play out hundreds of times in games. Even so, there are still enough quirky bits to make this part of the game interesting. The constant breaking of the fourth wall is still done in a way that is funny without feeling forced, and the ridiculous assassins you're fighting are also over the top. The more serious bits of the story, such as the visits to the call girl booth, are intriguing enough to make you want to keep playing to see where it goes.

If you've played the first game, then you know what to expect from the combat in No More Heroes 2. Not too much has changed, but it feels so good that there are no complaints. You have two melee attacks with the punch and kick buttons, and two buttons handle beam katana slashes for high and low attacks. Ending combos with your beam katana leads to a final slash to dismember enemies; finishing off someone with a melee attack results in a wrestling move finisher.

The game remains responsive, so combat feels good, but it has seen improvements in areas like analog stick rotation when swords lock up, so it's quite difficult to lose those battles. About the only change is with the slot machine mechanic, where you get new powers if you make automatic matches. Some are benign, such as you twirling around to kill everyone in one blow or giving you super speed. Others are ridiculous but cool, such as you morphing into a tiger to kill everyone while enemies cower in fear.

Get out of combat, and the other familiar trappings from the first game are back. You can visit the gym to get more wrestling moves and go to the shop to get beam katana upgrades or different types, such as a dual saber version. You can also do some odd jobs to get some cash. Some of them are back, such as coconut delivery, while others are new, like having to cook steaks to order. You also have something new to do at your apartment, as you can play with your cat to get her back into shape.

This is the area where NMH2 has seen the most changes, and they're all for the better. The first is the fact that all of the odd jobs are now done in pixel form instead of using the game's 3D engine. Aside from the inherent nostalgia fix provided by the change in graphical styles, the games are more fun, since the complicated controls from the first game are gone. Everything is easier to understand, and while some of the jobs are too simple to be enjoyable for more than a minute, others are legitimate time-wasters that you'll want to play to take a break from the hacking and slashing of the main game.

The second improvement has to do with the open world, which is now gone. You now navigate to every important spot, gym, store, and odd job via a menu system, with each event conveniently color-coded so you know what is and isn't important. It's certainly much faster than driving around in an open city and it's a better experience, since the old open world was usually devoid of interesting activities beyond what was important.

Finally, the game does away with the entry fee for each mission. If you wanted to go through all of the missions without any breaks in between (except for menu navigation), you can do so with no other roadblocks. This is perfect for keeping the high energy flowing through the battles, since you no longer have to "take a break" to do something that you might not be interested in doing. It means that all of the minigames are completely optional, so you might never see or do any of them if you have no interest in powering up with new weapons and moves. It is an interesting trade-off from what you had to do in the first game, but it's well worth it.

The presentation is much better than before. The textures are cleaner and have more visible detail, and the colors are more varied, so NMH2 seems more alive. The frame rate is still solid, and the sound is better balanced to where dialogue and music aren't fighting for your attention anymore. The camera is less jittery, and the load times are nonexistent. It won't fool anyone into thinking that this is a modern game instead of one from over a decade ago, but it is clean enough to be respectable, especially with fewer low-resolution videos breaking it up.

Much like the first game, this one barely gives you any options to work with. Keyboard and mouse support are still gone, so it's controller or bust. If you go to either the in-game options or the options screen prior to launching the game, you'll find no options to toggle anything beyond anti-aliasing. For those who want to see if they could improve their frame rate by turning off or decreasing the quality of certain options, they'd be out of luck. On top of that, the resolution is governed by the desktop, as there is no option to change the game's resolution. That's a major oversight and doesn't speak highly of the effort put into the port.

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is a game that takes the formula of the first game and greatly improves upon it. The action is amplified, and while the minigames are more interesting this time around, they aren't necessary if you want to beat the game. The overall streamlining keeps the gameplay rhythm going, as the pacing is much better, but the story is more straightforward and less ludicrous than before. It remains a well-done game, but it would've been better if the options for PC players were up to modern snuff.

Score: 7.5/10

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