No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle Review

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle returns players to the twisted city of Santa Destroy, a place where t

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No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle returns players to the twisted city of Santa Destroy, a place where the world's best assassins battle each other to the death for fame, fortune, and bragging rights. Brash and arrogant anti-hero Travis Touchdown is back in town to avenge his best friend's murder by slaughtering his way through the ranks to reclaim the spot of top assassin. Variety is the spice of Desperate Struggle, with the game supplementing its staple of hack-and-slash combat segments and boss battles with liberal helpings of bizarre mini-game diversions and waggle-based quick-time events. Two of Travis' death-dealing compatriots, Shinobu and Henry, also return from his first outing to make (very brief) playable appearances. In addition, there's a lot of optional stuff to unlock; strange apartment furnishings, new wrestling moves, clothes, and weapons can all be collected or purchased.

No More Heroes 2 showcases mastermind Suda 51's over the top otaku-meets-Grindhouse sensibilities, while refining some of the annoyances of its predecessor. The story is just (in)sane enough to entertain and engage; and the game's cinematics (especially for ranked battles) never fail to amuse. Limbs fly; blood sprays; expletives and insults are cleverly hurled. I always wanted to see what happened next. The third-person person combat comes off as visceral and satisfying at first; however, it's not long before Travis' relatively limited move-set causes a sense of repetition to set in. From there, the wash-rinse-repeat tactics for lengthier fighting segments induce combat fatigue. The main ranked assassin boss battles are typically more engaging, requiring the exploitation of weaknesses in each enemy's attack patterns.

While the sheer number of mini-game activities (some optional, and some peppered throughout the main story) add a lot of variety, none of them are very deep or satisfying. It doesn't help matters that these activities (from helping your cat lose weight to gathering trash in space) don't have any meaningful connection to the main storyline. With the exception of two gym-based mini-games that increase Travis' health or stamina, the rewards for taking between-mission jobs are entirely cosmetic. Their attention-deficit design tendencies go well with the crude, juvenile, and often funny style of the game but can't completely disguise how repetitive each task becomes after a while. And brief though the other playable character's roles are, the parts with Shinobu still managed to add to the frustration with awkward platforming elements.

No More Heroes 2 isn't long enough to help offset such missteps either. Its mixture of variety, humor, and a few surprises along the way does a great job shocking and titillating but even the schizophrenic cornucopia of esoteric mini-games and over-the-top cinematics are unable to camouflage how simplistic and repetitive the core combat becomes. No More Heroes 2 throws an awesome samurai assassin rave for fans, but for everyone else, a number of distractions mar Travis' weekend in Santa Destroy.

Developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and published by Ubisoft, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle was released on January 26, exclusively for Nintendo Wii.

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