No More Heroes made quite a name for itself when it released, as it really offered something quite different to the stereotypical Wii game. There was violence and a ton of it and Grasshopper really hoped this would draw gamers in. However, things didn't go as planned and sales were nowhere near as high as expected. This didn't deter Suda51 though, and he decided a sequel was necessary. So three years after the original game took place, Travis Touchdown returns as the main protagonist in this beefed up sequel.
After becoming the top ranked assassin, Travis Touchdown walked away from that life, something which other assassins envied him for. However, when he's confronted by Skelter Helter, things change. The bout wasn't taxing, but the repercussions of the confrontation were severe for Travis. It signalled his return to the assassin game, but it also lead to the death of his best friend, Bishop. Hell bent on revenge, Travis goes after the person who ordered the hit - Jasper Batt Jr., who happens to be the top ranked assassin.
The story is pretty straight forward, and everything is as explained. However, there is a certain character and charm that's almost unmatched. Instantly, players will become aware that this game really doesn't take itself seriously, as not only is the dialogue really over the top, but the characters even talk to the player. It's ridiculously over the top and that's what makes it great. The characters and their behaviour is what makes No More Heroes 2's story stand out and it should be commended for that.
The core gameplay elements are also really solid. Travis runs around closed environments wielding his laser katana, and various strikes can be performed by pressing different buttons or by waggling the Wii Remote. There's no attempt to portray accurate sword fighting here though, so shaking it in any real direction will have largely the same result. It doesn't matter though, as the combat is thoroughly rewarding. The only downside is the camera, which can become exceedingly frustrating as the game progresses. The worst points are when Travis is knocked down, and the camera automatically adjusts itself to point away from his assailant. Fortunately it's not a deal breaker, as the hack n' slash gameplay more than holds its own.
Travis isn't the only playable character in No More Heroes 2, as players can also take on the role of Henry, who controls much the same as Travis, or Shinobu, who actually controls quite differently. Unfortunately, this isn't a good thing, as Shinobu has the ability to jump. This means that psuedo-platforming elements are introduced into the game and they really aren't that great. The mechanic just doesn't work properly and it would be puzzling to think why this was even included in the game, if the rest of the game wasn't quite similar in this respect.
Despite the core gameplay being hack n' slash, there are numerous different ways in which bosses can be beaten. Don't be surprised to fight 2D-style in huge mechs, or to even drive around on Travis' bike. The problem is, that while some of these random innovations work, some of them really don't and it's disappointing. There's so much creativity within the overall design and the boss fights, but it seems that some things were just put in the for the sake of it.
Following on from this even further, there are the various mini-games that Travis can play in-between ranking fights. They are all set in a retro theme, and many are throwbacks to games from a bygone era. There are actually quite a few different ones to try and there's even a top-down shoot 'em up available to play in Travis' motel room. It means that if players get perhaps a bit bored of gratuitous violence, they can take a minute to play with their cat, or perhaps go to the gym to gain some extra muscle or stamina.
The art style, as with everything else from the presentation side, is great. Quite a lot of it is over-exaggerated and very suggestive, but that's all part of No More Heroes 2's appeal. The retro touch is also nice, and the mixture between traditional music and old school 8-bit music also works really well.
The game takes around 5-6 hours to complete on the default difficulty, but those who're looking for a challenge are in luck. Completing the game unlocks a new difficulty, aptly called 'Bitter', which takes away the majority of item pick-ups throughout the game, and of course, makes enemies much harder. Players can also undertake "Revenge Missions", which involve paying back those who were responsible for Bishop's death and they can use their money to buy different weapons - there are for in total.
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is exactly the kind of game the Nintendo Wii needs. It's funny, extremely well crafted, has some solid core gameplay and it's a game directed specifically at gamers. However, for all its positives, there are some downfalls and they mainly revolve around what seems to be an over-abundance of creativity. While some of the unique gameplay elements work, some of them really don't and it's the ones that don't that really stop No More Heroes 2 from being a truly great title.