No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle Updated Hands-On - The Early Levels and a Cool Surprise

We try out Grasshopper Manufacture's new brand of crazy in its upcoming Wii sequel.

We got a very brief taste of No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle a few months ago with a playable demo at this year's Penny Arcade Expo. At the time, No More Heroes 2 appeared to be a fairly straightforward sequel with some gameplay enhancements. However, we recently had the chance to spend more time with the game from the beginning, and we have to say No More Heroes 2 is shaping up to be much more than a by-the-numbers sequel. Please note that what follows is a veritable minefield of story spoilers. You have been warned.

Our time with the game dropped us in at the opening, which kicks off in flashy cinematic style. The action picks up roughly three years after the first game. Three years after killing his way to the number one ranking in the United Assassin's Association, Travis Touchdown has disappeared from the public eye and left his position as a top killer. The goofy Travis is now an urban legend in Santa Destroy, like some kind of assassination-prone 40-year-old virgin unicorn. However, as we saw in the opener, there are some who know Travis is real, namely the surviving members of the assassins he killed on his way to the top.

The younger brother to one of Travis' kills pops up and surprises the elusive assassin for some good old-fashioned revenge, which serves to bring players up to speed on the story and gameplay. The battle ends poorly for Travis' attacker because the passage of time hasn't dulled Travis' knack for killing. When the fight is over, the mysterious French vixen Sylvia appears--just like she did in the previous game--and assesses Travis' performance. Travis' exchange with Sylvia makes a few things clear: He actively dropped out of the assassin's rat race, doesn't have much in the way of a desire to come back, and, more importantly, is as horny as ever.

Sylvia plays off Travis' libido and makes a convincing play to get him back with some subtle wordplay and not so subtle yoga references (likely a first in a video game). Unfortunately, the sexy banter gets sidetracked by the temporarily reanimated corpse of Travis' recent victim who makes some ominous mention of something horrible that is about to happen. While this is a bit confusing at first, it all falls into place when, shortly thereafter, the cinematic turns its attention to Travis' best--and possibly only--friend, Bishop, who has an unfortunate encounter with a gang in his video store. The end result? A pretty clear idea of what the game's "desperate struggle" subtitle means, a reduction in Travis' friend count, and a personal motivation for Travis to go work out some aggression. When the setup is over, you discover Travis' most recent kill wound up being the last ranked assassin and puts him on the road to the top spot again.

The next level we played put us on the trail of Charlie MacDonald, a football-themed boss complete with his own cheerleading squad of scantily clad ladies. The run up to Charlie is a pretty standard slashfest but did show off one of our favorite new features: Travis randomly turning into a tiger. As you take out enemies, you'll call up an in-game slot machine that will spin and stop in various combinations. If you're lucky, you'll be morphed into a tiger for a short period of time because…well, we're not entirely sure, but does it matter? Tigers make everything slightly better, so we were fine to just roll with it. The transformation obviously opens up a whole new slew of tiger-specific moves, which--while more limited than Travis' human form--are still satisfying because you can up and maul people with impunity.

Once you reach Charlie, the battle considerably ups the levels of crazy set by the original No More Heroes. Rather than having a traditional boss fight on the ground, Charlie--for reasons that aren't clear--takes his squad of ladies and transforms into a giant robot. Not feeling intimidated, Travis is able to match him--with fewer scantily clad ladies contributing--courtesy of a mech provided by former wrestler Doctor Naomi. This turns the fight into a side-scrolling fight between two mechs with special abilities. Does it all make logical sense? Not really, but because this is a No More Heroes game, that's not too of big a deal. All you really have to know is that the other robot has to go down and that Travis' mech has a unique move set that includes standard melee attacks, as well as supermoves.

Travis Touchdown is back in No More Heroes 2. And so is his badass bike.

In addition to the boss fight with Charlie, we had the chance to try out one nice surprise in No More Heroes 2: playing Shinobu as a playable character. The young assassin with a grudge against Travis is on the scene for a bit, and it sounds like you'll play her for roughly two levels that feature their own bosses. While there are some similarities between how Travis and Shinobu handle, she does play quite a bit differently. She moves faster, can jump, and even has a projectile attack that makes for some very different fighting strategies when dealing with enemies.

As far as controls go, No More Heroes 2 uses roughly the same control scheme as the first game, with some new moves tossed in, such as a running slash when dodging. You'll still have to provocatively shake your remote to recharge Travis' beam katana, and you can now dual-wield. You'll also be able to power up when you've filled your harmony meter, which is conveniently shown onscreen as a tiger, and unleash an insane flurry of attacks to murder anything around you almost instantly. If you've played the game, you'll be totally at ease; if you're new, it won't take too long to get into the swing of things.

Outside of the main story elements in the game, there will be ample opportunities to take a break from the desperate struggle in No More Heroes 2, thanks to a plethora of minigames. You'll be able to explore the city of Santa Destroy and take on odd jobs or work out to improve Travis' attributes via minigames. Unlike the original game, which let you physically explore the city in an open-world setting, you'll now navigate to different locations via a world map and warp directly to them.

Travis' apartment will once again serve as a home base for the action, but this time, there are a number of different upgrades. In the years since the original game, Travis' cat, Jeane, has gotten pretty fat, which has paved the way for some hilarious minigames around weight loss. You'll basically have to manage Jeane's overall happiness and weight. If Jeane's happy, she'll be more into the weight-loss minigames and lose weight. If she's not, don't expect things to be very productive. In addition, Travis will be able to play various minigames on his home television, including a hilariously cliched anime shooter that's right out of Japanese arcades.

For players who don't want to be shut in, No More Heroes 2 also offers odd jobs to take on around town, such as coconut gathering from the original game. However, we have to say the real joy for many players will be found in the various 2D minigames you can play. We tried a pipe puzzle game that has Travis lifting pipes in the sewer to create a solid flow between an outtake and intake. The treadmill game forced us to keep Travis balanced on a moving treadmill, which would periodically change direction. If you succeed at the minigames, you can increase Travis' health and stamina attributes, which are key in battle.

The visuals in the game have been refined quite a bit and sport a cleaner look, as well as a bunch of little touches that improve the overall look. The most obvious is Travis, who sports more detail in his clothing and some additional waviness to his hair, which gives him a more animated look. Enemies don't feature as many bells and whistles--although bosses like Charlie obviously do--but they still look sharp and feature some nice animation touches to give them personality. There's also plenty of variety in the dismemberments and assorted death animations we saw.

Shinobu will be a playable character for a few of the levels in the game.

As before, you can expect several gallons of blood to splash every which way as you slash your way through your assorted foes. The game's camera has also seen quite a bit of improvement. While still not perfect, it definitely seems like there's been some improvement when in battle. Despite being in a work-in-progress state, the game's frame rate moved along at a pretty steady rate, although there were some hiccups when things got crazy onscreen. The game still piles on the crazy effects and filters when the action heats up, which seemed to hit the game's performance in spots. On the 2D front, the minigames were hilarious and had a funky retro look to them we appreciated. We have to say, we were especially taken with the shooter minigame you can access on Travis' TV, which had a pretty faithful arcade-inspired look to it.

In terms of audio, No More Heroes 2 is on track to surpass its predecessor. The top-notch voice acting makes it sound like the voice cast from the original game is back and in fine form. There also seems to be a greater variety in the lines screamed by your foes as they go down, which is good. The game's music is in the same vein as the original game and perfectly suited to match the crazy onscreen shenanigans.

Based on what we saw, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is shaping up to be the kind of follow-up you would want for a game like No More Heroes. The gameplay seems to be getting suitably tightened, the quirkiness is in full bloom, feedback on the original game has clearly been incorporated, giant robots have been included, and you can turn into a tiger. Do sequels get any more promising?

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98 comments
M-Mehl
M-Mehl

Come on, disarming landmines on the beach was kinda funny :-P

LtReviews
LtReviews

Finnally, they are going to focus properly on the action, and maybe exclude things like: pumping gas Picking up trash Washing off grafiti Mowing people's lawns Coconut collecter But really, if this game has me doing chores again like the first one did, I'll have to pass.

M-Mehl
M-Mehl

I Think that yuyufan0701, has captured the spirit of the highly anticipated Mr. Touchdown :-D

Djinnator
Djinnator

What is he talking about, playing mario, I'll only be playing this!

vaver16
vaver16

This game is going to be sick, really hard to wait for this game!

yuyufan0701
yuyufan0701

soo, every time I read something new about No More Heroes 2 there is a slight reaction in my pants, I can not wait another second Travis Touchdown is GOD!!!

M-Mehl
M-Mehl

Ohh Jan 26th I love you like gold :-D

dwd_27
dwd_27

oooo looks exciting and the story line more tense then ever befora and the jobs are 2d cool

noah10
noah10

Seems promising.Sounds real crazy and weird,but what would you exspect from a No More Heroes game.Thats what makes it like no other game.And makes it fun.lol

M-Mehl
M-Mehl

I never said it was a great open world, but you had some free kill missions and jobs, to kill a bit of ekstra time. I am still looking very much forward to this game, the open world and the constant acces to travis' bike did not pull that much of the weight to start with.

Dualmask
Dualmask

I'm going to be all over this. I was hoping for a better-realized open world (the original was really empty and non-interactive), but getting rid of it in favor of a point-and-click map means they're probably dedicating more resources to gameplay, which is even better. A game's length in and of itself isn't a deciding factor if that length is padded out driving around a dull city with nothing to do in it aside from going to locations, and especially if the core of the game has nothing to do with said dull city.

n0isecore
n0isecore

the first one was kinda boring, but i really want to try this one out. GOOOO travis!

M-Mehl
M-Mehl

Ok, I had not read that the open world from the first game would not reapear in the new one. Even though the open world was not that great, it had you running around for balls, treasure, and free tshirts, plus the sucky jobs and so on. Never the less Shorter game or not, replay value or not I think im gonna accept the loss and get it when it hits the streets

Braviere
Braviere

I'm more concerned about the game's length.Taking away the open world definately shortens the game.All the new combat features are nice, but in the end of the game, I'm looking for replay value.If the games has no decent replay value it won't be worth full price.If the same as the first game happens, extra clothes and some cards, I'll just wait for the $21 pricetag and play something better in the meantime.

meedak
meedak

I agree completely with M-Mehl. The whole character of Travis Touchdown is a parody of the Hollywood badass we're used to. We're expecting someone who wants to be the best assassin in the world to be some Jack Bauer-type hero with strong morals who has hot chicks fall in love him halfway through the game. The fact that Suda 51 chose to make Travis rent porn movies, live alone with his cat, and make him such an unassuming hero is reflective of the whole atmosphere of the game.

M-Mehl
M-Mehl

There is still time for the studio to correct the some of the errors in the game. There is no reason to asume the worst just yet. No Travis is no Badass he would just really like to be one, he is an immature douche, the game has a lot of rough edges, there probably will be some glitches as you progress through the game. When all is said and done, I will bet you (mike) that myself, and all the other Travis Touchdown fans will be sitting in front of our wii's going insane in the katana frenzy when this title hits the streets. If you are looking for complex and deep levels, NMH will let you down, personally i think that the shallow nostalgic design, the perverted and immature "hero" were some of the things that made the first game work in the first place.

Mikethechimp
Mikethechimp

Sadly a lot of reviewers didn't notice all its problems when they played it (and so did a lot of players). But a few weeks in, it gets ridiculous. Travis is a badass? In the first cinematic he is. Then he turns into an immature, perverted douchebag. I was hoping levels would get more deep and complex from the first one, but instead they kept getting dumber and lazier. And the bosses didn't get that much more difficult (except for the last 2). How did the shop owner die if he's still in the shop at the end of the game? Don't get started on all the glitches. I'm afraid to use the motorcycle because it keeps getting stuck on objects. And the civilians looks like they were added in the last moment. What's that, some kind of a joke? Arrogant game designing on behalf of Suda 51.

donaldo1989
donaldo1989

looking forward to this. personally im glad they got rid of the overworld map, im sure quite a lot of people will miss it but imo it just wasted time and was just an excuse to ride on the motorbike. I remember how frustrated I got spending 5 minutes riding all the way to ask for a job, riding all the way to the job location, then riding all the way to a cash machine, then back to the appartment then finally all the way to the actual mission

kuldain
kuldain

I agree with you lex on the improvements, but I thought that the driving sequences got a bit tiring after a while. The city didn't really have much else for you to do aside from the arenas, shops or general missions. I think by taking out the open city they get more room for awesome stuff like the tiger transformation and extra minigames.

lex_in_the_moon
lex_in_the_moon

Everything about it seems like a huge improvement of the first game which was already awesome. I'm really looking forward to transforming into a tiger randomly. But I'm kind of disappointed about there being no open world exploration.

tonicmole
tonicmole

The first was one of those games that despite crippling flaws gets insane praise. It's really odd to me. It felt like a budget game with flare. Any other game would be torn to shreds by the reviewers for being too stiff or having no real plot.

DaIamar
DaIamar

Everything sounds great, but what about release date?

hememi
hememi

who still thinks the wii get no good games?

Quintinius
Quintinius

AAAAH! MY SPLEEN! That's what I'm most glad to hear: more death screams. The last one got pretty irritating with that at times. The new one is shaping up really well! I'm impressed by it and will definetaly be picking it up at some point.

waltzink
waltzink

this will be the first game i buy for the wii in well over a year. LOVED the first one.

Mikethechimp
Mikethechimp

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

GeigerdolylWodd
GeigerdolylWodd

Yeah the mech transform battle aspect? Seems like a nice logical step. I mean I suspect you're going to still be using wrestling moves in tandem with your swordplay in this game and I bet the mechs will as well.

isaacmj
isaacmj

Giant robots? Tiger form? absurd and even offensive amounts of blood? vendetta? I LOVE how Suda 51 is pulling this off

WllDan7
WllDan7

This sounds like how a sequel is supposed to be done. More of what we want, 2d games, and turning into a tiger. This sounds like a winner to me.

Sepewrath
Sepewrath

Cant wait to fight Helter Skelters brother, I guess Suda heard the fan response about actually wanting to fight Helter Skelter. Its funny though if you watch the interview, he gets his head cut off just like his brother lol. Looks like a great fight though, he has HS' weapons and is fighting him it seems in the same place. That was a great addition on the part of Suda, a little fan service goes a long way.

mightycloud
mightycloud

Want want want want want!!!! Played the first one to death (and I'll probably buy it on PS3 because I love it that much). I can't wait to dust off my Wii for this :-)

DoorKnob22
DoorKnob22

One of those rare fantastic gems you can find on the Wii. Definitely a must get!

Eclipse-015
Eclipse-015

Yeah! loved the first NMH and sounds like they are making major improvements, so im definantly picking this up.

Steel_Rain777
Steel_Rain777

I think 2010 will have a bevy of noteworthy titles for the Wii. this being one of them. I have to pick up the original and get around to playing through it, cause this game looks like a day one purchase

Jhoalot
Jhoalot

I own no more heroes 1, believe me when i say that its a hardcore game. And if they say that the no more heroes 2 will be better, i believe them.

slickvic1990
slickvic1990

this game is looking even better than the first game. cant wait to play it

omegasptrm
omegasptrm

looks like a winner just like the first, all that's needed is a more beefier trip to the bosses like in Mad World, oh and cooler jobs. Between NMH and Mad World I don't think I've ever faced bosses that have remained ingrained into my life (think Zelda, RE4, etc) the mere mention of Destroy Man's name ...rich stuff! lol

awssk8er716
awssk8er716

I'm kind of glad it's not open world anymore. It's easier to go through the game, and you don't have to travel around anywhere/worry about getting lost. It's going to be sick!!! Wii Motion Plus for the win!!!

Serraph105
Serraph105

this game is going to suck like it predecessor and you can quote me on it.

NND1
NND1

This is a tru BADASS GAME and loooks like a must buy for me!

r_gam3
r_gam3

this will be a bad ass game b/c travis is a bad ass!!

LinkLuigi
LinkLuigi

I do hope that they cleaned up the city travel this game easily one of the game's biggest weak point was that damned bike. It was a pain to travel all the way from your house to the job agency, all the way from there to the job, back to the agency, back to the job, (rinse repeat till you got enough cash), then go on a REAL mission. Worst of all, there was nothing to really do in the city, but go on one long drive to another. And I hope the mini-games are fine tuned. It got to te point where those fun games felt like REAL jobs. I didn't get a game to feel like I'm at work, I got a game to get away from that. Other than those, the game was perfect.