REVIEW: No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (Switch)

Jan
05

REVIEW: No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (Switch)

Stay dead Destroyman

Released: Switch
Type: Single Player
Genre: Action-Adventure Hack and Slash
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: Marvelous (XSEED)
Release date: October 28, 2020

Luckily for us, we don’t have to wonder or wait for this sequel to come out. Just decide whether you want to jump in right after finishing the first game or wait a while. Well, let’s see how No More Heroes 2 fairs. I did find myself comparing this to No More Heroes 1 a bit, though, to showcase how different both are.

It’s been three years since the events of No More Heroes 1. What happened between games? Well that’s not important (psst watch this), but all you need to know is that Travis escaped his rank position and that UAA is now real as it has been taken up as a sport for those that like killing. This starts on a snowy night, the first in 120 years in fact, on top a rooftop where Travis faces a mysterious man which you find out is Skelter Helter. Skelter is seeking revenge for his brother who, if you don’t remember, is killed before the first game started. Upon defeating him, Sylvia returns sporting a whole new look (and showcasing new jiggle physics) and telling Travis that he is now ranked 51. Travis is understandably angry, but he’s talked into reaching the top by Sylvia saying his reward would be sleeping with her again, but it’ll be a “five course meal” this time (whatever that’s supposed to mean). However, his reasoning for going through the rankings is quickly changed. Around the same time as Travis’ fight with Skelter Helter, Bishop is killed by Rank 1’s goons. Travis is now fueled by getting his revenge against those that killed his best friend.

This also has a framing device. In the middle of Skelter’s fight, it’s revealed that this whole game is being told by a mysterious woman (which let’s be honest, we know it’s Sylvia) in a strip club to a mysterious person that is really more interested at looking at her assets. We are routinely returned back before it’s revealed who was watching and listening to her.

The combat here is just the same as before, with some additions put in. Like before, Travis wields a beam katana which require you to charge them by shaking your remote when needed, do combos to lower enemy health, low and high stances are back, and you can charge to get a stronger attack. Everything else though, is different whether it’s been slightly altered or entirely new. Instead of switching beam katanas between fights, here you keep all of them with you that you can switch between mid-fight. And while the first two are weaker than the other two, each of them have their own pros and cons that you’ll need to take into account on which one you’ll use based on the situation. Even their battery life is different between all of them. Unlike in the first game, melee attacks have their own combo, though this also comes with the fact that there’s no clear way to trigger stun on enemies so you can do a wrestling move on. And Darkstep, while still in, isn’t as strong as before and you most likely won’t see yourself triggering it as much.

Now there has been some added moves in No More Heroes 2, which did end up being a lot of help. Shaking the right Joycon does a running slash that lets you get right up to your enemy quicker and can easily be used to transition into a combo (the left gets one as well, but you need to unlock it). The Death Blow slots come back, with different affects depending on the result, you actually have an ecstasy gauge that will cause Travis to hit faster and have a longer combo as it increases. Once it’s full, you can either preserve it (avoiding triggering the Death Blow slots) or activate Super Mode which will give Travis a lot of speed and will blow the limit off of how many attacks you can do in a combo. Lastly, and more importantly, you can cheat death multiple times during the same combat encounter. Travis won’t immediately die and this is the change to furiously shake your Joycon telling Travis to get back up with some bits of health.

However, and it’s hard to explain why, but the combat here didn’t feel as satisfying or as impactful here.

There are sections where you play as a different character, that I won’t spoil who for anyone that doesn’t know, that was fun. It was fun playing as these characters and using their skill set. However, the platforming they introduced was just serviceable. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. It’s fine if you’re not in a hurry, but not if you have to do it fast. Often times, you won’t be able to jump onto a container you know you can (I actually have a clip where I continuously fail to), which makes at least one of the bosses even worse. While the other makes you want to play more of as you only control him for one boss and he kills some ranked assassins off screen.

Before getting into the Ranked fights, I’ll go over the stuff you do in between them. A lot has changed between the two, for better or for worse. For one, the overworld is now a menu. You don’t have to drive around anymore (which I definitely miss) and it comes with the added bonus that you get to places faster. While you can walk around inside the available locations (Travis’ apartment, the shops, the gym) rather it not being a menu as well. Personally, I found this weird. It’s cool being able to walk around and see the locations from a different perspective, but at the same time you can’t do anything but interact with the vendor anyway and the few interaction points that are in the apartment.

Well, let’s talk about some minigames. Side-jobs are here, but they’re a lot different. Instead of controlling Travis doing them in person, you instead play retro 8-bit minigames. It’s cool that they were put in and some even reference a select few from the first game. They range from being a puzzle that you have to solve to cooking some steaks for customers. However, I just didn’t end up going back to them once I got most of my upgrades. Some of them are certainly fun (like the one you cook steaks), but they take longer to complete as they have at least 3 levels to go through and the pay out not seeming to be worth it to me to grind it out for some new clothing (also I’m not too sure if you keep the money that’s stacking up if you lose all your lives since you have to start at the first level). The only side-job that goes back to how it was in the first game is the scorpion one, which is worse than it was before.

As for upgrades, there’s less of that here. Naomi only sells two beam katanas and no parts to upgrade them. Training also comes back in the form of Ryan’s Gym. This follows the side-jobs with having the 8-bit minigames rather than having Travis physically doing the workout. To increase your health you’ll do stamina training which requires you to run on a treadmill trying to stay on it as Ryan switches the direction it goes while increasing your attack power will have you hitting the dumbbells Ryan throws at you. As you get more sessions unlocked, Ryan will switch directions more and increase the speed with the treadmill, while he’ll throw more dumbbells at you when strength training. These are overall okay. Stamina training is fine once you figure it out, but the last few strength training sessions are hell, especially the last, as there is some randomness incorporated in them. Also despite completing all stamina training levels, it didn’t really feel like I was lasting longer in battle. Though, this does come with a good change that you can’t miss out on training sessions if you advance your rank (which I didn’t know happened in the first).

And do you remember Travis’ cat Jeane? Well, between games she grew up and has a bigger role here. While in the previous game she’s only really there to show that Travis has a cat and he does care for her, in this one she’s a fat cat. Literally. Travis wants her down to a healthy weight and you’re given four exercise minigames to do with her. However, the lower her mood is, the less effective it is so you need to feed her as well. Once you do a round of exercises, all of them will be grayed out until you fight another boss. Making sure Jeane exercised was a part that I really liked as you get to interact with Jeane more and watch her weight slowly lower. It certainly helps that you’re rewarded with an additional attack (which is pretty nice). Though, you sadly can’t interact with her once you do. Hopefully she’ll make a return in No More Heroes 3.

Unlike the previous game, you don’t have to gather money to get into the Ranked fights. You can literally just skip everything and just do your ranked fights (though I don’t really recommend doing that). Like before, you’ll have to fight a bunch of their goons to get to the boss. There is more variety in the goons this time around, with a weapon variety of normal guys, buff guys, and fat guys who carry more heavy duty weapons (like chainsaws) and have a lot of health. However, this comes with a problem. These levels not only aren’t as interesting or bring much to variation, but this brings infinite spawning and making these levels way too long. Making you disappointed as you suddenly see more enemies spawning and wishing that it would just be done already (especially early on if you’re on Mild difficulty as the fat guys are a pain to take out). In No More Heroes 1, these levels were a perfect length with each enemy already set out apart from one that took place on a bus (which even then wasn’t as bad as here). This also brings to mind that the enemies, including some bosses, love to stun lock you. This puts you in numerous situations where you’re bombarded with attacks that you can’t escape one the first one hits you and even more when you’re trying to get up. Causing you to not being able to do anything as you can’t dodge if they’re attacking while you’re getting up. It gets better as you progress through, but this aspect sucked all of my enjoyment out.

There was also no away to distinguish what’s in the chests. Here, everything is just in a regular treasure chest rather than having health/batteries/ecstasy being marked by the color illuminating it. This isn’t a big deal, but it’s quite annoying breaking them not knowing what’s inside and the possibility that you’re going to waste a health/battery/ecstasy pickup. These do contain collectibles which decorate Travis’ apartment, but the pickups are much more common and I stopped breaking them until I actually needed health.

The bosses themselves are a mixed bag of being great or terrible. There are 15 bosses (including the optional one) that you’ll fight this time around and you’re not told anything about them before heading out. The characterizations for some of the bosses weren’t as strong or memorable (or memorable for the wrong reason). I even forgot about one of the bosses almost immediately and only remembered her while I was going through my screenshots. I also felt their attacks weren’t telegraphed as well, or too quick to really react, (which I noticed the most when going against a returning assassin) and just wasn’t fun to fight. While I enjoyed fighting all the bosses in the first game and when I did beat them it felt like it was because I learned how they fought (and thus how to survive longer), it felt like I just managed to outlast them. Like Nathan Copeland (Rank 50) who is characterized well, but his fight is hell as his fight is just overall out of control, his traps stun locks you, and he has a habit of hanging around where his traps will get you.

There are great bosses here though that easily stand out with their backstory, cutscenes, and how great their battle is. We’ll all have different opinions on this, but personally a bit over half of the bosses nailed it and funnily enough most of them appear towards the end. It wasn’t until them when I started having a great time. Despite this, the boss themes still rocks and fit with their corresponding characters (though for some reason two bosses share the same story. This game importantly includes one of the best boss themes between both games. And you at least get to do the finishing move in a cutscene

While there isn’t a secret ending to unlock, there is optional content that is easily missable. Sometime after getting to Rank 25, but before Rank 2, you’ll have to return to the apartment yourself (after exiting it) to receive a fax to unlock two things. First are Revenge Missions, which replaces the Assassination Gigs, that lets you track down and kill the goons that killed Bishop. However, they are a one-off deal and don’t bring variety as they’re just “kill everyone” or “kill this person” in a certain amount of time. And then you’re told about someone named Kimmy coming for your rank and she becomes the optional boss. Her intro cutscene and the fight with her is great.

New Game+ also unlocks, which will carry over everything you gathered over, adding in a harder difficulty mode (Bitter), and the option to do a Boss Rush. Not to mention that this game asks which save file to load going in, taking away some annoyance the first one had if you wanted to go to a previous save and not start a NG+. Though, this was traded with the ability to load a save without having to close the game.

In terms of this being a good port or not, it’s a good port just like No More Heroes 1 is. While I prefer the stylized look the first game had, the new models here still look great. The only parts that didn’t was the pre-rendered cutscenes which does not look good on the Switch. I also had much less trouble with the game not detecting what motions I was doing and I didn’t encounter any framerate drops nor any bugs.

Verdict

The opinion on whether or not No More Heroes 2 is good, or whether it’s better than the first, is entirely dependent on what you like in games. Both games excelled is different areas and lacked in others. If you wanted more focus on the story, didn’t like driving in the overworld, didn’t like the minigames in the first game, and hated grinding cash for ranked battles, you’ll like this one more. While the first game was better at bosses overall, more variety, satisfying combat, more immersive, and had more charm (which considering Suda51 didn’t really have much involvement and that it’s well known this was rushed, makes sense why 2 didn’t).

I do still recommend getting both No More Heroes 1 and 2, as both of them are still great games, especially if you’re planning to pick up No More Heroes 3 once that releases. Though, I just personally see No More Heroes 2 a notch or two lower than No More Heroes 1.

Well, now all that’s left is to replay Travis Strikes Again (since Suda51 has stated that you would be lost in 3 if you don’t play it) and wait for No More Heroes 3.

 

 

 

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