Thursday, March 5, 2015

Gamer's Frontier: No More Heroes 2

In it to win it, baby!
Console: Wii
Genre: Hack and Slash
Year Released: 2010
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacturing
Publishers: Ubisoft (North America and Australia), Rising Star Games (Europe), Marvelous Entertainment (Japan)
Overlooked or Rare: Overlooked

The traditional assassin relies on stealth and quickness to eliminate their targets. You wouldn’t expect one to run into a fight and use flashy attacks to do their jobs. No More Heroes is a game series that depicts assassin and otaku Travis Touchdown on his quest to become the best assassin in the business. And how? By running into fights and using flashy attacks to do his job and literally eliminate the competition. And the games themselves are absolutely fantastic. Today, I’ll be talking about the second game, Desperate Struggle.

Story and Concept
A example of what you have to fight in the game. Don't ask me how he got to be one of the country's best assassins.

No More Heroes kicks off when Travis Touchdown blew his entire income on getting a beam katana (basically a lightsaber). To make some much needed cash (and to get laid), he entered the assassination business, and started jobs to eliminate other assassins to become the number one assassin in America by default. The games ends with Travis climbing to the top and getting into a beam katana fight with his half a freezeframe. Yeah.

No More Heroes 2 takes place three years after the events of the first game, with Travis returning to his hometown of Santa Destroy to find that death matches between assassins have become a televised sport. After he learns that his best (and only) friend has been killed by the henchmen of the new number one assassin in America, he sets off on a similar quest, but this time out of vengeance.

Fighting a quarterback that can merge with his fans to form a mech is perhaps the best concept for a boss fight ever.

Probably the biggest plus about No More Heroes is how it runs with its ridiculous premise. Assassins in this game include an overzealous hip hop artist with a morphing boombox and the spirit of a lost cosmonaut. Travis regularly uses wrestling moves to finish mooks. Heck, one assassination death match against a mech made out of a quarterback and his groupies. And Travis counters with mech of his own! No More Heroes knows how silly it is, and it tries as hard as it can to make it sillier. This game is weird, but in the most awesome way. The story may not be the strongest, but the concept is amazing.

Graphics and Design
Travis's room pretty much encapsulates every thing I love about this game's graphic.

No More Heroes uses cel-shaded graphics, which really complements the over-the-topness and downright violent nature of the game. Visuals look like they’ve been lifted straight out of a graphic novel (or a manga, more likely). It also helps that the graphics is practically drowning in blood. Defeated enemies produce entire geysers of blood, which is actually more ridiculous than gory. I do wish it was a bit more colorful, but its a cool style nonetheless.

Sound and Music

Fun fact: the franchise is named after an album by The Stranglers. Another fun fact: this game’s soundtrack is amazing. Its very diverse, with rock, electronic pop, jazz, and even hip hop song sung in Japanese. The music always fits the mood, is very memorable, and its catchy as all hell. There isn’t a single track I actually dislike, which is a huge accomplishment. Add that to some very solid voice acting, and you have a great sounding game.

A shot of the action.
No More Heroes features a simple combat system that relies on how you tilt your Wiimote. Tilting the Wiimote upwards will give your slashes more speed, while tilting it downwards will give your slashes more power. You also have access to four different beam katanas in the game, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. While combo potential in this game isn’t as high in other hack and slash games, it is a very satisfying system, and its easy enough to learn for even casual fans of the genre. Its one of the few Wii games that gets motion controls right, which is a huge accomplishment.

Alice is one of the best boss fights I've ever fought, period.

A big part of the game is the fights with the other assassins, and they’re a mixed bag. You have brilliant fights like the one with Alice Twilight and her walker machine, Margaret Moonlight and her scythe-sniper rifle combo, and Ryuji with his beam naginata. These fights are challenging but balanced, and always fun. On the other hand, you have fights with New Destroyman and Million Gunman, which are ruined by poorly executed gimmicks. The better fights of this game are fantastic, but the lower end can be infuriating.

I wish I could earn money by playing NES games...

It should be worth mentioning that you get money in this game through side jobs. Each job is a 8-bit style minigame in which you can arrange pipes, exterminate vermin, and even cook steaks. The minigames are surprisingly well executed, and are really fun. I actually didn’t mind taking a break from the main game to play them. The money you earn can go towards stat boosts and expanding Travis’s wardrobe, and its amusing to dress him up in themed outfits before each boss fight.

Final Words
No More Heroes 2 is a fantastic hack and slash with a ton of personality. Its graphic and crude, sure, but its also extremely satisfying and not afraid to escalate its silliness. If you have a Wii or Wii U and an itch for a great hack and slash, I couldn’t recommend this enough. It should be fairly cheap now.

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