Review | No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (Switch)
10 years ago, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle released on the Nintendo Wii. Thanks to the cult status of the first game, this sequel was able to exist, and with a notably bigger budget too. This sequel was bigger, badder, and even crazier than the original in so many ways. Thanks to Engine Software, a new generation can experience the game on the Nintendo Switch. With an HD facelift and the ability to take the game on the go, No More Heroes 2 is better than it’s ever been! Being a sequel, there are some light spoilers from the first game, but we’ll do our best to avoid them.
Three years have passed since the ending of the first game. Having claimed the title of #1 Assassin, Travis Touchdown goes out on top and somehow manages to avoid assassination life. Of course, that life comes back to greet him as the UAA bring him back into their ranking system. Since Travis has been out of the game for a while, he loses his rank, going all the way down to rank #51. More assassins have entered the game, so Travis has to fight through even more to get to #1. Unfortunately for him, he’s given a big reason to go after the top assassin, as tragic events unfold early on, putting Travis on a quest for revenge.
Of course, this means the return of Sylvia Christel as the UAA agent guiding Travis. Feeling like she’s been teasing him since the first game, Travis isn’t exactly happy to see her, but he carries on regardless. The story goes even more over the top than the original, which was already hard to do. With that in mind, the writing does take a slight hit as the boss dialogue isn’t as consistently good this time around. It mostly boils down to all the assassins wanting to challenge the infamous Travis Touchdown. Of course, Travis could care less about the rankings themselves when he’s on a path of vengeance. Even so, some of the bosses have some very profound dialogue, especially when it gets closer to the top. Travis himself even shows more honor when it comes to killing.
One thing that makes No More Heroes 2 so much bigger is the world building. The sequel takes liberties at building a franchise, even adding two additional playable characters. Those that played the original would already recognize them, as Shinobu and Henry make their playable debuts. While it’s good to have variety in the playable characters, Travis is ultimately the most polished character. I had honestly forgotten how frustrating Shinobu’s platforming was, as she’s the only character that can jump. Luckily, you don’t play with these characters for too long, as you’ll still spend 80% of the game as Travis.
Shinobu’s platforming aside, the combat in this sequel is a huge improvement over the original. The combos in the attacks and additional moves make for a more engaging system. Travis himself can now switch between weapons in combat, giving him different weapon styles to utilize in battle. Using the slow but powerful Peony makes for a great contrast to the quick Camellia MK-III. New to the game is the ability to dual wield with the Rose Nasty, a weapon Travis gets later in the game. It’s relentless and flashy, and really gives some exciting energy to the combat. These weapons all have battery meters, and when it runs out, you’ll have to do a quick recharge shake.
Dark Side Mode returns, but now in a more manageable form. Travis can pick up magazines that fill his ecstasy meter, which either grants him Dark Side Mode abilities from matching slot machine symbols during finishers or a new Super Mode that the player can activate on their own. These abilities are powerful, giving Travis access to screen clearing explosions, one hit kill projectiles, or even transforming into a bloodthirsty tiger. They feel more effective in this game and make for pretty fun chance moments. Unfortunately, Shinobu and Henry don’t have a Dark Side Mode, but at least they have their own unique combat options.
Other combat elements like the wrestling move finishers return, being accessible when you stun an enemy with a punch or kick. Some of the boss battles do change things up too, including a giant robot battle and a motorcycle death match. While things are ultimately more polished, after playing the original, I can’t help but feel this game has easier bosses. Of course, some are more difficult than others, but some were just laughably easy. When I took no damage against Matt Helms, it made me wonder if he was that easy for me when I fought him in 2010. Then you have the final boss, who is such a spike in difficulty during one of his phases. I had to utilize the special revive technique a few times there. Overall, the combat is more diverse, but it hurts the balance in the end.
Another improvement to No More Heroes 2 is the removal of the bland open world. Travis will still visit various places in Santa Destroy, but he will now select the locations from an overview map. It’s a much better approach and allows for players to get from place to place much quicker. This includes the ranking missions, shops, Ryan’s gym, revenge missions, and even side jobs. Those that liked driving Travis’ motorcycle, worry not, as the vehicle still has a couple moments in the game.
Side jobs, which were incredibly tedious in the original game, are now reinvented with fun retro style minigames. With only a single exception, all the minigames are practically their own NES style game of their own. Games like “Man the Meat” or “Lay the Pipe” offer enjoyable experiences while earning some cash in the game. Thankfully, players no longer have to deposit money into an ATM to progress to a new ranking match. Instead, you’ll likely be using the money to improve your stamina and attack power at Ryan’s gym. While the stamina minigame is easy enough, the muscle minigame gets so ridiculously hard that you’ll likely spend most of your money here. For those that prefer to customize Travis to their liking, they can buy new clothes as well.
Travis has more to do in his motel room this time around as well. Not only will players be able to collect room decorations all throughout the game, but Travis has more interaction with his cat, Jeane. This includes feeding her, helping her stretch, massaging her, and playing with her, all in efforts to help her lose weight. If you’ve got downtime, you can also play Pure White Lover Bizarre Jelly 5 on Travis’ TV. It’s a fun little top down shooter that acts as a sort of sequel to Pure White Glastonbury from the first game. Overall, it makes Travis’ home feel more like an actual home, making it a bigger part of the game.
The sound design for No More Heroes 2 also gets notably better, clearly a sign of a bigger budget. More vocal tracks are present this time around, and the songs have a higher quality to them overall. The sound bites during the retro minigames are also great, including the accurate depictions of NES voices. Finally, the voice acting is a step up over the original title. Robin Atkin Downes continues to do great as Travis, but we also get some solid talent involved. Khary Payton, Yuri Lowenthal, Tara Strong, Paul Eiding, Jennifer Hale, and even Takashi Miike all lend their voice talents to the game. With Matt Mercer, Quinton Flynn, Josh Keaton and Fred Tatasciore returning as well, it’s really an impressive cast.
Getting to the HD port aspect, this game holds up much better than the previous game. Models are cleaner and textures are overall higher in quality. The animation and physics to the game read better this time around, making the style work that much more. Certain elements like old pre-rendered cutscenes don’t do nearly as well, but all the game engine scenes look great. Running at a more consistent frame rate, No More Heroes 2 looks better than ever. It looks great in portable mode as well, putting this stylish adventure in the palm of your hands.
When it comes down to it, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle improves upon so much of what the first game started. It might not be perfect, and even a tad bit too easy, but it’s still an enjoyable experience. With a campaign just shy of 10 hours, it’s not a long one, but it’s well worth the $20 price. It’s raunchy, absurd, and incredibly crazy, but it’s an exciting rush of adrenaline that will likely excite fans for No More Heroes 3. I love this game, and it’s still one of my favorite Wii games, so I’m glad I was able to replay it again on the Nintendo Switch. If you want a dose of style and violence on your Switch, this is the one to pick up.
Final Score: 9 out of 10