You know what I often think to myself? This game needs another game within it. In fact, this game needs not one, but multiple games within it to distract me from what I should be doing. Playing the actual game! Now, this may sound like I’m being sarcastic, but truth be told, I absolutely love the idea of developers flexing their game creation prowess by wowing us with little tidbits of joy within a larger gameplay experience. Honestly, it’s a refreshing break from the typical mainline grind, especially if these side games are tied into the narrative in one way or another.
Well, Grasshopper Manufacture is back with yet another remaster of their unconventional assasination themed mini-game collection series, with No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle! However, were the changes made to this prolific sequel a step in the right direction, or will we just be inundated with the same menial and grindy tasks just in a different form?
The Cross Sword
Before recently playing the original No More Heroes, I had little experience with the series. I mean, I was a big Suda51 and Grasshopper Manufacture fan before jumping in, so I had no doubts that I would enjoy it, but honestly I didn’t know what to expect. Especially since the first two games were focused on the motion control functionality of the Wii. Which I was never a big fan of. With that being said, within moments of activating Travis’ beam katana, the No More Heroes series quickly rose to the upper echelon of some of my favorite hack ‘n slash games. Of course the original game wasn’t without its flaws, but as a whole it was an enjoyable experience that I’m sure I’ll revisit again in the future.
Now, with No More Heroes 2 on the docket, I was excited to see if the rough edges of the original were smoothed out in any way and if it could raise the bar on the series’ outlandish antics. You know, without sacrificing too much in the gameplay spectrum.
The Magic Double Saber
Fortunately, compared to the original, many of the improvements I was hoping for were implemented! For example, the lackluster open world was nixed and the side-missions used to gain money were streamlined and easier to access! On top of that, many of those menial tasks that you were enlisted to do in those side-missions were transformed and featured as fun 8-bit style arcade games! I mean, I would have liked to see a bit more diversity in their graphical style, but compared to the first entry, this was a welcome change of pace!
Which leads me to the most significant gameplay improvement – the reduced amount of grinding needed to earn money! Well, at least when it came to progressing the story. You still need to grind those LBs for cosmetics, a few of the weapons, and any stamina/strength upgrades, but it’s far and away less monotonous. Primarily because you can access any of the missions from the main menu instead of having to travel back and forth on the map!
Taking that into account, when it came to the game as a whole, No More Heroes 2 felt a bit more stripped down than the original. Like the devs were trying to make the gameplay experience more efficient and less of a time sink. However, while doing so, they may have leaned a bit too far in that direction. I say that because, in many ways the action portions of the game felt comparable to the original and yet simplified in the same breath. You still have the ability to dodge, the slot wheel is still present along with the super moves granted by it, and you can still do your fancy wrestling grabs. Nonetheless, in the end it felt like there was a smaller variety to learn and master, and when it came to the abilities you did learn, or the weapons you gained, those upgrades seemed to be less effective during the action. In addition to that, it didn’t really help that the combat felt a little less responsive. This sentiment can kind of be echoed for the collectibles as well. There was no way to track them, other than seeing the various items show up in your apartment. Of course, seeing those items show up in your apartment was pretty dang cool! I just wished they gave me the ability to go into a first-person perspective so I could have a closer look!
The Rose Nasty
Although there were many improvements to No More Heroes 2 (including the graphics), and a few steps back, the biggest lost opportunity for improvement to the series was its narrative! Don’t get me wrong, the scenarios were just as goofy and outlandish as ever, with just as many zany characters, but I didn’t feel as connected! It could be blamed on the more straightforward mission based structure, but I also think a big part of it is the lack of exposition for each of the assassins! In fact, there was a bigger focus on the relationships between Travis and the ancillary characters, which just aren’t as interesting. Because of that, the story felt disjointed, like we were just being thrown into the thick of it without any lead up! So it truly felt like you were jumping between a series of unrelated missions and Travis just happened to be there.
Truthfully, I only criticize No More Heroes 2 for this because the whole premise is a beautiful train wreck that somehow comes together in a symphony of eccentricity! I adore the characters and the No More Heroes universe, and want to see more of it and them! I mean, you do get to play as some of the coolest characters you encountered (and didn’t assassinate) from the first game, as short lived as those sequences are, and I would love to see Grasshopper Manufacture expand upon this in future games!
The Blood Berry
So should you play No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle?! Well, if you enjoyed the original, then definitely yes. It made many improvements that streamlined the experience and eliminated many of the annoyances from the original. Which makes me think that if this is your first time jumping into the series, No More Heroes 2 might actually be the best to start with. You might be confused by some of the cameos and it’s “inside joke” dialog, but you can always go back and play the original to get the full picture.
No More Heroes 2 may not be the perfect sequel I was hoping it would be, but I can see that Grasshopper Manufacture is slowly figuring out its formula, and I’m hoping that the next game will be an even bigger hit!
If you’re interested in checking out No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, you can find it right now on the Nintendo Switch!
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