Oct 20, 2021

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (PC) Review

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4 Awesome
Retails for: $19.99
We Recommend: $19.99
  • Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture, Inc.
  • Publisher: XSEED Games, Marvelous USA, Inc., Marvelous
  • Genre: Action, Comedy
  • Released: Jun 09, 2021
  • Platform: Windows
  • Reviewed: Windows

Where No More Heroes was a first swing at satirizing popular culture of its day, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle feels like a proper refinement of the formula that helps it grow to meet its potential and become the game that its predecessor wanted it to be. Dropping you straight into the action from moment one and never letting off the gas, you begin the game as Travis Touchdown once more, hellbent on revenge following the murder of his best friend. Nothing can stand in the way of his quest to ascend to the top of the UAA rankings for a second time, egged on by a promise to help him seek vengeance against the person who took his friend’s life.

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The pacing of No More Heroes 2 reflects Travis’ attitude toward the task ahead of him. Having already made a name for himself around Santa Destroy, the game throws out any concept of open world exploration that existed in the first, opting instead for a menu that very cleanly and quickly lets you move between the main quest, shops, side missions, and revenge missions. The result is that the game gets out of your way and lets you focus on actually playing it, rather than forcing you to spend a lot of time between missions driving around the city earning cash as a boondoggle. Entry fees for main assassination missions are kaput, and now earning money is a totally optional pursuit you can engage in via side missions to buy new weapons and outfits for Travis. The weapons have some game play impact, but the rest is purely cosmetic, which for a game released in 2010 is an impressive and welcome concession to see.

In practice, this means you can just keep right on going through the game’s story, which is truthfully the best stuff No More Heroes 2 has to offer, and you can choose exactly when you want to break from it or when you want to push forward. It’s amazing how far that sense of choice can go toward encouraging players to engage with extra content on their own, rather than forcing it upon them. Sure enough, I’ve spent more time in No More Heroes 2‘s side missions than I ever did with the first (beyond what was absolutely required to make progress). The side missions are also cleverly served up as 8-bit mini games that take heavy inspiration from classic gaming titles, making nods to the likes of Tetris, Tapper, Outrun, Punch-Out!, and others without actually wholesale copying them.

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The main missions are littered with references to other major games as well, including a level that feels ripped directly out of Metal Gear Solid (complete with overhead view, Soliton radar, spotlights that will raise alarms, and idiotic guards on set routes with narrow vision cones), or another that is clearly intended to feel like a recreation of Resident Evil 4‘s gloomy opening environments with desolate hills, dead trees, and zombie-like pursuers right down to nasty fellas chasing after you with chainsaws. No More Heroes 2 doesn’t shy away remotely from borrowing ideas from series you know and love, but it’s all done with a playful wink and a nod. After all, you’re still Travis, still cutting through henchmen with your beam katana with minimal effort.

The combat in No More Heroes 2 still feels pretty decent, and while there is the lingering sense that something is lost in the translation from Wii Remote and Nunchuck to a standard gamepad, the act of fighting off hordes of ne’er do wells is still mostly satisfying. That said, the controls do feel a little stiff by today’s standards, and the lack of things like a run button to quickly traverse areas combined with some clumsy platforming mechanics shoehorned into a few levels show the game’s age. If anything, the combat holds up so well in most cases that I found myself not so much complaining about the small things it was missing so much as noting that with a few small adjustments, the combat could easily be on par with a game released now in 2021.

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It’s worth noting that No More Heroes 2 launched on PC with a raft of technical issues that plagued early players, and the reports were widespread enough that I chose to sit on the game for a bit before reviewing it. We’re several months past initial release now and in my experience, I’ve had zero crashes, glitches, or other issues with it running on Windows. The port itself is somewhat bare-bones (much like No More Heroes before it), and it really is a case of getting the title running in its original state with added support for modern systems and screen resolutions, but I’m not sure that it necessarily needs to be more than that. The game’s graphics are definitely dated (particularly compared against its own contemporaries like Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption, Alan Wake, etc), but the solution of relying on a distinct art style to overcome the shortcomings of the Wii’s hardware still translates pretty well today, and would admittedly be hard to update meaningfully without a complete overhaul.

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All told, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is a worthy successor to the original game, and the PC release feels well put together and worth the price of admission, perhaps even more so than the first. It’s not without its blemishes, but I’ve found the improved pacing and enhancements to the first game’s design to be meaningful enough gains to justify recommending the PC release as a great way to play and experience No More Heroes 2 for the first or fiftieth time.

Steam code was provided by the publisher for review purposes