In the bizarre metropolis of Santa Destroy, duels to the death are broadcast on television, and an entire economy has sprung up around the business of taking lives. No More Heroes 2 is a satirical, irreverent, and bloody tale of revenge set in a world gone mad. Like its predecessor, No More Heroes, Desperate Struggle deals with one man's rise to the top of an assassin leaderboard and focuses on his insane battles with a kooky cast of villains. However, it does so in a much more streamlined manner — the Grand Theft Auto-like open world and the ranked battle entrance fees have been removed, eliminating almost all of the tedium that plagued No More Heroes. With a raucously fun and brutal beat-'em-up combat system, a collection of enjoyable retro minigames and a thoroughly entertaining story, No More Heroes 2 is a worthy follow-up to one of the most entertaining bloodbaths to be found on the Nintendo Wii.
Travis Touchdown is the Crownless King. Three years ago, the anime nerd and professional-wrestling aficionado purchased a beam katana on the Internet, fought his way up to the top of the United Assassin Association's rankings ladder, and simply walked away. He has become a legend in the underworld, and, partly because of his story, the murder-for-hire business has exploded and gone mainstream. When his best pal is murdered in retaliation for Travis' killing spree, he returns to the UAA in order to seek vengeance on the man responsible, who coincidentally happens to be its number-one-ranked killer. Helping him out along the way are old friends, such as the beautiful UAA agent Sylvia, the deadly swordswoman Shinobu, and his twin brother and on-again, off-again rival Henry.
Darth Maul she may not be, but don't be fooled by her cuteness. (Credit: GameSpot)
Much like its predecessor, No More Heroes 2 consists chiefly of magnificently violent and over-the-top bloody combat. If the idea of wielding a sword in a Wii game conjures uncomfortable thoughts of nonstop controller waggling, rest assured that this is not the case. Travis swings his totally-not-a-lightsaber at a press of the A button, and after you've sufficiently weakened an enemy, you can split him in twain — causing a morbidly amusing cloud of blood and dollar bills to rain down — by swinging your controller in the direction indicated onscreen. Alternatively, Travis can execute one of 13 different wrestling moves learned over the course of the game to finish off a stunned enemy in a slightly higher-concept and less-bloody manner.
No matter how you choose to destroy your foes, each execution causes a roulette wheel at the bottom of the screen to spin, and if three slots line up, Travis activates one of his darkside powers. By shouting aloud ridiculous attack names such as "strawberry on the shortcake" or "cranberry chocolate sundae," he can perform superpowered feats such as slowing down time for his enemies or temporarily transforming into a tiger. But even if you aren't lucky enough to hit it big with a jackpot, you can manually activate a new hyperspeed attack mode whenever you top off your ecstasy gauge, which fills as you dish out pain and empties as you receive it. Other changes include the ability to shake your remote when running for a slow-but-powerful slash, and the surprisingly effective option of using a Classic Controller to play through the entire game without motion controls.
By far the highlight of No More Heroes 2 are its eccentric duels with rival assassins. To earn the right to battle them, Travis must carve his way through their domains and their armies of hapless goons. After you make a game-saving restroom stop, the assassins reveal themselves in bizarre, spectacular ways, and the heat is on. Whether you're fighting the hip-hop dancing leader of a religious cult or an adorable but deadly schoolgirl with a double-sided beam sword flute, the battles are fun, challenging, and unique. Perhaps most intriguing about the assassins are the elegant locales that serve as their arenas: a dilapidated haunted house, a grassy plain between the realms of life and death, and an eclipsing, setting sun all serve as backdrops of battle and inject extra personality into the duels. This is important, because the assassins — while wild and crazy — often lack personalities and, with few exceptions, are poorly or not at all fleshed out. Though the story is centered on Travis' quest for vengeance, a bit more characterisation of his archenemies would have been appreciated. Finally, it's worth pointing out that though there are now 50 rankings in the UAA, group fights and other circumstances out of your control reduce the number of bosses you encounter to 15.