Bixbite's Take: No More Heroes 2

Discussion in 'GBAtemp Reviews & Guides' started by Danny Tanner, Jan 28, 2010.

Jan 28, 2010
  1. Danny Tanner
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    Member Danny Tanner GBAtemp Fan

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    Be warned, this will be packed with spoilers from both NMH and NMH2.


    No More Heroes is my second favorite game of all time (killer7 takes the cake there). When I saw the teaser trailer for No More Heroes 2, I practically crapped my pants. Seriously, a direct sequel for a Suda51 game? Awesome! The only problem is, it was the dark days of October 2008, and I had more than a year to sit on my thumb waiting. I watched and watched for trailers and with each new one, I'd get more excited. I reserved the game as soon as Gamestop started taking reservations. So was the game worth the wait? Well, let's take it a step at a time.


    Where can we begin but the packaging? There was quite a bit of hype for this game and we still only get a black and white instruction manual, half the size of the original? Come on! Okay, not a huge deal, and I'm still really psyched. Put the game in, and off we go!

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    <b>Gameplay:</b> Yeah Suda wasn’t kidding when he said the AI would be better in this game. It’s much better. The action is smoother and more fun than the original. It doesn’t matter that fighting throughout the game, with just about any katana is about the same, it never gets boring. The difficulty fluctuates wildly, though. There were maybe four tough bosses, only one of which was tough because of real challenge, and not just chaotic atmosphere (I’m looking at you Nathan Copeland and Ryuji). Captain Vladimir, one of the final bosses, was the easiest of all. He had the most ridiculous gimmick, wait for him to fire the laser, go behind him and attack. I could go on about crappy boss fights, but that’s more subjective, and since I haven’t played through the game more than once, maybe I just got lucky on some of them. Skipping all sorts of ranks was dumb. Maybe looking for 50 boss battles was asking a lot, but considering how many times we heard ‘battle royale’ in the trailers, it would have been nice to actually fight a couple people at once.

    When it comes to the overworld, I have to say, I miss it. Riding the bike, and looking for Molitov Balls and cash was great. I never expected people had a problem with it, but I guess they did, and it was removed entirely. That would be fine if there were things to do, but there aren’t. Yeah, the side jobs are really fun, but nothing you want to do over and over for cash (and when I did need cash, I really only played the bug catching game anyway). But you don’t even need cash. Ryan’s training programs are easy enough to beat the first time around, Naomi’s blades are ridiculously expensive, but there are so few of them that it doesn’t matter, and the clothes suck. You even have to unlock the ‘ability’ to take off your jacket. I just kept my clothes the same the whole game. It was pretty cool to collect things to decorate Travis’ room with, and to help Jeane lose weight, but they came off as a little contrived. Playing with Jeane was a cute detail in the first, but here it seemed commercialized. And you still can’t choose how to decorate Travis’ room or look around, so it was kind of moot in practice.

    Shinobu and Henry are probably the stupidest ‘playable characters’ I can imagine. Shinobu’s a great character… for a game in the style of Suda’s ‘Kill the Past*’ trilogy. Her serious tone worked in the first NMH game, which had a more serious tone, but watching her dash around with a big dancing penis in the corner telling you how sharp her blade is was disgraceful. Her jumping was completely broken, the stages she was featured in were big, repetitive and frustrating (Miss that jump? Back to start!), and it just didn’t fit in the story. Why does she keep bringing up moe? And then in one shower scene she asks ‘I wonder… what moe means.’ Honestly it was pretty cute, but still weird. Henry played just like Travis, but with a really strong long range attack. Fantastic. I could have done without him.

    I wonder why the elements of the bike were brought back for portions of the game. They didn’t fit. Trying to knock Ryuji off the cliff on his bike was frustrating, and the controls were awful. And driving to fight Vladimir was so stupid. There were no enemies or anything, why just stick that section in?


    <b>Visual/Audio:</b> Let’s start with audio. No More Heroes had a great soundtrack. It also had a companion album, called the Dark Side Remixes. A lot of those songs were featured here. When I heard that in the first building, I almost crapped my pants… and then I kept hearing the same few songs, over and over and my head spun. Why were they playing during the cutscenes? And when there isn’t music playing, there’s so much echoing! They’re always in a cave or dungeon or cockpit, and I can’t hear a thing for the first half of the game. It was so hard to hear what they were saying in the cutscenes that I had to turn subtitles on. What I could hear was that every enemy with a long range weapon had the exact same line. If I heard the words ‘Getting your jollies?’ or ‘Chickenshit!’ one more time, I think I’d have gone mad. And when you’re surrounded, they all say it! Seriously, that was more annoying than the bullets they were shooting. The visuals were on par. It was weird see dollar bills flying around all the time, but the game was good looking overall.

    There was a lot more emphasis on cutting people into a million pieces than in the first game. It wasn’t as ‘tasteful,’ moving, or morbid as the first game. Think of how shocking it was when Holly blew her head off. There wasn’t any of that in this game.


    <b>Story:</b> Here’s what gets me. Let’s think back to No More Heroes. It was a work of art. I played it in my senior year of high school, and it was such a higher literary achievement than the crap they made us read in school. There were so many nuances, and so much told through little cues. We knew each and every boss, who they were, what they stood for, but not their whole stories. Just enough to satisfy. When Travis doesn’t kill Shinobu, we see he has a heart. When Travis buries Holly, we see he’s a great guy. When Travis kills Bad Girl, we see how desensitized and empty he becomes. The game actually has three climaxes, each one grand. The UAA is a lie? Tragic! Travis’ love interest is his half sister, who killed his parents? Heartbreaking! Travis fights his brother, presumably to the death, in one last honorable battle? Epic! It was great, from beginning to end. There was none of that here. It was held together so loosely, and there were so many logic gaps. I know it’s not supposed to be a realistic game, but it should at least be a cohesive unit, which this wasn’t. I was very disappointed with the bosses. What do we know about Matt Helms? Nothing, he was forgettable, something you couldn’t say about any bosses in the first game. The only characters I thought were well played out, and up to NMH standards were Kimmy and Margaret. The others felt empty and lacked character. Sylvia’s return and Travis’ willingness to go along with her plan made little sense. There are so many little details in the story I could pick on, but I think my point is clear; the story here could have used a lot more work. Even if some of these aspects were corrected, it still didn’t feel like a ‘Kill the past’ style game, which I felt the first did to an extent even though it is not part of that series.


    <b>Wrapping Up:</b> I have to ask myself, if this game was released first, would I like it? And the answer is yeah, I would. But it wouldn’t be my second favorite game, and I still would have been disappointed by Suda. The fact that this is a follow-up to such a great game really diminishes my opinion of it. I guess this is why we rarely get direct sequels from the good folks at Grasshopper, and the answer is because these games fare better on their own, perhaps linked to a few other games, but not directly. Seeing as this fits in the NMH canon, there’s a lot about Travis I have to accept, that I wish I didn’t have to. It’s like if Charles Dickens rose from the dead and made an only halfway decent follow-up to Great Expectations. Wouldn’t you wish he just stayed dead?


    <b>Final Score:</b>6/10

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    <b>A Second Playthrough:</b> Well, I just finished up Bitter mode, and I have to say, my opinion of this game has improved a little. As far as gameplay is concerned, not too much has changed. The bosses are all a little tougher, which is nice, even Dr. Shake puts up more of a fight. I'm disappointed that there's no extras or concept art like the last game, but what can I say? Also, there's even less of a reason to play the minigames since you'll most likely be maxed out strength and have all the katanas. Death Match mode is pretty neat, it's a good feature, but I wish it included the characters cutscenes. And there's not much of a reason to not allow you to play as any character during these fights (though I read there's a code to let you do just that).

    As far as the story and characters, I have become much more forgiving this time around. While it's still not Kill the Past, I think the way the first bosses are rushed is more of an internal thing with Travis. He's just angry, wants revenge, and wants to make it to the top as quick as possible, so he doesn't bother getting to know the earlier combatants. Intentional? I don't know, but Suda has done crazier things intentionally in the past. While the bosses were maybe lackluster in terms of story, they still inspire me to think about them, as I've outlined <a href="http://gbatemp.net/index.php?showtopic=206407" target="_blank">here.</a> In retrospect, a lot of the bosses were as good as the older ones when looking at my overall impression of them instead of just their placement in the game. I would have still liked to have seen more, but I've already uncovered some concept art on the web, and rewatching their scenes and even listening to the music help me to understand these characters better.

    I'm not going to hold anything against the plot. Flower, Sun, and Rain, and killer7 both had elements much stranger and open-ended than say, Henry only being playable for one boss. Again, in retrospect, these little quirks, not seeing Shinobu again, still not knowing what happened in the first game, etc, actually make the game much more Suda-like, if you look past your initial annoyance. I have also realized that the ending scene, although only a few seconds is superb. It opens a whole new can of worms. It's just as likely that Sylvia became a stripper and Travis cam to rescue her as it is that none of the events in either game happened at all, and they were just the musings of a lonely tortured woman, who 'created the 'no more hero' from the man who was listening, and that's when he became a reality. There's no sense talking about it, though, it's the kind of thing only you can fill the blanks in yourself. Looks like Suda left his mark afterall, just not so obviously as his previous attempts.

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    *The Kill the Past games are 'Flow, Sun and Rain,' 'The Silver Case,' and 'killer7.' They're known for being loosely related, and majorly f***** up. In a good way. Suda51 at his finest.
     
  2. Jaems

    Member Jaems GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    this game was a 10/10 as soon as Travis said "fuckface"
     
  3. Leo Cantus

    Member Leo Cantus So zeta slow!

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    Good review, even though I dont agree with the score.
     
  4. Guild McCommunist

    Member Guild McCommunist (not on boat)

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    I like it. I gave it a little bit higher, but in retrospective I was giving it a little too much credit. It's definitely a step back from the first game.

    Nice and unbiased. Great job!
     
  5. Jaems

    Member Jaems GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    I wouldn't say it was a step back.
    Everything is improved.

    Thing is, the first game wasn't exactly amazing to begin with.
     
  6. Guild McCommunist

    Member Guild McCommunist (not on boat)

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    Well, it depends on your point of view. If you weren't too happy with the first NMH then this may be better suited for you. If you loved the first one, on the other hand, odds are you'll find this offsetting.

    And to the contrary, nothing was improved. Most things that needed improvement were trashed.
     
  7. Jaems

    Member Jaems GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    Everything was actually improved.

    Like the job minigames. They're not boring as hell anymore. Collecting coconuts are much more fun in 8-bit 2D than in 3D.
    Getting rid of the dumb, lifeless overworld was also an improvement.
    And not having to play jobs over and over again to earn money to get to the next ranked battle.
    And combat feels better this time around. Being able to switch weapons on the fly is definitely a plus, and so is being able to turn into a tiger.

    Soundtrack is also cooler.
     
  8. desh_thiere

    Member desh_thiere GBAtemp Regular

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    Loved the first one to bits. The open world was the biggest weak point, and it was good to see they cleared that up in NMH2. However, I cannot forgive this game for its camera. Worst camera in any game I have ever played. Particularly during the Shinobu missions which requre jumping. Anyone who tries to justify that the camera does not suck has never played any game since the mid 90's, as games from 10 years ago have better camera management than NMH2.

    I still love the game, I love it enough to get past the camera, It oozes style over substance, and I am cool with that. The 8-bit mini games are fantastic, particulalry Bug Out and the pizza delivery Mach Rider rip off. I just wish Suda would playtest his games a little more to realise that the camera ruins a good deal of the fighting, especially some of the boss fights.

    Still, one of the best games on Wii, still looking forward to NMH1 on Xbox to see how they handle it.
     
  9. Guild McCommunist

    Member Guild McCommunist (not on boat)

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  10. Jaems

    Member Jaems GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    Well, no duh, the minigames get repetitive if you do them over and over again. But they're actually fun this time around.
    I hated collecting coconuts in the first game, it was boring. I love collecting them now.

    Trashing the overworld part was an improvement in itself.
    Navigating from job to job, the gym, Naomi's shop and ranked battles isn't slow anymore.

    And yeah, you have to play the minigames a ton of times to buy clothes, feed the cat, etc. But it's all optional.
    In the first game, I was always annoyed I had to collect more coconuts and fill up gas tanks just to proceed and kill the next ranked assassin.
    I didn't want to buy any more clothes or new parts for my katana, I just wanted to kick some ass and play the GAME.
    NMH2 actually lets me do that!

    And I think the dodging is fine.
     

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