Violent, perverse and steeped in social commentary, No More Heroes was one of those games that came out of nowhere and captured an audience the Wii never knew it had. Selling over 400,000 copies, a remarkable feat for any Mature rated Wii game, prompted Suda 51 to do something he had never tried before, make a sequel. Unfortunately the game's wild and nonsensical ending didn't really leave an opening for the story to continue. One had to wonder, how they were going to explain it? Truth is, they didn't. Instead when Travis asks about the lack of continuity we are simply told it would take to long to explain and players new to the series would become bored. It's a cheat, sure, but damned if it isn't fitting.
Starting the story anew we find Travis Touchdown locked in rooftop combat with Skelter Helter. Out to avenge his brother's death, Skelter fights hard, but ultimately proves no match for Travis' Beam Katana and is quickly cut down. Before he dies, or shortly thereafter depending on how you look at it, Skelter leaves Travis a warning. The one person who truly understands him will be killed so that he can share Skelter's pain. The following night Bishop, purveyor of fine adult videos, is murdered. Devastated by his loss, Travis begins his own quest for vengeance. Seeking out Sylvia, he discovers Bishop's murderer to be none other than the UAA's No. 1 ranked assassin. Taking Skelter's place at No. 51, Travis once more begins his long, bloody, climb to the top.
As with the original game, each assassin has his own unique style and disturbed personality, though aside from New Destoryman and the rebuilt Letz Shake, few prove to be memorable. Character introductions and endings, once masterful works of poetic storytelling, are now little more than fluff to fill the gap between stage and boss. Some are so simple that amount to nothing more than a shot of a surprise attack. It's a major step back for the series, but with the increased boss count it's easy to see where quality had to be cut.
Luckily Suda 51 has somewhat made up for this failing, by placing greater focus on developing the main cast and their story. Travis is no longer a mere Japanophile joke, but a serious man finally realizing the true cost of being an assassin. He hates what he's doing and has grown disgusted with the UAA, yet his lust for revenge drives him onward, perpetuating the cycle of violence and causing him even greater pain. It's a deep, well thought out commentary on society and our eye-for-an-eye mentality that earns it's rightful place along side Suda's other great works.
Aside from one or two additions, combat remains relatively unchanged. Running around slashing and suplexing goons are still the standard, only now there's a chance you may turn into a tiger for a little bit. Granted, becoming a tiger is pretty bad-ass, but after seven hours it can become repetitive. In an attempt to break up the inevitable lull that will occur a few hours in the developers added a few missions where you get to play as Shinobu and Henry. For the most part they handle the same as Travis, but there are little additions that spice up the experience. Shinobu, for example, has a jump ability that expands your combat options and allowed the level designers to add platforming sections. Now 3-D platforming is almost never a good idea, especially in games with a schizophrenic camera, but the sections are short, the frustration passes quickly and honestly it's just nice to do something different.
Addressing complaints by fans of the original No More Heroes, Suda 51 has seen fit to remove several questionably bad design decisions for the sequel. The first, and undoubtedly best, is the decision to drop the financial requirements for ranked battles. No longer will you find yourself repeating the same $90,000 assassin mission over and over again to afford the next $1,500,000 fight. The downside is that the lack of expense means you'll fire through the ranked battles in no time and it would've been nice to see some kind of story based interludes where you earn the cash, but honestly removing the match fees was the right thing to do.
Also gone is the open world of Santa Destroy. Replaced with a normal menu. Easily this was the biggest mistake they made. Although the original city was fairly empty, fleshing it out with new characters, locations and crazy things to do could have extended playtime and made the experience more immersive. Hell, even replacing the city with a world map parody of Super Mario Bros. 3 would've at least felt fitting, but no, we just get a plain Jane menu. Lastly side mission mini-games, the motion-waggle bane of the original game have been completely dropped. Replaced with well-designed retro arcade parodies that are extremely fun to play. On more than one occasion I found myself popping the disc in just to play them.
While No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle is a game that was never meant to be, it's not a game without its charm. It can't hold a candle to the feelings you had the first time you played the original, but that's the very nature of a sequel. The original thrived on being new and different, yet here we're bound by protocol to essentially more of the same. If you can get past that, or if this is your first time playing, than you're going to have a lot of fun.
No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes and Strong Language.