Otaku wrestling enthusiast/assassin Travis Touchdown returns to the Wii two years after successfully climbing the ranks of the United Assassins Association. He still has his beam katana (originally won via online auction), he still has his pro wrestling moves, and he still has the hots for UAA head Sylvia (despite how she screwed him over the first time). But things have changed in Santa Destroy since Travis’s last appearance… and Travis is motivated by more than just the prospect of Sylvia’s affections.
The main theme in this rare sequel from “punk” producer Suda51 is revenge — and lots of it. Travis is seeking to avenge the murder of his best friend, which in turn was motivated by revenge for actions Travis committed in the first No More Heroes. As Travis mentioned near the conclusion of that game, “vengeance begets vengeance,” and this vicious cycle will take Travis all the way to the top once again. Of course, due to the rise in popularity of the UAA thanks to the previous game, the competition is a bit more fierce this time around — and Travis has to start over from Rank 51.
Working his way up through the UAA rankings won’t be quite as tedious as it was last time, however. Travis no longer has to earn entrance fees for his rank fights (the UAA has a lucrative corporate sponsor in Pizza Batt — formerly Pizza Butt in the first game), for starters. Of course, he can still take on odd jobs to raise cash for training, clothes, and new equipment if he wishes. Travis’s strength and stamina training as well as most of the jobs this time around are all presented as NES games, with all of the “Nintendo hard” difficulty that entails. Further streamlining the process is the removal of the (intentionally) dull overworld from the original; as soon as Travis leaves his room, all he has to do in order to get to his next location is select it from a menu; also gone is the need to sign up for each job before actually being able to go there.
With all of that padding out of the way, NMH2 is a much faster-paced title than its predecessor. None of the action has been cut; Travis still carves through a variety of mooks with relative ease, sending blood and cash spraying everywhere as he finishes them off with deadly strikes or crushing suplexes. Travis has a couple of new tricks up his sleeve, including a new “Darkside mode” that literally turns him into a tiger and an “ecstasy gauge” that fills as he hits enemies without receiving damage; when full, Travis can unleash a Darkside mode on command rather than needing to rely on a post-deathblow random chance. The controls work exactly as they did last time, with Travis able to mix up high and low strikes and physical attacks to get past his enemies’ guard. A new option this time around is to play using the Classic Controller instead of Remote and Nunchuk, probably due to the large amount of 8-bit nostalgia throughout the game. Further mixed into the play are a handful of stages played using characters other than Travis, each with their own unique abilities. A few other diversions include a “bullet hell” style shooter based on Travis’s favorite anime series and and a small sidequest where Travis tries to get his cat Jeane back into shape (she got overweight in the interim between games).
Of course, the main attraction to NMH2 is the same as the original: the boss fights. There are over a dozen of these battles (not the fifty-one that Travis’s initial ranking might suggest, as awesome as that would have been) most of them are as over-the-top as the originals. After completing the game a “deathmatch” mode is unlocked that allows you to replay these fights; they will come at you on the also-unlocked “bitter” difficulty, so be prepared for some epic encounters.
NMH2 isn’t perfect, however. Much like the original game, parts of the sequel are intentionally a bit “off”, like the one returning 3D job (the least-liked one from the first game) and the fact that the overall storyline and characterization seems to be pretty flimsy at first glance. Suda51 always injects his games with a heavy dose of symbolism, and not picking up on that can be detrimental to seeing the game as he intended. Fortunately, NMH2 is still quite enjoyable even if you miss the fact that, say, the relationship between Travis and Sylvia represents that of gamers and game producers. The game may not make as much sense as if you did, but don’t let that get in the way of your fun.
Plays like: No More Heroes. Obviously.
Pros: A lot of the “boring” bits of the previous game have been excised to keep the game’s pace much faster than the original. The reverence for old-school 8-bit games is also a nice nostalgic touch.
Cons: The game gets lost in its symbolism at times, resulting in an overall weaker narrative than the first time around (which was admittedly pretty screwy itself)