No More Heroes and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle surprise dropped onto the Switch recently and I immediately bought them, both to support the series, and to play No More Heroes 2 for the very first time. You see, both games came out when I was a much younger Mint, and while I was able to sneak my way through playing the first game without the maternal unit realizing, I never could get around to the second game. Now that I’ve played both, I’ve some quick thoughts. Spoilers for both games, kinda!
No More Heroes is about a stinky-looking otaku man named Travis Touchdown, who has a beam katana and the desire to become the number one assassin. To do so he has to climb the rankings by killing the top ten assassins, one at a time. NMH still slaps, frankly, and the port for the game is solid. The game was revolutionary when it first released, and it has mostly aged with grace. The only issue from a gameplay perspective is that driving around Santa Destroy can be kind of annoying, especially in the late game, when you have to grind out tasks for cash to get some of the more expensive upgrades. That said, the clash of menial labor vs high-octane murdering is still as stark and hilarious as it was 13 years ago. Nothing like de-stressing with some lawn-mowing after a tough assassination mission.
The high/low/grab aspect of beam katana combat works well, and though not complex, it never really feels like it overstays its welcome considering the game’s short length (about 8 hours if you know some of the cheesier money-making strategies). There’s also a great sense of satisfaction lining up as many goons as possible before flicking a joy con to slice four or five of them in half. That said, the last boss is annoying in the way that games from 2007 tend to be — even having beaten the game before, that fight was still a huge pain in the ass.
Now onto No More Heroes 2. It might seem like I’m rushing to talk about this game, but No More Heroes is a classic that doesn’t need much in the way of explanation. NMH2 is the one that I’m more interested in talking about because my feelings on it are…well, mixed, to say the least.
Let’s get the good out of the way: NMH2 forgoes open-world traversal for an interactive map. Pick an activity off the list, and you’re there. No more monotonous travel or accidental crashes on Travis’ bike. Thank god for that. The graphical upgrades in the sequel are nice as well.
I also love love loved that I got to play as Shinobu in the sequel, because she’s cool as hell. She plays just differently enough from Travis to feel like a fresh experience. I was very pleased to see she got some time in the spotlight, especially because I had no idea she was playable.
Combat feels tighter, and I don’t really have complaints about it, but I do actually prefer how the first game plays. It was more deliberate, whereas NMH2 is more button-mashy in comparison, at least on the standard difficulty. That’s fine, though, not everything needs to be a character action game, and it was still satisfying to pull off the assassination QTEs.
The part-time jobs being pixelated mini-games were a nice change of pace, although the economy of the game makes it so that you never really need money like you did in the first game, outside of one very expensive beam katana purchase, and cosmetics, if you care about that sort of thing.
All that said, my main issue with No More Heroes 2 is its plot. This might sound like a weird thing to say, but it’s true. At first glance No More Heroes seems like a nonsensical cluster, that kinda touches on violence in videogames and our obsession with enacting it as players. And you’d be right, mostly! But what makes Travis’ exploits memorable outside of that is that each assassin he fights on his way to the top has a point to their existence. Number 10 is the ultimate embodiment of the glamours life of an assassin, Number 9 represents what Travis stands to lose in his quest for power, Number 8 a reflection of the impact we can have on the generation that comes after us, and so on and so forth. It was wacky and zany, sure, but there was a through line about the consequence of violence.
No More Heroes 2 tries to maintain that momentum by demonstrating the futility of revenge…kind of? It’s messy and loose in comparison. For starters — spoiler alert — Travis gets his revenge, and loses nothing in exchange. There’s also this unspoken resolution where Travis disbands the UAA because he’s…tired of assassins being seen as tools, I suppose? Which is kind of out of left field and doesn’t come to any neat conclusion either. And on top of all that,the bosses in the sequel are ultimately not meaningful outside of being amusing to fight, and it’s disappointing in comparison.
Oh, and on top of that, the port of the sequel feels messy as well. I experienced a weird glitch with the bike sections that could only be fixed by switching from my Pro Controller to my Joy Cons. I also got a hard crash in the middle of a twenty minute combat segment near the end of the game that I had to start over from the beginning, and I was not pleased about that at all.
It’s still a fantastic game, and the fact that I decided to beat both games back to back instead of play through Watch Dogs: Legion for review speaks volumes to the quality of both games. But in the end, I wasn’t as satisfied with No More Heroes 2 as I’d have liked. I’m playing Travis Strikes Again next, and maybe I’ll have even more thoughts on that game that I’ll put down here!
That’s all for now! Did you pick up the No More Heroes ports? How’d you feel about them? Let me know on Twitter @mintplaysthings! And if you like my writing, please consider donating to my Patreon or Ko-Fi. Thank you!