Travis Touchdown returns to the Wii for another wild Grasshopper Manufacture adventure, and this time his motivation is not lust, its revenge. Bonus: he can dual-wield lightsabers this time. Improvement?
What Is It? No More Heroes 2 is the sequel to the oddball Wii action game No More Heroes, progeny of colorful game designer Suda 51 and the only game that had a sexy female voice playing from the Wii Remote speaker to urge you to perform ever bloodier kills. The sequel brings some tweaks.
What We Saw The game is making its worldwide playable debut here at PAX in Seattle this weekend. I played the demo, which involved fighting a group of suit-wearing enemies in what I think was a hotel. I also watched a Ubisoft rep try to beat a boss, Irish rapper and cult leader Nathan Copeland, a man who shoots missiles indoors.
How Far Along Is It? The game is slated for an early 2010 release, though the rep showing me the demo was still talking about control tweaks. Seems like there's plenty more work going into this game.
What Needs Improvement? Camera: NMH2 uses a revised camera system that is supposed to follow Travis. During the demo it sometimes followed right into the floor, creating angles that were more awkward than dramatic.
Graphics Clash: The No More Heroes can get away with having blocky graphics. Its treasure chests, for example, are designed to look like 3D versions of 8-bit objects. The characters; however, are rendered more smoothly with dark comic book shadow. The aesthetic mix is a cool blend of retro gaming style and some modern graphic novel influences. The problem — sorry to say — is that some of the new sparking and fiery special effects that flare during the sequel's combat look too high-resolution, too advanced and begin to shift what was a striking and dissonant visual style into something that seems messy.
What Should Stay The Same? Top Wii Combat: No More Heroes had among the most fun and physically satisfying combat on the Wii. The sequel has more of it. Tap the A button to attack with a lightsaber (laser sword, whatever). Use B to melee or do crazy pro-wrestling moves. Z locks on for more controlled combat. And, when an enemy is dazed, an arrow appears indicating which way you need to swipe the remote to perform a brutal finisher. It worked great last time. It works great this time. And it looks cooler when Travis dual-wields his 'sabers.
Nutty Plot: This game takes place three years after the first game and Travis has abandoned his ranking as the world's top assassin. The returning Sylvia is back, again offering Travis sex to coax him to climb the rankings of the assassin's tournament. He won't have it. But his best buddy, Bishop, who owns a video store, has been killed. So Travis is out for revenge and — conveniently! — believes his friend's murderer is in the tournament. So back he goes into the fray of assassinating assassins. I'm told it get wilder. Good.
Increased Variety: The Ubisoft reps showing me the demo said the game will have 10 times more enemy types than the previous game did. It will offer breakable environmental objects that hide power-ups. Stuff like that doesn't sound incredible, but it does sound like the detail-light levels of the first game are getting enriched at least a little more.
Final Thoughts The first No More Heroes was hilarious. It had crazy boss battles that I'd still feel bad spoiling. It continued to violate its own level structures and standards. And it was stylish, violent and sexy in a smart and fresh way.
The biggest failing of the first game was its barren GTA-lite open world. How that element will be handled in the new game wasn't shown in today's demo. Hopefully it'll be improved. What was here wasn't revolutionary and still could become too messy, but it feels like the spirit of madness and creativity in the first game is back. That's great news.