Good or bad, most sequels are going to make you appreciate the original. Good sequels will expand on all the good ideas from the original and make them even better. Bad sequels are going to leave you pointing at all the good things from the original that they just missed or threw away. No More Heroes 2 may be the first sequel I’ve ever watched or played where I was left wondering if I even liked the original in the first place. That’s not a good sign.
Taking place after the original game, Travis Touchdown has stepped down from his number 1 assassin rank from last time, only to be attacked by one of the new assassins, and shortly afterward, has his friend killed by the new #1. So it’s back to wielding the beam sword, killing much cannon fodder, and climbing up the ranks, this time from #50 up to #1, to get revenge for his friend’s death.
As before, a lot of the game involves slashing through dudes in ridiculously bloody ways while Travis drops f-bombs. Then you have a boss fight, and move on to the next ranking. There’s several problems here. For one, adding more stages (there’s not 50, thankfully, but still more than the first game’s 10) means you spend a lot more time killing random dudes. And I mean A LOT. One stage just puts you in a parking lot and sends wave after wave of enemies. It felt like hours, but I think it was 20 minutes. Needless to say, it got old within 5. There’s no real strategy for killing random people, so you’re just hitting the A button over and over and over, waggling the Wiimote when it gives you a finisher command.
The boss battles should at least be the bread and butter of the game, but again, having more just hurt the game. There’s too many throwaway fights. Early on, there were several boss fights where I didn’t even get to see what they did before they were dead. Even later, it didn’t really feel like the bosses had much to them. The first phase of the final boss only has two attacks! There were a few sparks of coolness, like 2 bosses you fight at the same time, but too much filler. The one thing the game still does right are the cinematics before and after each fight. Travis’ loser personality comes out well against characters that obviously have more depth, creating plenty of drama and comedy, often at the same time, and when you kill a boss, you get a finishing move that’s over-the-top bloody. It’s enjoyable. Unfortunately, sometimes the cinematics (and gameplay) have slowdown, or just look like they’re lagging. This game was only released for the Wii, so I have no idea what happened here.
They also made changes past the stages. They took away having to earn money between the matches to get to the next fight, but this leads to a weird scenario. They put in new 8-bit-styled mini-games to earn money between matches, which you can spend on new beam swords or use at the gym. But honestly, half the games aren’t very fun, don’t really give you enough money, and just aren’t worth your time. I did a few sessions at the gym and then was able to breeze through the rest of the game without needing to go back there. It felt pointless. They also took out the open world and replaced it with a menu, which is nice, but again, it just doesn’t matter in the end. All you’re going to do is choose the next ranking fight.
The game tries to change things up from time to time, always failing. It gives you a motorcycle segment before two of the bosses…which come off as pointless for one, and boring for the other. They have you play as Shinobu and Henry, but Shinobu isn’t fun to control, and Henry only gets one boss where you play as him, so what’s the point? They throw in a stealth segment. They give you some platforming. They shake you and say “What will keep you interested in this game?!” and they just can’t figure it out.
But maybe that’s the point. This is Suda 51 here, a game developer who used to constantly wear luchador masks in interviews, and has only recently started making games that could even be considered real games. Some people have argued that the first No More Heroes’ empty open world was a commentary on the pointlessness of it. Maybe the sequel is meant to be a bad sequel. Maybe it’s saying, “You want more of this? Well, here’s more of the same.” It intentionally gives you endless fights against people to show that point. Travis says to one assassin, “If you’re tired of fighting, why don’t you quit?” But is he really talking to the assassin here, or the player? I was certainly tired of fighting. It tries and fails at pulling innovation, but don’t we just hate it when a sequel does everything differently anyways? Maybe, at the end of it, I’m supposed to see that the game is just a shadow of the first game, a hastily put-together cash-in showing that sequels crush innovation. Is it really coincidence that Grasshopper’s second sequel is not only their worst game, but also their least innovative?
Or is it just a bad game, through and through, with the cutscenes being the only saving grace in a sea of dull and endless hack-and-slashing? Yeah, I think I'll go with that.