In early 2007 I made a pact with myself; to ride out this generation with just my Gamecube and PC. About a year and a half later I broke that pact by purchasing a Wii. The first game I played on my new console was No More Heroes
. Shortly after completing No More Heroes
, I saw a trailer for the sequel: Desperate Struggle and the prospect of a sequel left me incredibly excited. Due to much of my enjoyment of No More Heroes
coming from the narrative, I decided that the less I knew about the sequel the more I would enjoy it. I did my best to avoid the news and contain my excitement for when I owned the final product. After nearly year of media blackout No More Heroes 2
was mine. I quickly realized that Grasshopper Manufacture fixed nearly all complaints people had with the first title. Gone are the mind-numbing side missions, the arbitrary amounts of cash needed to progress to the next ranked battle, and the bland overworld. The game’s formula has been streamlined to leave only what was enjoyable about the first game, and more of it.
Yet, I am nowhere near as impressed with Desperate Struggle
as I was with the original No More Heroes
. The first game was new, different and exciting, and this is just more of the same attempting to emulate what made it so special. Perhaps, the nostalgia of my first foray into the current generation of gaming is getting the best of me. Perhaps, the narrative that made the game so amazing was comparatively lacking in the sequel. This could all be true. However, I choose to believe that by making No More Heroes 2
a better game
than its predecessor; it shines less bright as a full and cohesive final product.
It is my belief that the lackluster parts of the original made the enjoyable parts that much more satisfying. Just as one cannot know joy without sadness, or victory without defeat, one cannot truly enjoy a game’s achievements without experiencing its failures. The original No More Heroes
is a flawed masterpiece. In many ways that game is extremely lacking, but in others it is absolutely spectacular. Truth be told, I prefer a flawed game that takes liberty and dares to provide a creative and insightful experience to the irreproachable pinnacle of an existing genre. I will take No More Heroes
and Far Cry 2
over God of War
and Modern Warfare
any day of the week.
Remember the overworld that the first No More Heroes
had? Either people complained bitterly about it or heralded it as an artistic commentary on the open-world genre. Regardless of its artistic merits, I miss it. Without that open-world No More Heroes 2
feels disjointed and worse off. Do not get me wrong, after a while I really began to dislike wasting my time, traveling around bland and empty city streets of Santa Destroy. However, the manner in which that Desperate Struggle
handled things made Santa Destroy feel like a collection of disjointed and random levels rather than a real place. The overworld of the original game may have seemed bland and pointless, but it is at least something I could identify with. Much like Travis, I could not tell you anywhere close to half of the things that lie between University Street and Tippecanoe Ave in my town, but I can tell you that there is the sweetest, sketchy burrito place that there ever was right on Tennessee Street. In many respects, Santa Destroy may as well not exist as far as No More Heroes 2
is concerned. The main narrative may still speak of the city in its cutscenes, but any peripheral atmosphere of Santa Destroy that was experienced in the original has been lost entirely. The introduction of the new travel system may be quicker way to get you from A to B, but the encompassing experience feels worse for it.
The disappearance of Santa Destroy’s peripheral atmosphere coincides with the disappearance of peripheral narrative. As the medium of gaming evolves; the lines between story and gameplay are becoming less clear. No longer are cutscenes and gameplay segments mutually exclusive entities. The advent of the Quick Time Event has allowed players the opportunity to stay in control during a scripted sequence. An incredibly powerful tool in conveying a story is using narrative in the periphery of the game. Bioshock
is a wonderful example of a game that subtly shapes the experience through the peripherals; crafting a compelling atmosphere and letting the player uncover the story through listening to radio diaries during gameplay. The original No More Heroes
had this to some extent: Travis talking to himself during the battle with Death Metal, and speaking with Sylvia on the phone prior to entering every ranked match. Lifting the Wii-Remote to my ear to listen to Sylvia as I walked down the hall to face my next opponent was one of my favourite touches in No More Heroes
. Hearing Sylvia go on about my impending doom during the next battle and “the Garden of Madness” was the icing the cake, and linked the narrative directly with the gameplay. No More Heroes 2
dropped this feature entirely, driving a wedge between and divorcing the two parts of the game.
As much as I hated acquiring arbitrary and ludicrous amounts of cash to proceed to the next ranking battle in the first No More Heroes
; I miss it. It made me appreciate the ranking battle. I have never been a fan of the RPG genre, but I imagine the experience is akin to what RPG players experience with grinding. You spend a great deal of time doing something that, it and of itself, is not all that enjoyable, but yields rewards that make it all worthwhile. Each ranking battle in No More Heroes
felt special. This was not because the characters in the first game were more interesting, more fleshed out and complete than in the sequel. Rather, it was because each and every ranked battle in No More Heroes
was earned. Earning something through one’s own personal toils is far more rewarding than being offered that same reward on a silver platter. By eliminating this feature No More Heroes 2
removed a great deal of the frustration that was experienced in the first title. No More Heroes 2
allows the player to breeze through several ranked battles in a short time, never forcing him to stop and savor each one individually as its predecessor had.
By improving on the formula of No More Heroes
and addressing the complaints with that game, Suda 51 stands to appease and perhaps win back those that took issue with certain aspects of the first title. He does this at the expense of potentially alienating the game’s most diehard fans. No More Heroes 2 Desperate Struggle
is a consistently great game, but without the hills and valleys of its predecessor it lacks the perspective to reach the heights of its pedigree.
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