It's telling that the adjectives that immediately come to mind when describing No More Heroes 2 all have to do with mental disorders. Schizophrenic? Certainly. Manic? Without question. Depraved? Beyond measure. But on top of those descriptors, you can add a few more: singular, hilarious and, most importantly, fun. No More Heroes 2 isn't the best brawler to come out for the Wii, but it's definitely among the most unique.
In No More Heroes 2, you play as Travis Touchdown, an amateur assassin and sniveling superdouche whose bloodlust is matched only by his obsessive interest in videogames, anime and professional wrestling. He's vulgar, sexist and easily provoked - in fact, he has few, if any redeeming qualities. So it may come as a surprise that his character is also pretty likable. Perhaps it's his barely contained juvenile enthusiasm, or the sheer discrepancy between his high opinion of himself and the way others treat him. Either way, his most annoying traits are so over-the-top that they actually make him more sympathetic.
Your goal as Travis is to ascend the ranks of the United Assassins' Association, a league of colorful psychopaths that stand between you and the number one spot. Each assassin features his or her own themed level filled with bad guys to dismember with your beam katana in the most stylish way possible. The core combat itself is fairly simple: By pointing the Wii remote upward or downward, you control the direction of your slashes. From there, it's pretty much just a matter of hitting the "A" button until your opponent's health is depleted, at which point you can execute a gory finisher by swinging the remote in the right direction. Compared to the motion control options in games like MadWorld, No More Heroes 2's combat can feel a little repetitive, but a wider selection of weapons, pro-wrestling takedowns and random combat boosts add a measure of variety.
But the variation in No More Heroes 2's combat is nothing compared to the selection of retro minigames it makes available to players. These "side jobs" are unlocked over the course of the main story, and mostly serve as an entirely optional way to accumulate cash for weapon, stat and wardrobe upgrades. Each one transports Travis into a different 8-bit environment, offering subtle twists to familiar NES formulas - "Lay the Pipe," for example, is pretty much a Pipe Dream clone, while "Pizza With a Vengeance" is reminiscent of Rad Racer (and pretty much every other early racing gaming). You could easily complete No More Heroes 2 without playing a single one of these side missions, but they actually prove to be one of the highlights of the experience.
Shockingly, No More Heroes 2 manages to weave these disparate elements into a relatively seamless experience, thanks mostly to its brilliant presentation. From its scatological save system to the colorful mission text, the game feels almost effortlessly irreverent. You get the sense that regardless of how fun it is to play at any given moment, it was a blast to make.
But presentation can't save the game from some critical missteps. Especially egregious is a section toward the end of the game where you take control of Shinobu, the eighth-ranked assassin a self-professed apprentice to Travis. For no particular, you required to complete a couple of the game's later assassinations with Shinobu instead of Travis, and while they play fairly similarly, Shinobu loses Travis' wrestling chops and gains a jumping ability. Unfortunately, it becomes clear relatively quickly that No More Heroes 2's controls weren't necessarily designed with this option in mind. You'll find yourself missing what should be simple jumps over and over again and wondering why you had to downgrade from one of the most interesting videogame protagonists of the last few years to a fairly generic female ninja.
Bottom Line: What No More Heroes 2 lacks in depth, it makes up for in variety. Unfortunately, subpar motion controls and repetitive gameplay occasionally get in the way of an otherwise engrossing experience.
Recommendation: Rent it. This game is so unlike anything else for the Wii that it deserves to be experienced. Whether the developers deserve your $50 is an altogether different question, though.
Jordan Deam want a real-world subscription to Weekly Backdrops.