Published Feb 18, 2010By the mid-'70s, rock had become so engorged that punk had to be invented to expose its corporate bloat and rediscover its raw power. Well, according to the opening screenshot of ever-outrageous hack'n'slash sequel No More Heroes 2, "Punx Not Dead."
Created by Japanese iconoclast Suda 51 and his "videogame band," Grasshopper Manufacture, No More Heroes 2 more than lives up to that misspelled claim. Like punk, NMH2 is both a middle finger and a thumbs up to the culture it came out of, relentlessly mocking gaming conventions, amping up the medium's absurdities and practically bathing in its bloodletting.
It's the kind of satirical game where the save point is on the toilet, where a first-person viewpoint rarely rises above cleavage level, where the game design makes you mimic masturbation to recharge aspiring assassin Travis Touchdown's lightsaber-esque weapon (which is both funny on its own and as a dig on the Wii's waggle-plagued shovelware) and where typical battle bon mots are "when you see your brother in hell, tell him he's still a douche" and "I hate you with all of my hate."
But No More Heroes 2 is also a game that is in love with gaming. There are no cinematic pretensions here ― in fact, characters regularly break the fourth wall to acknowledge they're in a game ― but there are countless audio, visual and mini-game tributes to the 8-bit era. Meanwhile, the design revels in its ridiculous hack'n'slash genre as you and your trusty beam katana slice, dice and wrestling move your way through 50 assassins to take your rightful place at the top of the killer heap.
There have been some changes, mostly stripping away the aspects of the original game that didn't quite work, such as the town of Santa Destroy's overly empty open-world, which was intended to make fun of how boring some sandbox games are, but wound up being, well, boring. So that's gone. Now you can just pop around the map to the various boss battles or job sites. Or just hang out in your hotel and help your pet cat lose weight. Seriously.
The graphics aren't much better than last time, and aren't meant to be. But they're even more stylish. Just as audio fidelity was never much of a concern of old-school punk, neither is visual resolution as important to Suda as style and attitude.
Too often games are created by committee ― there's just so much money at stake and so many voices in the boardroom ― robbing them of the personality and uniqueness one can find in a favourite band. That's not a concern here. If Desperate Struggle proves anything, it's that gaming's not dead. (Grasshopper Manufacture/Ubisoft)