Two weeks before my appointment with Ubisoft, I managed to inflict a stress fracture on my ankle. So my opinions of the game are colored by the painkillers I took two hours before heading off to meet Goichi Suda.
Given the nature of No More Heroes, I'm not sure whether my altered perspective detracted from my experience or enhanced it. I'm going to go with enhanced because as I read over my notes from that meeting all I see are good things written around giant smiling cats I don't remember drawing. It must've stuck some kind of chord.
The thing I feel bad about, though, is not knowing how to say "stress fracture" in Japanese. Suda 51 was kind enough to inquire why I was limping at the end of the appointment and the best I could do was "It's a little broken." Which I think freaked him out because either something is broken or it isn't right?
What Is It?
No More Heroes 2 is the sequel to Wii game No More Heroes in which players take the role of Travis Touchdown and go about laser-swording various enemies to death for cash and stuff. The third person action adventure game is broken up quite nicely with some motorcycle segments and 2D mini-games. The major appeal comes from the game's insane brand of mature humor, which targets a very niche and dedicated audience of Wii owners.
In NMH2, Travis is dragged back into a tournament-style chain of fights once again as part of a revenge quest. Many character favorites from the first game return and you actually get to play as other characters besides Travis, like the sexy Shinobu.
What We Saw
I shared a playthrough appointment with some journos from 1UP where we passed the controller around for a series of mini games, a section in Travis's apartment, part of a Shinobu level and the first level of the game where Travis fights Skelter, brother to some dude you killed in the first game (which I confess I never beat).
How Far Along Is It?
Near final. The game is due out January 27th.
What Needs Improvement?
If You Can't Stand The Crazy, Get Out Of The Game: No More Heroes 2, like its predecessor, is weird, violent and totally proud of both. The narrative is bizarre, the action is gory and the mix of gameplay types between story missions and side missions can leave you reeling. Do not ride this ride if you have a heart condition, a poor sense of humor or a weak grasp of Suda 51's brand of insanity.
Camera Is A Little Bit Too Crazy: I noticed during Shinobu's level that the camera would sometimes have trouble keeping up with her during sharp turns in narrow corridors. Shinobu seems to move a lot faster than Travis, so I could see this becoming a real problem if you're racing through the level, slicing up a storm.
It's No Longer "Open" World: If you liked the open world of the previous game (although some people found it small), you're going to be disappointed to hear that NMH2 sticks to a map system instead. The map system marks where story and side missions are in town and when you select one, you teleport there. To me, it didn't make the world feel small or anything (and given my drugged state, I actually really appreciate the hand-holding with regards to knowing where the next story mission is), but I can think of a few people who wanted more open world, not less.
Shinobu's High Heels: Just watching her sprint in those thigh-high puppies made me want to cry, imagining my poor ankle going through the same motions.
What Should Stay The Same?
Still Endearingly Crass (And Violent): "Tone it down" is not in Suda 51's vocabulary — not even in its Japanese equivalent meaning. From the fourth-wall-breaking narration where Sophie dismisses the need to catch the audience up on the plot of the first game to chopping off people's heads in slow motion with buckets of blood flecking the screen, NMH2 is every bit as inappropriate and violent as the first game. And I don't think the fans would want it any other way.
Still Pretty Easy To Pick Up: There are some updates to gameplay that make bosses more complicated to beat and the training gym mini-games are notoriously difficult. But other than that, it's not hard to master the sword fighting moves or the procedure for charging up your weapon. Newcomers won't be lost.
Fashion Statements Are An Option: You can take Tavis clothes shopping and customize a great deal about his outfit — right down to some shades straight out of the 80s. But what I found really cool is how developer Grasshopper Manufacture gave a nod to Japanese fans by holding a shirt design contest. You can find the winning entries on the racks at the clothing store.
OMG Kitty~! My favorite thing next to the anime video game you can play in Travis's apartment is Travis's cat, Jean. At the end of the first game, she appears to have let herself go and is now a big ball of cat blubber. A mini-game lets you train her with "cat exercises" and arrange her diet so that she loses weight over time. The cat exercises were pretty hilarious — one of them involves Travis hoisting her up over his head, which probably benefits his weight loss more than hers. So adorable! And probably the reason I drew giant smiling cats all over my notes.
Now that my ankle is mostly better and I no longer am under the effects of painkillers, I realize how ridiculous the cat thing is. My cat would kick my ass if I tried to lift her over my head under the pretense of trying to make her lose weight.
Also, here's some news you can use:
—There are about 10 hours of gameplay total (side missions and all).
—No save data from the first game carries over or has any impact on the game.
—It doesn't use Wii MotionPlus.
—The motorcycle returns in some side missions.
—Suda 51 had nothing to say either about the ports of the first game to the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, or about his ongoing project with EA.