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April 10, 2017

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (Part 2)

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

In Part 1, Travis came back into the United Assassins Association, and he climbed the ranks from 51 to 25, even fighting a bonus boss and slicing up some goons who killed his friend Bishop. But his revenge-fueled rampage is far from over!

Chainsaws have apparently become as common as beam
katanas as weapons for the bad guys. Who would have
thought? Well, aside from the millions playing zombie
survival games who can attest of the power of a chainsaw....
The assassin ranked 24th is located in an abandoned house in the middle of a graveyard, far away from the city. Knife nuts, chainsaw wielders and axe swingers await on the way. Damn, this is a tough level. As for the assassin himself? Matt Helms, a huge, obese creature wearing a smiling clown mask, who wields a weapon that seems to be a mix of an axe and a flamethrower. Remember when I said that the supernatural world decided to come into Travis’s quest? Matt Helms is already dead. He’s a child who was abandoned by his parents and died, and was revived through the dark arts to enact revenge. He killed his bastard parents – and is now stuck like this with no goal, so he became an assassin. Sorta.

OK, admittedly, seeing Travis confused and dizzy like this
would make me chuckle too.
If you thought the previous bosses were easy, here’s something to challenge you. The map you fight Helms in is filled with furniture, making movement difficult. You basically need to cut some stuff apart to have an open path. The camera, which I had only a few reasons to complain about so far, is here fickle enough to annoy greatly. Add to this that Helms has super-powerful attacks, and you get a memorable, if very difficult, boss fight. No clue on how this guy turned out to be #24 in the UAA, though. Once defeated, Matt Helms reverts to his kid look, and tries to kill Travis again… only to be stopped by a gun-wielding Sylvia. Hey, that kid’s already dead. Impossible to kill him again, but let’s conveniently count this as a victory nonetheless.

Assassin #23, Chloe Walsh, is hidden within a prison on an island. I also don’t know how she was able to climb up the ranks since she seems imprisoned there forever, but she did. And she’s our next target. However, before heading there, you can complete some new revenge missions, or go train at Ryan Yamazaki’s gym to increase your Hit Points or attack power. Hey Ryan, I asked you to train me! Stop sending me those kisses! You know I have a beam katana with me, you overweight Poor Man's Freddie Mercury! You better not try to fuck with me,  …In all meanings of the term! Last but not least, you have even more jobs to try and make money from.

You’ll need all the strength you can get; the first half of the level is nothing but prison guards armed with guns, meaning that your best chance is to stealthily make your way to the end. The second half releases wave after wave of brutes to try and kill you, with a time limit to kill them all no less! I personally hate that level. All I get from it is that I'm not made for stealth games. Metal Gear Solid? Nah, I'll solidly suck at it.

She spits out acid more often than Travis spits out
the  word "Fuck".
As for Chloe? Well… If you thought Sylvia was a poisonous bitch, it could only be figuratively. Chloe is a literal one. She spits acid and her breath is so bad that it completely disorients Travis. She screams like a banshee and can stomp the ground as well – thankfully she has very few hit points compared to all the preceding bosses, so she isn’t that difficult to beat. Almost a breather, after the shitty level that came before! It appears the entire reason the prison even existed was to keep her in, as it falls apart when she’s killed. Not a very tough prison if it crumbles as soon as its prisoner is gone! As for Travis… Sylvia pretends to rescue him, and then forces him to swim back to the land. Urgh, Sylvia, you figurative poisonous bitch! I don’t know why our protagonist still tries to get in that woman’s pants. I don’t care how sexy she is, she’s too much fucking trouble.

Still, we’re back to drop a big save at the No More Heroes Motel, and then we get a message from Sylvia, who says the next fight will do things a little different from usual. Well, color me intrigued. I mean, whatever the situation, I’ll end up painted with the blood of the opponents anyway. And guess what? The next fight will be between the Travis and all of the next assassins, up to #10. A Battle Royale! Oh God, this is gonna be tough! Considering how a single assassin in this game can take dozens of hits… Off to Destroy Stadium, where the big fight will take place.

This thing is huge! Is it compensating for... er...
Well, being a robot, it's not like it has one in the first
place... Though, doesn't it look kinda phallic?
Yeah, um, that’s not what happens. When Travis arrives, he sees most of the assassins dying a quick fiery death. And, standing among them, a large machine – Doctor Shake, from the first game, in a new metal body! Wait, wasn’t Henry, Travis’s half-brother, the one to cut it in two? Shake acknowledges this, and reveals Henry attached to it, like frozen in carbonite. Hey, remember how often the first game made Star Wars references? Let’s make more!  With its primary opponent defeated already, Doctor Shake desired to battle Travis as well – and thus the fight starts.

That's an earthwuake like I've rarely seen one.
See how it cuts the arena into a nice amount of
perfectly-defined zones!
This big robot has a ton of hit points, as you’d expect from a machine, and will attack most of the time with earthquakes and lasers. Did I mention that every earthquake you get caught in slices an entire half of your Life Points, and the only way to avoid it is to run to the closest safe platform? Oh, and you will usually get there just in the nick of time. Adding to this, Doctor Letz Shake can move around the arena. It does have quite the funny lines, too, stating everything in the same monotone voice and including stage directions. “Behold. Said dramatically”, indeed. Depending on how fast you are to get to the safe zones, this can be either the easiest fight in the game, or the hardest.

When the robot is down, events cavalcade. Henry, still frozen, is detached from the thing. Sylvia and her UAA goons show up as usual to get rid of any evidence. And now, Shinobu appears out of nowhere, calling Travis her Master!

Say hello to this new playable character for two missions!
Yes, Shinobu, the Knives Chau of No More Heroes, the young ninja who isn’t Japanese, who develops a crush on the older main character during his quest to take down a decent amount of numbered foes of various talents or abilities. Do I need to make the Scott Pilgrim references again? I swear, there could be an epic rap battle between Travis and Scott. Oh God, someone work on this, ASAP. This would be amazing.

Shinobu explains that there have been United Assassin Associations set up in various parts of the world, with similar ranked battles, and she won the one set in Asia. She was asked by Sylvia to come back to deal with some of the ranked assassins in the Top 10. Travis claims he doesn’t want a pupil and, more importantly, he doesn’t want help, but it’s too late, Shinobu has already dealt with Ranks 9 and 8 of this competition. She proceeds to tell her story, saying she met Sylvia shortly before Travis came by to learn about the Battle-Royale-that-turned-out-not-to-actually-be-one. Then we see how she defeated the two following ranks, all by herself.

Cuts off just as many heads... kicks just as much ass.
Oh, and by the way, yes, this means that you play as Shinobu. That you get to play as a black woman in this game is simply amazing - black heroines are extremely rare among video game protagonists. Her controls are slightly different from Travis’s, as she cannot perform wrestling moves and uses the B button to jump instead, although it can sometimes be used for one of her special moves. Although, if you’ve gotten used to the normal protagonist’s controls, you may often forget that Shinobu can jump. Well, until it becomes necessary to solve a puzzle involving six switches to make lasers disappear from the way to the boss. It’s like a platformer moment, as many switches require quite a bit of jumping. This could all be fine, if the camera wasn’t frequently in a bad location to let you aim correctly at some of the switches located high on walls… Another issue with Shinobu is that whenever she scores a combo on an opponent, she stops for a second or two to taunt, preventing you from moving her around and leaving her open to attacks. To compensante for this, she also has jumping attacks that end well any ground combo she makes.

Slicing through the bodies of the villains with a real katana is very
satisfying... almost as satisfying as it is with a beam katana.

Still, for your troubles, you reach the save area, where Shinobu doesn’t go on the can like Travis. No, to save the file, instead she showers. I would have had a problem with that in the original as she was just 18 and still looked like a teen, but now that she’s 21, my perverse eyes are perfectly A-OK with this. Don’t worry, it’s still censored just fine to escape the A rating, but it leaves little to the imagination. Sexy indeed.

Titillating. But if you want to see anything more, well,
you're on the Internet already. You know where to go.

Tssk, what's a gun gonna do against my katana?
Oh right, he can stay out of reach... Fuck.
After this, ahem, sexiness-I mean, bathroom break, we can move on to the first boss fought as Shinobu. It’s Million Gunman, a mashup of at least three different James Bonds, which is an idea we’ve already seen multiple times for an assassin in other series. The fight takes place in a bank vault, and Million Gunman can move around platforms thanks to elevators, and shoot at our American Ninja from there. Shinobu must dash and jump her way to him – as soon as she figures out where he is in that damn maze – all while avoiding getting shot by the guy’s golden gun too often. And of course, that’s if you can stand Gunman’s three or four lines of banter that are repeated over and over again. Thank God he goes down pretty quickly.

"Okay, but why did you have this in the first place?"
"Plot convenience. Now, go deliver it to Travis."
Let’s save in the shower, and then move on to the next cutscene. Shinobu comes to pay her respects at Bishop’s grave, probably to acknowledge the reason why her Master is back in the assassination game. Another person comes by to pay respects: Takashi Miike, a Japanese filmmaker. Mind you, we never find out who this is until the end credits reveal his name. Yet, the character’s role is important, as he gives a large bag to Shinobu, and wants her to deliver its contents to Travis Touchdown. Sylvia soon calls, sending the ninja on her next ranked battle.

Rooftop battles: 100% guaranteed no risk of falling!
...That's a lie, but it's still better than fighting on top
of a train...
We’re back at Destroy Studios! That place from the first game, yes. Except, this time around, the path to the boss is pretty complicated: You start on the ground, must kill the enemies there, find platforms to jump your way to the roofs, kill all the enemies on the roofs, then jump down towards the boss’s room. Why is it so hard? Well, once again, the camera makes this tricky, and it’s easy to fall off – which often means you need to run a damn long distance to get back on the roof. Also, there are lots of gunmen among the enemies, and they have a nasty tendency to blow Shinobu back, which can make her fall down. We get to the part before the boss – you know what this means: Gratuitous shower scene – and then we can get to the boss.

Them demeaning Shinobu is funny, in a black humor kind
of way, until you realize that their behavior isn't that far
off from some gamers out there.
As we walk in, we’re greeted by a familiar face: Destroyman. Hey, didn’t Travis slice you in two in the last game? Well… as the supervillain turns around, we can see that while his right half is still “alive”, kinda, his left half is all robotic. Huh, yes he was dead, but I guess he’s “all right” now! But that’s not all. What happened to the second half? It was built as a second Destroyman! Whoa, whoa whoa! Wait a minute! This is insane! How could it make any sense! Come on now. In this game so far, we’ve had a Cloud Strife wannabe, a guy with a boombox that becomes robotic arms for himself, a footballer with a giant robot, a schoolgirl with a flute that becomes a double-sided lightsaber, a demonic spirit back from the dead, a literal poisonous person, a brain in a giant robot that can cause earthquakes and a dude who shoots dollar bills from his gun. But a guy split in two, with both halves able to walk and fight? Pah! Completely unrealistic!

Okay, these guys have to die. Not just because of their
attitude towards Shinobu, but also because they make for
piss-poor robot skeletons.
New Destroyman, as they’re called now, are just as much dickheads as they used to be when they were whole. Calling Shinobu a slut, a whore, even basically trying to rape her. Wait, how would that work? Daoes only one of them have the dick, or they each have only one half? Ewwww... those are questions I should have never asked. They attempt to pull the same zapping handshake trick from the first game, but Shinobu shakes with her prosthetic had – the one she has to replace the one that Travis cut off in the first game – and she cuts the arm that was trying to electrocute her.

Horrible people, but good gamers... They go back to
heal each other whenever needed!
They're still jackasses though.
New Destroyman is probably the most annoying battle so far, because you’re under attack on two fronts. One Destroyman stays on the ground to attack you, while the other flies around and cannot be reached. The strategy is fairly simple: Kill the ground one, then camp near him, wait till the flying one lands nearby to revive him, slash at the flying one. The strategy is simple, sure, but the execution is a pain in the ass. What’s more boring than camping around an opponent? I mean, some people do it in multiplayer games… although it’s the first time I see that as an actual required tactic to defeat an opponent in a single-player game, so kudos to the development team. It’s still annoying though, since you can’t stay too close to Ground Destroyman, and must avoid Flight Destroyman’s attacks when he attacks, and run towards him when he comes to revive the ground one. Thankfully, Shinobu eventually manages to defeat them both. They try a final desperation move, but Shinobu catches on and slices them both to pieces, especially the brains, to make sure they never, ever come back.

Julienne them into nothingness! Then, nuke them from orbit!
It's the only way to be sure they never appear again!

I’m betting a dollar that there will be another Destroyman in the new game for the Switch. Friggin' superheroes, they always find a way to come back to life.

Sorry, Shinobu. Your senpai has noticed you,
but doesn't want that kind of relationship with you.
After this is done, Travis is officially ranked 8th. In Travis’s motel room, Henry is laying on the bed, comatose but shaking as he recovers from his carbonite state. Like he’s struggling inside his mind or something… Shinobu’s story is finished, and she tries to kiss Travis… which, for some reason makes him uneasy. Argh, dude, you’re hopeless. You have that admittedly young – but legal, at 21 – girl pretty much wanting you, and you keep hunting for Sylvia, that sexy white woman who’s your age yet who has put you through Hell once under promise of sex, without delivering, and is doing so again, without any guarantee that she’ll deliver. I mean, yeah, Shinobu is 9 years younger than Travis… that’s never stopped him from fantasizing about anime underage girls with suspiciously prominent breasts!

Shinobu leaves, but puts on the armchair the package she got from Takashi Miike. Travis opens it, and discovers that it’s a new beam katana, dubbed the Rose Nasty – the best weapon in the game. Have fun with that new toy against the next opponents, Travis! Well, this is gonna have to wait till Friday, because I must stop here for now, and keep going in Part 3.