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April 15, 2017

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (Part 3)

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

In the previous part, Travis defeated no less than three assassins, while Shinobu defeated two. Oh, and we’ve saved Henry, who’s still half-comatose on the bed. You gotta wonder what it’s like for his brain to be stuck that way.

Time to slice bodies in pieces faster than Gordon Ramsay slices to bits the
overconfidence of know-nothing cooks! Or vegetables.

Of course this jackass has a gun. Anything to be a pain in
the ass.
As Travis, we can once again complete two revenge missions – we’re probably gonna get to the end of those anytime soon. He's also gonna have to get used to the Rose Nasty, that new weapon Shinobu gave to him after receiving it from Takashi Miike. Travis’s combos with it are slower, but it slices through mooks like no other weapon in the game so far. Also, its range increases with every hit of a combo.

The next opponent is very powerful, as Sylvia explains in her usual interlude. Rank 7, Ryuji, has a dragon theme, which contrasts nicely with the tiger imagery around Travis. Something related to yin-yang, I think. The fight takes place on a platform by the cliff and near water, and the first part has both combatants on their motorbikes, using boosts to try and knock the other into the water. It’s a very difficult part if you don’t know what to do, and you may need a moment to remember how to use the bike since it hasn’t been used in the game until now. Still, Travis soon manages to knock Ryuji down, only for Ryuji to show he held on to the platform. Time for the real fight!

Thank God this sunset will last as long as it needs to be,
that is, as long as these two will fight.

Mother-flipping energy dragon!
Why do I censor myself this time?
Considering the dragon-tiger symbolism, Ryuji is about as powerful and fast as Travis, so he’s really hard to take down. The guy’s beam sword is strong. And he knows how to use it to deal enough damage to knock Travis down for a bit. But that’s not the worst; the guy can summon a motherfucking energy dragon, and that motherfucking energy dragon is very hard to avoid. It goes in and out of the ground and chases Travis down! This one is probably the hardest fight yet, and one that is guaranteed to make you yell at your TV screen.

Now THAT is a clash! That Ryuji guy, true fighter there­.
Too bad he'll meet his end quickly and messily.

Still, after taking a load of hits, Ryuji is beaten. Travis recognizes that his opponent is as powerful as he is, and thus decides to spare him… only for Sylvia to show up and gun him down like he was just a random enemy. Sure, we can argue that he was a great fighter and all, but he could just come back stronger and against Travis. What, you thought No More Heroes would be like all the anime out there that go “Hero defeats enemy A, enemy becomes friend A, friend A helps take down bigger threat B”? Puh-lease. Besides, they already pulled that stunt in the first game, when Shinobu sliced off Jeane’s hand at the end. So, Ryuji is left there, dead.

It is said that if you speed up the soundtrack to that
cutscene to insane degrees, you can start to hear the
gross sounds of an anime geek getting his jollies in the
adjacent room. I would have preferred a satanic message.
Travis comes home and saves, then sits in front of the TV. Everybody deals with grief differently, he said earlier; some people fuck at funerals, he cuts heads off. Guess he also deals with frustration differently; some people just punch a pillow, he starts pounding it… pounding it… pounding it… in front of his anime full of underage girls, no less. Yuck, I need brain bleach. The idea of such a thing is so revulsive that even Henry can sense it in his half-coma, as his mind is suddenly visited by a weird young girl, of a decidedly more anime style, wearing a pool onesie… Oh, I forgot to mention the giant robot hands that she’s effortlessly carrying around at the end of her arms. Christ, is that a fusion of Travis’s various, ahem, “preferences”? Damn, that’s fucked up. The young girl tries to force Henry to stay around, and when he says he has to leave, she decides to try and kill him. That’s not even a bonus boss, it’s an unmissable part of the game!

"This feels like a bloody scene from a bloody crossover that had no reason
to bloody exist, with bloody characters who are so bloody different
aesthetically that they look bloody stupid facing each other!"
"You are so... British! Such a kawaii accent! Please, stay with me!"

This is so weird, thank God it's just a dream...
One in which Henry can still die...
Mimmy, as she’s called, can be pretty tough. Doesn’t help that Henry’s controls are also slightly different, as he uses the B button for dashing rather than using wrestling moves or jumping. The dash does become important, as Mimmy has a bad tendency to teleport around the field. Her goddamn robot hands hurt, too. But when you know the patterns, she’s not so bad. Just dash behind her and slash, that’s about it. When she is killed, impaled on Henry’s sword, her robotic attire vanishes and she inflates – ewwwww – and explodes. Well, that was creepy.

I... I got nothing to say. This is too creepy.

Now awoken, Henry gets up, to see Travis on his off day in front of the anime he’s watching. When I said “off” day, it appears I actually meant “getting off” day. Embarrassed, Travis explains that Henry was just “collateral damage” from the fight against Doctor Shake, and was just staying till he was healed. Travis tells his twin to leave.

No More Heroes 2, one of the rare few games out there that
flat-out admits it omitted stuff because it already has so much
content... and then rubs it in your face.
Sometime later, Travis gets a call from Henry, who proudly announces that to pay back Travis for his help, he took down assassins ranked 6 and 5. Why do we never see those fights? As Henry explains, “they’ve fit too much into the game already”. Geez, thanks a lot, dickhead. Guess being a jerkass runs in the family. Though, considering how hard he was as the true final boss in the previous game, I’m actually kinda relieved that he did this rather than battle his brother again. One revenge thing that won’t happen, thank God.

I mean, come to think of it, most of the game is about revenge. Travis himself wants revenge for Bishop’s death, Skelter Helter started off wanting revenge against Travis, and I wouldn’t be surprised if more enemies down the line turned out to be motivated by revenge as well. Doctor Shake wanted revenge on Henry and got it, if temporarily. Matt Helms, that undead killer, wanted revenge on his parents. New Destroyman wanted to take down Travis. Instead, they got sliced up by Shinobu. Hell, this carries from the first game; Jeane, the #1 assassin of NMH, killed her asshole father, which is what started the whole story of Travis going up the ranks to kill his parents’ assassin. And Shinobu did start off that way as well, wanting to make someone pay for her father’s murder and mistakenly accusing Travis of it. It’s certainly less subtle than the message of the original, which amounted to “This violence is wrong and you should be ashamed, you loser bastard, but here, have more of it since you like it so much”.

It's almost astonishing how this thing cuts human bodies
and only human bodies, leaving locations mostly unscathed.
While we’re on the subject, the fifth and final set of revenge missions opens after this, and Travis can finally go kill the last asshole who put a bullet in his friend Bishop’s head. His vengeance against the goons now complete, we get the option of taking the jacket off Travis. Yay, cosmetic rewards. Visiting Sylvia at the UAA offices, we don’t learn much about the Rank 4 assassin. Instead, we learn from Sylvia that she divorced Henry in the three years since the first game. No word on the daughter they apparently have together. We also learn that Sylvia was the one to stop the fight between Travis and his brother at the end of that game. As for Travis, he’s getting sick of Sylvia’s attitude. He claims that assassins are people too, and can’t be treated as if they were merely toys of the UAA. Lastly, he says that when he’s #1, he plans to end all ranking battles. Huh. Are we seeing character development? At last!

Taking 20 minutes to kill hordes of enemies in the parking lot,
venturing through the building and fighting an assassin on the roof.
Just a regular trip to the mall for Travis Touchdown.
Travis goes to fight the Rank 4 assassin. There’s not so much a level before that one, rather there’s an open parking in front of a mall with tons and tons of underlings showing up, all of which you have to slice, dice and julienne through. Fist fighters, beam katana wielders, baseball bat swingers, gunners… it can be pretty tough, especially when these underlings corner you. However, as with every level featuring them, what you must deal with ASAP is the gunners. Those goddamn gunners who can and will shoot you in the back if you don’t hurry towards them. They have very few HP, but are such an annoyance that you pretty much have to kill them first – or else their bullets will always knock you down. They’re even indicated by a different icon on the map in the bottom-left corner of the screen. Thankfully, something else has come back from the original game: The random power-ups. When you kill an enemy, the three squares of a jackpot machine appear at the bottom. Get three identical symbols, you win a power-up that takes effect right away! It’s usually the one thing that will let you out of trouble. If you get three BAR, Travis literally turns into a tiger and will kill every enemy he lunges at in a single hit. That is fucking awesome. The other power-ups are pretty great too.

This “level” is really long, as there's also enemies in the shopping mall, but it all leads to one of the best fights in the game. As he gets on the roof, Travis hears a calming little song. There she is, Margaret Moonlight, Rank 4, ready to battle. There’s death imagery all around her, not surprising in Japan for anything associated with 4. She’s wearing a black gothic Lolita dress, and her two weapons are scythes combined with rifles. But the best part must be the song she sings as she battles you.


Damn, if looks could kill, she'd be a...
What am I saying, she's already a high-ranking assassin!


"If I took you out on a date, would that mean I'd be dating
Death herself? Comic book references, heh.
I'm a goddamn geek."
Awesomeness. On top of that, it reflects Travis’s mindset: that he originally didn’t care at all about who he was killing, as long as he was getting closer to the top. A philistine, in some twisted way. Margaret is tough as Hell, using her rifles whenever she’s at a distance and switching to scythes when you’re close. Her bullets can quickly deplete your beam katana’s battery, too. And if that happens, you’ll be in deep shit. Thank God the catchy battle theme is in the background. Still, Travis manages to impale her, and on her dying breath she asks him if he memorizes her song. When he says he has, she draws her last breath (“It’s so… sublime.”) and dies happy. Wow, I kinda feel bad.

Time for some heavy kitty-lifting.
Sylvia shows up in the UAA helicopter, as usual, to congratulate Travis. And at the No More Heroes Motel, a moment later, she calls to say she’s pinpointed on our map the location of the third assassin battle. There isn’t much else left to do in the game by now, unless you want to beat every job mini-game and buy all the clothes, complete every training and purchase every beam katana upgrade from Naomi (there's only two, in contrast to the many ones in the first game). You can also play through every game with Jeane the kitty until she’s back at a healthy weight, which awards you a new attack for some reason.

How many kinds of lasers does this guy have???
The path to the third is calm, peaceful even. It’s just a long drive on the Schpeltiger, Travis’s bike. No enemies, no way of getting hurt, and any obstacles you run into just refill your Nitro boost. We get to the battleground, and it’s an open field. A light shines on Travis and the enemy descends from the sky. It’s Captain Vladimir, a cosmonaut with a strong Russian accent. He is desperately calling the mothership, and receiving no answer. His visor is on, so we can’t even see his face. How exactly did this guy become the Rank 3 assassin? I have no idea. Maybe that satellite and its giant beam of death are the reason. Geez. Maybe it’s because he can bring up chunks of stone and toss them? Or is it the various other laser attacks he has? Oh, and let’s not forget that his front is protected by an energy shield for the first half of the battle, so you have to move around the guy and slash him in the back!

Kill Sat! That's a freaking Kill Sat!
That deadly kill sat is also a problem, especially if you flee in the wrong direction and get stuck at the invisible walls of the battle, as it happened to me. More slashes and Travis takes down Captain Vladimir, breaking the old man’s helmet and letting him see that he’s on Earth. How long has this guy believed he was on an alien planet? Nobody knows. What’s for sure, Travis decides to let the guy die in peace, and even prevents Sylvia’s UAA assistants from removing him from the field.

What an honor. Either a fan did this, or the UAA had money to waste
on nameless propaganda graffiti advertisement.
Only two to go! Sylvia’s next call doesn’t reveal the location of the Rank 2 assassin, Alice Twilight. All we’re told is to “Look for the hero’s face”. And also that this is the last Akashic point. Actually, you don’t have to search or anything, you can just go to the ranked battle and that’s it. The battle takes place, what a surprise, during twilight. First, we have a long empty corridor that ends with a giant graffiti of Travis’s face on the side of a building. "Hero's face", huh? Wow, the person who did this had to be a huge fan. Then we have alleys with various goons, same thing as usual. Then more and more goons, inside an apartment block hallways. And then some more in the street. It’s probably the longest level so far.

Gotta love when the wrestling moves lead to more goons being cut
by the twin Rose Nasty blades.

More arms than two Machamp.
Finally, we get to the boss on top of an apartment building. Alice Twilight is an oddly melancholic person, burning photos in a fire. (It’s implied she was good friends with Margaret… Damn, now I’m sad.) She says that she reached Rank 2 because she got addicted to the killings, and that she was desperately looking for a way out of it. She, and most assassins fought so far, were all looking to leave the UAA, but when you’re ranked, you can’t leave so easily. And thus she asks Travis what his secret is; why did he go to #1, then stop? How was he able to lay low for three years? Why wasn’t he fought by #1 wannabes? Alice drops the greatest revelation; many assassins wanted to encounter Travis, either to learn his secret, to successfully kill him, or to be killed by him. Living to kill or die, that’s not a life! And from this, Alice reveals what’s in her backpack: Five robotic arms, each wielding a beam katana. Whoa! I call hack! Even General Grievous would say that’s overkill!

This battle would be easier if Alice didn't constanty
move around or stay in the air.
I’m pretty sure less than 10% of the people playing this game will get the Ashura symbolism of this character’s personality, motivation and fighting style. She will often stand on one of those robotic arms, too high for Travis to get to her, and he must slice it to make her come back on the ground – although she can descend on him while she’s up there, in a move guaranteed to knock him down. When she fights on the same level, she’s no slouch, chaining up combos with her swords. Playing through the fight, I thought she was easier than Margaret, but barely. You need to be an expert at rolling away from attacks if you want to have a chance. She ends the fight balanced on a robotic arm again, and is defeated in that position too. She asks Travis to remember her name, and he says he will. When she falls, he cuts her in two.

Geez.

That's okay, she's only got two assassins left in her
organization: Travis and Jasper Batt.
This game will end soon.
Sylvia arrives to congratulate Travis for reaching Rank 2. Travis, however, isn’t in the mood to party, remembering Alice’s revelations – that being caught in the UAA basically destroys the assassin’s life, trapped in a kill or be killed scenario – and he snaps at Sylvia. I mean, what, the UAA considers them all like playthings? Travis makes a solemn vow, in the memory of all the ranked assassins he killed, that he will tear down the UAA even if it’s the last thing he does!

Well, all we have now is the fight against Assassin #1, Jasper Batt Jr. I think I’m going to take a break for now, I’ve written enough for today. I’ll end this in Part 4. Shouldn’t be so long, almost everything’s been discussed so far. See you Monday… where we finish this!