PAX 2009: No More Heroes Desperate Struggle Impressions

by Kevin on

I was surprised to find out, just recently, that a game that I had written off as an off-beat Japanese RPG was actually, in fact, a fairly weird action game that a lot of people liked. This game is, you guessed it/read the title of the damn article, No More Heroes, a quirky title from a few years ago about a too-cool assassin/giant-ass-nerd who climbs the professional killer ladder in a town called Santa Destroy, California. This hero, “Travis Touchdown,” uses a very thinly veiled light saber (which, in the game, is thesaurusized as a “beam” “katana”) to attack enemies and fight bosses, and apparently you complete all kinds of little annoying side quests. I guess I am a bad video game journalist, since I wrote it off as something that would not appeal to me. Also, when it came out I did not have any money, so I am sorry, Makers of Killer 7. No More Heroes did not make the cut. Well, this weekend, at PAX, they had a little bit of the sequel up (Desperate Struggle) and playable, and so I decided to try to make amends with the game and played through it. These are my impressions. If you decide to read on, I will discuss killing people by slicing them in half, little 8-bit tigers, the sweatiest hands ever, and a black man with a somewhat irish accent whose arms turn into a boombox. So, that should be enticing.

As it was with PAX, there were lines of nerdy excitable t-shirt-and-fedora wearing dudes to contend with when you wanted to get some playing time in on the various games. Well, some games were easier to play on the show floor than others. When you are in line for a game, you will probably be watching said game, and so I watched the demo for NMH2 twice before I got a chance to play. Twice. This demo did not have much to offer, either – two rooms full of dudes to kill, and one weird black dude with creepy boombox arms. So, I pretty much understand this one portion of the game. Beyond that, I have no damn idea, since the game is a little strange. You can see for yourself with this kind of bizarre video that, to be honest, tries a little too hard. When I finally got my hands on the wii remote and nunchuck, it was about as sweaty as I could stand, and I had to make the largest mental note to wash my hands immediately after playing.

Side note: While waiting in line for Borderlands, I watched as a very large dude full on sneezed on the XBox controller he was using while he was playing. He did not stop, he did not wipe, he just kept right on playing. If you go to a convention, be full ready to decontaminate at any and every opportunity. You need to be goddamn Howard Hughes at these things, tissue box shoes and all.

The level consists of a few hallways connecting octagonal rooms, filled with dudes and chicks in suits who want to kill Mr. Touchdown. Travis has his beam katana, or, with a press of a button, two beam katanas, which allows for new attacks. In the top right corner of the screen is the battery power for his katanas, and by getting some place where an enemy can’t molest you, you can press and hold the 1 button and then jerk the wii remote off to recharge the batteries. This is exactly, exactly what they meant for the motion to be, as evidenced by the above-linked trailer. I am glad that you still consider Wii masturbation jokes fresh and hip, Suda 51! The fighting is quite button mash-ey, where you Z-trigger an enemy, and then tried to hit this baddie with the light saber until an 8-bit arrow icon appeared. Fling the wii remote in that direction and you slice the enemy in half. Also, if you press B you perform punching, hitting, wrestling moves, and I watched a couple times as my sweaty palmed forebear grabbed an enemy and flipped him backwards for the defeat. Strategy tended towards “go after the dude with the gun first” and “dodge when the enemy raises his large knife.” In the top left corner is a heart that represents your health, and in the bottom right corner of the screen is a tiger that kind of sits there. I assume there is some sort of clever reason for him occupying HUD space, but I never figured it out. Editors Note: The tiger is the “ecstasy meter,” which allows you to unleash super sweet new attacks. Editor’s Note II: Tiger uppercut.

After defeating the set amount of enemies, you come across the Boss Fight, which is a black guy with huge robotic arms and a thick accent. He is accompanied by some buxom ladies, but they are quickly used to indicate that both Travis and the Boss are badasses, since they are thrown between them and sliced into a great deal of blood and rolling heads. After some dialogue, the fight begins. I chased around the boss and mashed A, and then every once in a while the boss’ robotic transformed into a missile-shooting boombox. After you drained his circular life bar enough, he triggered some traps in the room, including a falling central chandelier, stone lion’s heads with lasers, and eventually conveyer belt carpeting. It wasn’t particularly difficult, although it was annoying. The missiles were tough to dodge, but there is a button that allows Travis to leap to safety. I have to say, my favorite bit of the whole demo was the little pelvic thrusts that I accompanied each new environmental trap.

So, the controls were fun, the game was weird, and the fighting was quick and easy enough. I have recently procured a copy of the original No More Heroes, so I am going to play it and rectify the fact that I originally passed it up. If you liked it, I bet you’ll like this one, since it seems like it’s more of that wackiness. If you didn’t, well, they’ve added and tweaked the original, as shown by the video linked above, including 8-bit side quests, which tickles my retro fancy. If you want to watch a video of what I just described, there is one of the PAX gameplay here. It’s nice to be able to hear the music, weird dialogue, and awkward mid-fight yelps!