No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (ノーモア★ヒーローズ2デスパレート ストラグル, Nō Moa Hīrōzu Tsū Desuparēto Sutoraguru) is an action video game for the Wii console. It is the second game in the No More Heroes video game series, and was initially released on January 26, 2010. The game was directed by Toshihiro Fujikawa, produced by SUDA51 at Grasshopper Manufacture and published by Ubisoft, Rising Star Games and Marvelous Entertainment. Through Desperate Struggle, SUDA51 wished to convey to players "the true meaning of fighting."
Three years have passed since Travis Touchdown became the top assassin in the United Assassins Association. Skelter Helter, the brother of Touchdown's first victim, challenges him to a revenge bout but is decapitated during battle. A helicopter descends on the venue and Touchdown is met by his former UAA agent, Sylvia Christel, who abandoned him three years prior. While Christel inducts Touchdown into the UAA for the second time, Skelter, whose severed head was not entirely knocked from his shoulders, interrupts Touchdown, warning him that a larger plot has been set into motion. After threatening Touchdown with being "burdened by another's death," Skelter tears off his head and succumbs to his wound.
At home Touchdown is alerted by a paper bag smashing through his bedroom window. Peering inside, Touchdown screams in horror as he discovers the head of his best friend, Georgy Bishop. Christel later calls him to discuss his next Ranking Battle, and explains that Bishop's death was ordered by Pizza Bat CEO Jasper Batt Jr., who through his company controls the boundaries of Santa Destroy and enjoys first-rank in the UAA. Travis declares revenge on Batt and accepts to participate in the UAA ranks once more for his late friend.
After slaying the envious Nathan Copeland and the pompous Charlie Macdonald, Touchdown is sidetracked when he must defend his own rank from the up-and-coming Kimmy Howell, his number-one fan. The two battle at Destroy University, however Touchdown resorts to sparing Howell's life, instead knocking her unconscious and departing for the next Ranking Battle. A battle royale is soon organized by the UAA, where twelve assassins are vaporized by a familiar foe, Dr. Letz Shake, a sentient machine who was previously employed as the weapon of one of Touchdown's former targets. Shake relishes the match against Touchdown, even revealing how he has taken Touchdown's brother, Henry Cooldown, prisoner. Shake is destroyed and Cooldown, encased in a frozen shell, is taken to Touchdown's motel home to recover. Shinobu, a young assassin previously spared by Touchdown, returns to profess her admiration and love for him, and confesses to killing two ranked assassins, Million Gunman and the resurrected New Destroyman, to assist Touchdown in climbing the ranks.
When Touchdown begins challenging his own passion and remorse for his cause, he encounters Alice Twilight. Twilight feels similarly exploited by the UAA and for this reason, has abandoned the real world for an ascetic life in one of Santa Destroy's Akashic Points. Touchdown reluctantly deals the finishing blow to her. Enraged by Twilight's death and coated in her blood, Touchdown argues with Christel and fails to realize his beam katana searing through her glove. The assassin's threats to collapse the UAA are ignored, and even mocked by Christel. Nevertheless Touchdown proceeds to Ranking Battle 1, where he plans to mark his revenge and bring an end to the entire UAA system.
Jasper Batt Jr. awaits Touchdown in his office, where he pilots a hovering car. Here he reveals his reason for aiming to destroy Touchdown's life – three years prior while Touchdown was contracted for assassinations by K-Entertainment, he murdered Batt's father and two brothers. Making matters worse, Batt's butlers unveil the heads of Christel, Cooldown and Shinobu on silver platters. In a blind rage Touchdown attacks Batt and is overwhelmed, but he is saved when Cooldown, alive and well, smashes through the office window to protect him, explaining that the heads were mere replicas. Touchdown is then able to form a strategy, outdoing Batt in his transport and surviving his drug-induced superpowers. In a ditch effort Batt takes on the form of an air balloon, prompting Touchdown to dive from the safety of the building to combat Batt in the air. Touchdown destroys Batt once and for all, but plummets from the skies over Santa Destroy. Before impacting with the concrete, Christel snatches him aboard the Schpeltiger II and takes him back to the motel.
The finale is set in the Heaven's Smile brothel, where Touchdown has been visiting Christel, now employed in one of the establishment's peeping rooms. For some time she has been recapping Touchdown's story to her visitor, unaware because of a one-sided glass pane that he in fact is Touchdown himself. Finally, Touchdown breaks his silence and vouches to return to Santa Destroy with Christel.
Desperate Struggle was developed by the same production staff responsible for designing the first game. SUDA51 promised improvements to the game's engine as well as its graphics, resulting in "a far busier Santa Destroy." This was meant to assure the senses of those who, like reviewers at GameSpot, felt the Santa Destroy of No More Heroes "should be taken has a hub rather than a city and something that should have been worked on a lot more."
In an interview with IGN, SUDA51 advised fans to "expect some really cool new wrestling moves," and hinted at the ability to use the environment to the player's combat advantage. SUDA51 also expressed interest in integrating the Wii MotionPlus peripheral and even including a multiplayer mode, neither of which materialized. After observing the popularity of Monster Hunter Tri and its Classic Controller support, Grasshopper resolved to implement support for the Classic Controller in Desperate Struggle as well. The previous game's Assassination Gigs were reworked into Revenge Missions connecting to the main plot, this time revolving around taking revenge on the character Georgy Bishop's killers. To reflect the game's more serious plot, the graphics of Desperate Struggle have been boosted from the cartoonish quality of the first installment, although the pixelated elements from the first game return in Desperate Struggle, and with greater emphasis.
The physics and enemy AI have been improved to create greater variety in combat, and a "Mark II" version of Touchdown's motorbike, the Schpeltiger, was introduced in the game. The number of boss fights was increased from 10 to 15, and the stipulation fee required to enter Ranking Battles was removed entirely, so the process of earning money would not be "as much of a pain as it was in the first game," as SUDA51 confessed. In August 2009 Edge reported that the game's development team considered giving Touchdown the ability to wield other weapons such as firearms, however this idea was abandoned, as SUDA51 felt it would compromise Touchdown's status as a "modern samurai." However Touchdown's weapon arsenal did receive some variation with the inclusion of the dual-wielded ROSE NASTY beam katanas.
Plans for a No More Heroes sequel were first revealed shortly after the release of the first game, in a March 2008 interview with Computer and Video Games. Here, SUDA51 revealed he would be interested in producing a sequel for the Wii on the condition that the title sold well enough to convince its publishers. With No More Heroes' positive reception in North America and Martin Defries, manager of Rising Star Games, raving about the European sales of the game, not only was it unlikely that SUDA51's intention to direct a follow-up would go unsupported, but this meant it was likely that the sequel would not be published exclusively in Japan.
SUDA51 explained in an interview with Eurogamer on October 9, 2008, "When we worked on the first No More Heroes, we were really confident that this one was going to be a huge success. When we were talking at that time we said okay, if it really becomes a success, we should definitely make a sequel. The sales in US and Europe were pretty good so we said okay, we have to make it." He also confessed, "[No More Heroes] is the very first time that I really wanted to make a sequel, out of all the titles I've made so far."
While an initial press release by Marvelous Interactive, which was responsible for publishing No More Heroes in Japan, stated that it would be publishing Desperate Struggle in North America as a joint effort with XSEED Games, Ubisoft, which published the first installment in North America, went on to helm the game in this region. Ubisoft officially unveiled Desperate Struggle at the Penny Arcade Expo on September 4, 2009, where it was playable for the first time to both reporters and the public.
Desperate Struggle was originally planned for release in Europe in both "extreme" and mild formats, to appeal to European fans who were disappointed by the bloodless version of No More Heroes that was published in their region. On the topic of these different formats, SUDA51 explained, "For Europe, we're going to release two versions. One extreme version, and one with less violence [...] I want the European users to be able to experience the extreme version." Rising Star Games later announced that the mild version was no longer going to be produced, with product manager Yen Hau stating, "We just had a closer look at things and it just didn't make sense to bring out two versions. At the end of the day, realistically people will go for the bloody version over the censored version. It was also less confusing for everybody involved."
Desperate Struggle was announced on October 8, 2008, when a teaser trailer for the game was shown at the Tokyo Game Show in Chiba, Japan. This trailer provided little insight to the premise of the game, other than that the player would likely take control of Touchdown once again. Following No More Heroes' suit of pitting Touchdown against unique adversaries, the trailer sees him preparing to battle Twilight. Also similar to the first game's numerous references to popular culture, in the trailer Touchdown says the Terminator film series' catch phrase "I'll be back!" before initiating a sequence with music similar to that of the Terminator series' scores. The clip also hinted that Touchdown's attire may be modified for Desperate Struggle, as instead of his signature Red Hot jacket and Bizarre Jelly T-shirt, Travis wears a black jacket with ragged pants and a simple T-shirt reading "Travis Strikes Again." However further coverage on the game showed that the Red Hot jacket would in fact make a return in Desperate Struggle, in addition to a new Pure White Lover Bizarre Jelly T-shirt. The second trailer for Desperate Struggle confirmed several details, among them the reappearance of Christel, the introduction of dual-wielded beam katanas, and two new characters, Copeland and Howell. On September 3, 2009, a third trailer for the game was released, where SUDA51, with his lines dubbed by a baritone voice, described some new features, and others which were refined from the previous installment. This trailer also demonstrated how side missions have been revamped into low-bit minigames. Shortly after releasing this trailer, IGN also added renders of Christel and Copeland, as well as a PR illustration of Helter, to its image database, and uploaded two videos featuring gameplay from Ranking Battle 50.
A pair of gameplay trailers showcasing the playable characters Shinobu and Cooldown were also released, each opening with the caption "If you thought Travis was the only hero," followed by the words "Think again." The highlights of Shinobu's trailer include footage of her battle with New Destroyman and balancing Million Gunman's decapitated head on her Jacob's Ladder sword, while speaking to it menacingly. The highlights of Cooldown's trailer include his battle with Mimmy in a field of flowers, and coming to Touchdown's defense against Batt.
On August 18, 2009, the game's North American publisher Ubisoft began sponsoring a contest where American fans could submit one T-shirt design to be used in the game, similar to a contest Weekly Famitsu held for the first installment, before the deadline of September 10, 2009 at 11:59 PM PST. Also in August 2009, the game's official Japanese website was opened, featuring a blog widget and the same T-shirt contest Ubisoft had been holding, but sponsored by Marvelous Entertainment for Japan residents.
On September 17, 2009, 1UP.com began dedicating a five-day cover story to Desperate Struggle, culminating in the game's appearance at the 2009 Tokyo Game Show on September 24. The first report revealed such things as the name of a new assassin called Million Gunman, clarified the status of Wii MotionPlus, announced the game will support Classic Controllers and showcased the first screenshot of Cooldown as he appears in the game. In their fourth bulletin, 1UP.com began sponsoring a contest where its members could describe what they liked most about the first installment of No More Heroes. One winner was chosen to receive two large posters of Touchdown and Christel signed by SUDA51, two Mugshot Samurai T-shirts and one Hellride T-shirt. The fifth and final 1UP.com update simply linked to three videos. The first showcases gameplay as Shinobu, and also features brief appearances by New Destroyman and Million Gunman, while the second and third clips display two side missions involving collecting coconuts and working in a steakhouse, respectively. Other reports in 1UP.com's five-day cover story involved a tour of Grasshopper Manufacture and an interview with SUDA51.
Coinciding with the delayed release of Desperate Struggle in Japan, a second package of the game was made available in the region on October 21, 2010. This "Hopper's Edition" of Desperate Struggle features bonus material including a DVD, soundtrack EP and art book. A specially produced manga was also distributed with pre-orders of this edition. Pre-orders made with Amiami even yielded an exclusive telephone card depicting Touchdown and Christel.
The DVD, titled No More Heroes 1.5, contains three features. One recaps each cutscene from 2007's No More Heroes, another features an animated comic produced by Marvelous Entertainment which bridges the gap between No More Heroes and Desperate Struggle, and the third contains an extended promotional video for Desperate Struggle. The animated comic was written by SUDA51 and was reportedly kept secret from even most Grasshopper employees during production.
The bundled Mini Sound Track contains nine themes and remixes and is the only official representation of Desperate Struggle's music on disc, as a complete soundtrack has not been released. The book included with the Hopper's Edition, titled No More Magazine, contains concept art for both No More Heroes and Desperate Struggle, and a message from SUDA51 that No More Heroes is "not DEAD!" The limited edition Erotica Comic elaborates on the story behind brothers Helter-Skelter and Skelter Helter, and contains additional sections dedicated to fanservice.
Notably, the Japanese instruction manual sheds light on two previously unclear elements of the series. The first cites Henry's surname to be "Cooldown," and the second reveals Christel's brothel employer is called Heaven's Smile, a reference to common enemies found in Grasshopper's earlier effort, killer7.
On May 31, 2010, it was announced that high demand had Grasshopper Manufacture planning to release No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle Original Soundtrack that summer. Initially the soundtrack was only partially released in the form of the Mini Sound Track EP, however on November 14, 2010, coinciding with the reopening of Grasshopper's online merchandiser, the three-disc soundtrack was made available.
North American scans
- Two new playable characters, the final word on MotionPlus, Classic Controller support, obscure trivia, and exclusive new screenshots. Matt Leone. 1UP.com. September 17, 2009.
- No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle Nintendo Wii Gameplay - Demo 1. IGN. September 3, 2009.
- No More Heroes 2 Playable At PAX 09. Stephen Totilo. Kotaku. August 28, 2009.
- No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle Nintendo Wii Trailer - Trailer. IGN. September 3, 2009.
- No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle Nintendo Wii Gameplay - Demo 2. IGN. September 3, 2009.
- No More Heroes 2 Desperate Struggle Shinobu Trailer HD. Cornelson Laut. 1UP.com. September 23, 2009.
- No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle Nintendo Wii Trailer - Henry Trailer. IGN. October 21, 2009.
- No More Heroes 2 Contest. Ubisoft. August 18, 2009.
- No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle Five Day Exclusive Matt Leone. 1UP.com. September 17, 2009.
- Two new playable characters, the final word on MotionPlus, Classic Controller support, obscure trivia, and exclusive new screenshots. Matt Leone. 1UP.com. September 17, 2009.
- No More Heroes 2 Giveaway. Tina Sanchez. 1UP.com. September 22, 2009.
- No More Heroes 2 Desperate Struggle 8-Bit Coconut Job Mission Gameplay HD. Cornelson Laut. 1UP.com. September 23, 2009.
- No More Heroes 2 Desperate Struggle 8-Bit Steakhouse Job Mission Gameplay HD. Cornelson Laut. 1UP.com. September 23, 2009.
- No More Heroes 2 Cover Day Two: Our visit to Grasshopper Manufacture. Thierry Nguyen. 1UP.com. September 18, 2009.
- Goichi Suda Interview. Ray Barnholt. 1UP.com. September 21, 2009.
- Japanese No More Heroes 2 "Hopper's Edition" fills in story gaps. Dany Argueta. Neoseeker. July 15, 2010.
- A Few Scant Details On The No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle Limited Edition. Ishaan. Siliconera. July 18, 2010.
- Hopper’s TV a Hit!. Grasshopper Manufacture. May 31, 2010.
- ノーモア★ヒーローズ2 デスパレート・ストラグル オリジナル・サウンドトラック. GhM Store. November 14, 2010.