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April 28, 2017

Bastion


Entry number: Who cares, really? The number doesn’t matter. All I know is that I’ll keep on telling this story until it’s over. The Bastion, our floating mass in a sea of emptiness and floating masses, will keep us safe as long as it can. Or rather, it shouldn’t endure more than it already has.

A kid’s bizarre voyage is coming to a conclusion. Soon we’ll know the end of it. Or, well, I hope so. That’s if he comes back. But… until then, I would say it’s time to go over what happened. A proper story’s supposed to start at the beginning. My name’s Rucks. I’m a Caelondian – not that it matters, Caelondia is in tatters. I could say I was a Caelondian. I woke up one day to see our world had been reduced to bits and pieces idling in a great nothing. The Calamity had happened.


You'd think the destruction of the world would have
awoken him. And yet, nope.
That day, a Kid rose from bed, his bedroom the only remaining part of his home. Not even a fridge nearby for a breakfast. He took a few steps, and the ground formed before him, and stayed as he walked further. Monsters on the way: Squirts and Windbags. I’ve never stopped to marvel at the odd names we’ve given these critters. Scumbag, Anklegator, Lunkhead, Rattletail, Pecker… These names feel like they could be a part of some fantasy world where animals are collected for battle. Although perhaps such a world would have chosen a different name for Pecker. Then the Kid stumbled onto the Bastion, where he found me. Perhaps I should have asked his name. With everything he’s done for the Bastion, I really should have. Veda perhaps? Nah, that sounds stupid. Plus he’s gotten used to being called the Kid.

I always thought rolling on the ground was impractical.
But if it makes the Kid faster...
Here’s the deal with the Bastion. This piece of land has a panel to let anyone ride the wind towards any location we can access. Look out at landing, though; even the Kid falls headfirst. I do remember that moment he told me about where he saw a perfectly fine and comfy pile of wheat to land on, and he fell right next to it. This universe has a wicked sense of humor, doesn’t it? The Bastion was created long ago, as a way to save us. In case of Calamity, break glass. There’s one problem though; its batteries are empty. The only way to refill them is to get Cores and Shards, scattered across the vast emptiness. Oh, certainly, I can send the Kid anywhere, but he’ll have to do some fighting on his own when he gets there. Good thing the weapons were left behind, ready for the Kid to use on his way.

April 21, 2017

Steam Pack 3


I wasn’t expecting to have a third set like this so soon... but at least it can help me practice in making my reviews shorter, especially those of Steam games. Last February I bought the Freedom Humble Bundle, which added a large amount of games to my collection for only 30 bucks… including many games that I would likely never write a full review about. Steam Packs are my way to cover all of those without wasting a whole weekend for each game. Once again, here are four games of varying prices, picked among the first titles of my library (in alphabetical order). Let’s-a go!

7 Grand Steps, Step 1: What Ancients Begat


Kind of a board game, kind of a Choose-your-own-path adventure, this game (often shortened to just “7 Grand Steps") relates the story of a character as they begin their legacy across History, starting in Egypt. Fall in love, become a parent, contribute to the major scientific discoveries of each era – even better, make those discoveries yourself!

Moving through the five circles of life.
On your turn, you can spend a Token with a symbol to move forward and perhaps accumulate Legendary Points. Legendary Points are what allow you to bring science forward, become a hero, or gain recognition. You can find a life partner, have children, teach your children the various arts present in that time period. Everything’s done through Tokens, by the way, and accumulating Tokens can be tricky since the parents are the only ones able to move on the board and collect Points. Interacting with other people – especially the loved one and some allies – lets the player collect more Tokens. The player can also distribute some of the remaining tokens among the kids, teaching them in one talent needed to live in that era. Someday, your character and their life partner will retire – and later die – and you choose which child gets to continue the legacy under your “guidance”. After which, things keep going, mankind evolves, passes through time…

Oh hey, you got all positive adjectives!
I got all negative adjectives...
The first section takes place in the Copper Age, and then moves on to the Bronze Age. I’ve yet to play through all of it (it probably gets to Golden Age and perhaps beyond), but the first full game gives a good idea of how the whole thing plays out. When selecting a child to continue the legacy, they take part in a trial… which you have NO control on. All they let you do afterwards is pick the character’s next defining adjective (good or bad, depending on how the trial went). Wanted Shura the Benevolent? Sorry, the Random Number God decided you were going to be Shura the Petty! There are some other choices you can make from time to time, but those don’t have that much of an impact. After a moment, you can move to the next outward ring of the “board” on this coin-operated game, all the way to Royalty! …That is, if your luck will allow it.

Making tokens, making kids... Making HISTORY!

You can never find out whether or not you've made
the right choice.
It’s definitely a good game, although I don’t know if I’d play through all of it. For one, I think too many things are decided at random – so if you strike out with all the opposite-sex partners at the start of the new character’s life, or they all get married before you could get one, well, you’re in trouble. Same for the Tokens, who when received are given symbols at random based on the talents of the character that gathered them. Whether or not a rite of passage goes well; the results of picking one of the four options presented in certain scenarios… There is enough strategy to balance it out, but you can never tell if you’ll end up screwed over by the inherent randomness. Well, I guess that’s life… I mean, all went well until my fifth or sixth family, then soldiers pillaged that family's village, killed my character’s wife or husband and two of the kids, and I barely survived thanks to a bit of luck.

It’s an enjoyable game, though I wouldn’t see myself paying 20$ for it. But hey, if you like strategy games, board games, choose-your-own-adventure books, and Historical fiction, you might find things of interest in this.

AI War: Fleet Command


Things start off simple enough...
Off to the conquest of your own sector of the universe! This game combines elements of real-time strategy, resource management and tower defense. The story is quite simple: Two warring human factions decided to build robotic combatants (the eponymous AI) to fight in wars, to avoid losing as many human soldiers in the feud. The AI rebelled, and headed out into the galaxy, taking over planets and fighting against mankind. We are now on the losing end, and the few remaining humans count on you to turn the tide around again: Defeat and drive the AI out of this galaxy!

...and you have no shortage of locations to visit...
If that’s the kind of game Ender was playing, then I’m glad not to be in his place. This game is very complicated. There are dozens upon dozens of types of ships that you can control and create, and you need to remember the functions of each and every single one of them. Harvest resources from the planets you visit, build a war force to capture planets, fend off the attackers. The game’s development studio, Arcen Games, explained that the opponent AI was built to be challenging, not to be fair. In other words, the odds will always be stacked against you. Oh, sure, you can set the difficulty level of the opponents – but even the lowest difficulty can prove problematic. See, you have limitations on how many ships of each type you can build – the enemy has no such limit. Computers are cheating bastards indeed.

...But then, things get completely crazy...

There is also a storyline that you can play, which adds two aliens with very different moral compasses to the original war between humans and machines. I should also mention that it’s possible to play this game with up to 8 players, meaning that you can help each other against the AI, or go around and battle other players. There are also multiple expansion packs that can radically change the way the game is played, if you really love the concept, the gameplay, and you want to add some spice to it.

...and there is so much on the screen that you can hardly
realize everything that is going on!
I swear, this IS Ender's Game!
Now, I’ll admit, this game is too complex for me. I mean, I can usually play games that are fairly complex, but this one didn’t attract me all that much. Oh, it’s not bad, it’s just not for me. I certainly like the backstory behind the game, and I find the settings and music to be simply beautiful – but there is so much to keep in mind, I lose focus. It’s just too much to juggle at once. And this, folks, is why we’re all doomed if someday I end up becoming humanity’s last hope. That’s also probably why I’ll never become a politician.

If this interests you, the game is currently sold on Steam for 9.99$, add 7$ or 8$ to that to get all of the expansions. There’s also an AI War 2 in development if you like the game.

The Astonishing Game


Hey, remember that rock opera I reviewed last year? Because I am that big of a Dream Theater fanboy? Did you know they had a game made out of that story? Because they did! And it’s on Steam! Of course, that also means a kickass soundtrack made of the instrumentals of the songs in that rock opera!

Is that how they play chess in the future? I always
thought it would be Knights decapitating towers,
pawns getting murdered by Bishops... all in
beautiful holographic animations!
It’s a pretty awesome concept for a game, too. Unique, that’s for sure. Probably more unique than “Chosen One saves the world with the power of love and the power of music”. Imagine chess… with RPG elements. Literally, chess, with characters moving like chess pieces on the board and attacking other pieces… except characters have hit points (called motivation points), so it can take more than one hit to take down any piece. You can play as the Ravenskill Rebel Militia, represented by musicians: drummers, guitarists, keyboardists, vocalists… and a dancer, for some reason. All that’s missing is a Theremin player. Or, you can play as the Great Northern Empire of the Americas, represented by characters in positions of power with roles similar to those of band members. What, a Judge has to keep the beat of justice, like a good drummer, no? …No?

Good to know what each piece does... now let's just
hope that menu will close easily, and won't be stuck
in the way.
You create pieces by spending energy points, and must also use energy points for every action you do – whether it’s moving pieces, making them attack, or using special moves to get the upper hand on the other side. And since there aren’t pieces to capture and, well, checkmates to be had, there is a different way to win: By destroying three of the special pieces at the other end of the board, representing the enemy’s headquarters.

There is, of course, a single-player campaign to complete, as well as a multiplayer option. There is also a Tutorial to let you understand the game. Cool concept, nice soundtrack, fairly decent models for the characters on the board, with an epic prog metal soundtrack… And by playing the game, you could actually win tickets to go see The Astonishing concert! Unfortunately, the praise ends here.

Ooooh, game customization! Alright!

Some stuff to learn about... but otherwise, it seems
like a clever idea. I just wish it wasn't so buggy.
See, the game is a bug-riddled mess. I never actually managed to beat the Tutorial, as I met not one, but two glitches that stopped my playthrough in its tracks: First I get the popup explaining one piece and am unable to remove it from the screen – with the popup blocking the screen and making it impossible to play unless you quit. The second glitch had the computer opponent making its moves and never ending its turn afterwards, preventing me from doing my own actions. Dream Theater, you’re a fantastic band, but you should have overseen that game’s creation and applied some quality control, because… yeah, that’s bad. I don’t think I’ll ever get a total play time for this one that even equals the length of the original rock opera. Big thumb down… but if you can’t resist the temptation, well, it’s on Steam for 2.99$.

Caveman World: Mountains of Unga Boonga


Let’s end this article with a good ol’ platform game. After all the logic thinking, it’ll be good to just be running and jumping my way around levels. Oh, right, it’s that one… Yeah, this one’s bad. Real bad. Anubis II level of bad? Probably not.

Caveman World: Mountains of Unga Boonga (Boy, that title is needlessly long) presents Unga, a caveman who has a sad tendency to wind up separated from his family in dangerous territory. Your task is to bring him home safe, avoid the various prehistoric monsters – including sabretooth tigers, mammoths and dinosaurs, because who cares about prehistorical accuracy – and bring back fruits for the family. On the way, Unga will often run into simplistic puzzles where he needs to find a bone key to unlock a door.

Lots of grunts and primitive sounds were exchanged
around the dinner floor that evening. Talks of how
they really need to invent weapons as quickly as
fucking possible so that they can finally have some
mammoth meat for dinner.

"Freaking triceratops! You should NOT exist at the
same time as I do!"
I’ll say that much, the game has an alright difficulty and a great number of levels, which already makes it more playable than other infamous junk titles out there. However, much like many of those junk titles, it suffers from various issues regarding physics and hit detection. Unga can run, but can only jump rather poorly, which is not really a good thing in a platformer. The enemies can be hard to avoid, and sometimes they, also, benefit from the poor hit detection. That’s particularly annoying in that this is a game that works with a system of stars: You can get up to three stars on any level, and the only way to do so in a level is to collect all the fruits and not get hit at all.

Yeah, this doesn't look good.
Ugly and repetitive graphics, with terrible physics and no real reason to keep playing past the first few levels (unless you seek out the Steam achievements and trading cards). Then again, I am not really surprised, as this game came out in 2016, infamous year where the Steam platform had a record number of game releases… most of which were shovelware released thanks to Steam Greenlight. But hey, at least it’s very cheap, there’s that. Caveman World: Mountains of Unga Boonga only costs 0.99$, if you really must try it for yourself.

---

There you go. Another Steam Pack done. I hope you enjoyed, and I hope these quick reviews gave you some idea of whether or not you’d buy either of these games. I might just pile up the Steam reviews now, posting them all over the next few weeks. I do have five of those to look at…

April 17, 2017

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (Part 4)

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

In Part 1, Travis killed Assassins #51, 50, 49 to 25 and an extra. In Part 2, he got Assassins #24, 23, then skipped all the way to 10 by killing Doctor Shake, then we used Shinobu to kill Ranks 9 and 8. In Part 3, our protagonist took down Rank 7, Henry destroyed an abomination made of his brother’s creepiest fetishes, then down went Ranks 4, 3 and 2. In other words, we’ve got only one opponent left: The final boss! I even made sure to discuss every other part of the game before, so all there really is left to do is to discuss the last parts.

Yeah, no, I wouldn't ever hook up with a woman like that. But you
spent 1.90 games trying to, Travis, and now you got her. Have your fun.

I wouldn't expect a guy who's spent so long without having
sex to be so brutal and powerful about it.
Oh, but before that… Travis gets his usual call from Sylvia on the phone… only to learn that she’s standing right outside of his motel room door. Wow, it’s the first time she comes to his place! As it turns out, she has actually decided to honor her promise. And, to put it simply, they get to it with the force of two hurricanes. The entire goddamn motel shakes. The “NO MORE HEROES” sign even changes to “MORE ERO”. And here I thought I had made risqué jokes so far in this review!

Now laid and happy, Travis leaves Sylvia in his bedroom while he heads out to face his destiny. We get another scene of Sylvia retelling the events of the game, saying that she doesn’t remember much else of what happened afterwards. She doesn’t even know who she’s talking to. These sequences imply that Travis did dismantle the UAA with his final victory, leaving Sylvia out of a “job”, with no option but to be a stripper in some rundown place that’s closing soon. But of course, these sequences still focus more on her body than on her words. Gee, I wonder who that client might be?

In literary terms, these interludes are part of the Narration's
framing device. Meanwhile, the framing of these shots
clearly has one, or rather, two things of interest.

Tiger form: Destroys every enemy. Gotta wonder
why Travis doesn't trade his beam katana for that.
(This is actually from the previous level by the way)
The final level is a shopping mall. As usual, gunners, beam katana wielders, chainsaw guys, knifers; y’know, same thing we saw in each of the past levels, basically. There aren’t that many different enemy types… Travis climbs up the floors. It’s actually not that difficult, in fact I found it a little disappointing. Remember when I mentioned the power-ups that Travis can get at random? Most of them refill his beam katana’s battery, some others refill his life points. In this final level, I kept getting the BAR power-up, and OHKO-ing most opponents while I was in tiger form. It was very easy, and even outside of power-ups, things were fairly simple – as long as I took out the gunners first.

This is definitly too bright, cheery and colorful to be the
final level. Come on now. Unless the staff blew all of their
grim, grit points in the abandoned forest at the end of NMH1.

I really should have skipped all of the others and gone
directly for that little jackass head of his.
Alright, time for the final boss! Let’s save by leaving a big load in the bathrooms, and then we can move on to Jasper Batt Jr. The guy is actually a small loser with a pizza tattoo on his face and the voice of a teenager. Oh yes, Batt had been waiting for this. For, you see, the stakes are personal on both sides; Travis wants to avenge Bishop… Batt wants to avenge his father and brothers, all three of which were killed by Travis in the first game. Don’t remember them? They were the targets of the three Pizza Butt assassination missions. Not even bosses, just side-quests for money - that's the importance they had for Travis, but clearly even the little goons he kills have families and loved ones... Three servants of Batt come into the room with platters, and reveal their contents: The decapitated heads of… Geez… Holy shit… Shinobu, Henry and Sylvia. No, it’s gotta be a trick! That would be way too cruel to the player!

That time when you have so many images you want to use in the
review, both cutscenes and actual gameplay, so you end up
putting some tohgether to avoid clogging the past with pics...

From this, the fight begins. The petite villain is in an equally petite flying car. He’s out of reach most of the time, but he uses lasers to attack, and one can be used to bring him down. You can then slash at him all you want, but at some point, he won’t take damage any more. You need to clash with him when he’s trying to ram into you with his car. Travis inevitably loses the clash…

…because that’s a cutscene trigger. As Travis is about to lose. Henry jump in through the window and stops Jasper Batt Jr. As Henry wastes no time to explain, the heads shown to Travis were fakes. Just another way to mess with him. Phew, thank God, that was creepy as fuck. P.S. Henry, bro, I did bang your wife this time, or well, since she's now your ex, that makes it A-OK, I hope. The fight resumes and Henry deals with Batt’s bat-themed weapons in a corner while Travis takes Batt down – and the only way now is to clash with his tiny car. After he’s defeated, we get a cutscene… where Batt injects himself with weird shit and becomes a superhero-bodied monstrosity with a tiny babyface head. Oh, just great… I don’t want to imagine the secondary effects.

So, Jasper Batt, with a slight bat theme, as a rich guy on a
mission to avenge his fallen family that has been taken down
by a killer for money. The Batman reference couldn't be
more obvious. And of course, then he becomes a damn
superhero-like muscled dude... Sheesh...
The first battle was meant to depict Batt as a scrawny loser, kind of like Travis, a petty guy who isn’t worth the effort put into fighting him. Or, at least, that’s what they were originally going for, with their message of “revenge only leads to more revenge” and stuff. Not so much for Batt’s second form, which is tough as fuck. Almost every one of his attacks can knock you down. He teleports anytime he wants… AND will chain punches while teleporting, an attack that is extremely hard to avoid, so if he starts spamming it every time you get up, you’re fucked. Oh, and if he punches you and you’re tossed out the window… well, you’re a few dozen floors above ground, you can figure out what happens. Also of note Batt’s weaker attacks that always results into a cutscene where Travis gets spun on the guy’s finger like a friggin’ pizza and then head-slammed into the ground. Hey, isn’t Henry supposed to help?

Nah, he doesn’t help.

Some twin brother he turns out to be.

This went from silly to tough to just... what the fuck.
If you survive and beat down Jasper Batt Jr.’s second form, shit gets weird… or, well, weirder. Blame the secondary effects if you want. Travis smashes Batt through the window, but instead of hitting the ground, the pizzeria CEO instead becomes a giant cartoony inflatable version of his original self. …No, I am not making that up. It seems that the developers wanted to shove a final reference in the game, and couldn’t think of anything other than Stay frigging Puft. Maybe they were nostalgic for Thanksgiving parade floats? Henry cannot stand the sheer stupidity of this turn of events, so he gets the fuck out. That’s okay, we won’t need you!

Let's see... I could either climb that colossus, or just split its sternum in two.
Hm, let's go for the sternum.

I can imagine the people below going, "Did the last parade
lose one of its Pizza Batt mascots? And why is it acting
like it's freaking alive?"
And indeed. We don’t need him. Giant Inflatable Batt Jr. is probably the easiest boss in the game. It stays close to the border of the building, allowing you to score multiple hits at its abdomen. It can still attack, with its fists mostly and with a breath weapon – but it’s still very easy. Just spin the Wii remote once in a while to spar the breath weapon, and it’s all good. Hell, by staying close to the float’s belly, you will instantly avoid most of his attacks. After some slashing, Travis jumps off the building and slices the giant Batt in two, killing him for good. Well… except he’s now falling to his death. Oopsie.


I bet he can't wait to rest with her by his side after all this
heavy fighting and Jasper Batt Float-killing.
He falls but lands on the backseat of Sylvia’s motorcycle and she drives away from Santa Destroy, with Travis’s only words being: “Now that’s paradise!” The story properly ends with a final scene at the bordello, where Sylvia, as the common whore for sale she’s become, is crying. That’s when the client is revealed to be Travis – why he felt the need to hear the entire story of which he was the friggin’ protagonist is unknown. He tells Sylvia that Santa Destroy needs them, and it’s “time to go home”. And that’s how the game ends. (Sequel hook?)

Boy did that end on a silly note, but to be fair, No More Heroes has always been silly. They just went all-out for this final one. Why don’t I say “Suda51 went all out”? Well, Suda51 had little input in this sequel to his game. As a result, Desperate Struggle is more contested in quality than its previous title. I dunno, I personally really loved this one. As much as the original? Hm… about equal. Not sure which one is the better one.

Let’s compare the two, shall we? In the first game, Travis started off without a motivation outside of “Reach the top”, and it was later revealed that he was in it to kill the murderer of his parents. Here, Travis starts off wanting revenge and just goes along with the UAA rankings because it’s less of a hassle, and later changes goal to dismantling the UAA for all the lives it has ruined. Both games are stories of revenge, even if it’s only revealed halfway through for the first one and a major plot point in the second. Sylvia was just a scam without any interest in Travis at first, and here… well, while she changes near the end, she started off just as disinterested in her “clients”, even if she had at least fifty-one assassins working under her organization!

Ultimately, the moral of “revenge is bad and only brings more violence” is there, but muddled. I mean, the villain killed Bishop out of revenge, so Travis killed more people… out of revenge. And by the end, he doesn’t seem too bothered by any of this. His quest did change in the end, and he had actual heroic goals after he encountered the Rank 2 assassin. The comparisons with famous revenge action films is there, and we can go through ten revenge missions before the final level. However, in the end, the revenge quest is turned on its head as the reality of the UAA sneaks up on Travis, and the final battle starts off ridiculous, then difficult, then ridiculous again… as a way to show that… revenge isn’t worth it?!? Even I’m not sure! I mean, after I defeated Batt’s second form, I sure as Hell was happy! You can see what I mean: The moral stays a major element, but the game in the end seems unsure whether to do it justice or go balls-to-the-wall crazy and who cares if the message gets lost.

Most pieces of story are there to forward Travis’s rise in the ranking. The second game at least properly builds on the foundation laid by the first, bringing back favorites like Shinobu and Henry, as playable character no less! Granted, it’s for three battles in total, but that still makes it one fifth of all the boss battles! It also ends the transformation of Travis from nominal hero to Anti-hero. Pretty sure he’d be good drinking buddies with Wade Wilson.

The gameplay is generally the same as it was before; Travis uses his beam katanas, can change between them at will, can apply wrestling moves to hurt opponents. Henry is more speed-centered, while Shinobu focuses more on agility and platforming. That’s interesting, adding new dimensions to the original gameplay. I wish it had been done better for Shinobu, as the platforming sections were troublesome with the annoying camera, and also because the developers had the bizarre idea to make her taunt the opponent anytime she made a combo.

The disappearance of the open-world element of the original? In my opinion, not that big of a problem, honestly. The open-world Santa Destroy was actually rather boring, it had very little to offer, and there were various things that could have been improved – namely, that you had to go accept a job at the job center before heading to the location of the job or assassination, which then requires to just drive around the very calm, boring town. Also, the first game demanded that Travis collect a great amount of money that he then had to pay to access the next ranked battle, and that got really tedious in the end. Santa Destroy lacked things to do.

This game thus does away with the open-world, featuring easily-accessible jobs, revenge missions and places of importance… and featuring very little incentive to actually do most of it. Since you’re not forced to collect money, you can just skip the jobs outright. The money you earn will be spent on Ryan’s training, Naomi’s beam katana upgrades (all 2 of them, when the first game had many more), or on new clothes for Travis (cosmetic changes, the only thing of interest is that Travis keeps whatever clothes you gave him even during cutscenes). The best reason to play the job mini-games is to try to beat them and get high scores, and the retro NES style of the games make them a fun nostalgic throwback. Probably longer and better than the mini-games of the original, and as a bonus, we don’t have the hassle of driving back and forth between the job center and the job itself. Now, whether or not the lack of an open world makes the game lazier than it could have been, or if it’s better that way… that’s up to you. I personally prefer the game without it.

Even without the open world, we have fifteen bosses, most of which are preceded by awesome (and often very long) levels. One again, many bosses are memorable, whether it’s for their great concept, their style, or the fight against them. The names aren’t as great, but the personalities of these characters get to shine – continuing the theme of the original, that Travis isn’t just killing off obstacles, but people with aspirations and quirks. Desperate Struggle sees our protagonist definitively going from heel to face. …Wow, it feels weird to me to use wrestling terms…

In the end, I consider No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle to be about as good as the first No More Heroes; that is, very good. I’d say, play both games. In the correct order, of course. So, look it up, and be sure to wait for the next Suda51 game to feature Travis Touchdown!

On this, I will now start working on my five or six Steam game reviews. And I’ll post them, starting this Friday!

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!