To fund your clothes habit and pet's diet in-between assassinations, Travis takes on mundane jobs once again, but these are rendered as multi-level Famicom-esque mini-games, far more enjoyable than the borderline tedium of the comparable sections in the first game. As with Retro Game Challenge, these contemporary imaginings of games-that-never-were are so well-designed and enjoyable that spending time hoovering up 8-bit rats and spiders for cash to buy a new belt or leather jacket feels like a reasonable proposition.
In battle too, No More Heroes 2 is a slicker beast than its forebear. Played with either the Wiimote or the Classic Controller (I prefer the latter for its precision) you lock on and switch between enemy targets, using a mixture of melee and beam-sword-based attacks to slice and dice your way through their health bars (represented by a neat, opaque clock face gauge that runs down with each hit).
Maintain an unbroken streak of hits and a pixillated tiger in the bottom of the screen will rise to its feet with each strike, before turning red when ready to trigger a hyper-focused mode, during which you can slash at enemies in double-time. It's a far more effective and measured system than the slot reel approach of the first game.
Most of the easygoing fighting is done in the run-up to each boss battle, where you clear corridors of enemies before opening up the next pathway, and these fights usually require only the lightest amount of strategy, allowing you to play with your enemies and try out different techniques. Conversely, the imaginative boss fights demand tactical thinking, as each opponent has numerous attack patterns that must be countered or overcome before they're beaten.
Once again, the boss fights are where Suda 51's creativity shines. One early battle sees you face off against a football player and his 23 cheerleaders who together join up to form a giant robot, known as the Santa Death Parade. There are returning cameos such as when you battle the brain of a character you defeated in the first game, or the two halves of Destroyman, who you sliced in half during Travis' debut, gentle fan-service that helps maintain a sense of continuity.
There is no denying that No More Heroes 2 is a more streamlined, svelte game than its predecessor. It boasts tighter design, more robust visuals and a settled sense of identity that makes it a better, more solid proposition. But in smoothing the rough edges of the NMH vision, this sequel has also lost something of the exuberance, so barely contained in the debut.
You no longer receive phone calls down your Wiimote from Sylvia, nor have to bat away baseballs in an impromptu mini-game, nor avoid a sprinkler system that will electrocute you via the beam sword handle if touched. It's not that anyone wanted to see these particular nuggets of creativity replicated in the sequel, but rather that they haven't been replaced by anything.
The game's concessions to traditional game design make No More Heroes 2 a more palatable, satisfying experience. But in doing so, you feel Suda 51 and his team have moved away from Grasshopper's boisterous 'Punk's Not Dead' slogan. Travis Touchdown may not have donned a suit and got himself a desk job - after all, he is still decapitating hot twins - but he's inched towards institutionalisation, with all of the benefits and drawbacks that entails for the young and wild heart.
8 / 10
No More Heroes 2 is out now in the US, and will be released in Europe by Rising Star Games at the end of April.