Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes (Switch) Review
Travis Touchdown, our favourite otaku assassin, is back on Nintendo consoles again thanks to the latest offering in the series, Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. One of the most popular franchises concocted by Goichi Suda (or Suda51 to just about everybody), the No More Heroes series is known for its spotlight on Western culture.
The series thus far has seen Travis Touchdown (modelled after Johnny Knoxville of Jackass fame) comes across a beam katana at an auction, and then agrees to assassinate someone due to the fact that he no longer has money to buy video games and pro-wrestling videos. This sequence of events leads Travis into the United Assassins Association, where he proceeds to hunt down all the other assassins in order to become number one.
Travis Strikes Again takes place seven years after No More Heroes 2. A figure enters Travis’ trailer with intent to kill, reveals himself to be Badman, former professional baseball player turned assassin, and father of Bad Girl, whom Travis killed off in the first game. During the struggle, Travis’ video game console, the Death Drive Mk. II, activates and sucks both Travis and Badman into the game. With nowhere to go but to play the game itself, Travis and Badman then team up in order to conquer the games within the Death Drive.
It’s a pretty out-there premise for a video game, but one that we should expect from the likes of Suda51. While many Suda51 games are praised for their narrative and interesting worlds, gameplay often feels left by the wayside. Some titles like Lollipop Chainsaw have great gameplay mixed in with the narrative, and others like Flower, Sun and Rain contain a thoughtful narrative but make it a slog to get through.
Travis Strikes Again slots somewhere in the middle. Most of the game is played as a top-down beat ‘em up. Suda51 initially promised that each game would be inspired by certain Indie titles, though in reality the gameplay is exactly the same, just from a different perspective. The first Death Drive game plays like a hack ‘n slash beat ‘em up from an isometric perspective. The second game uses both a top-down and isometric view, but the beat ‘em up gameplay remains the same. The third game is viewed from the side, yet still plays exactly the same, and so on.
That’s not to say that the game itself is bad to play, it services the game fine. Because Travis puts different games into the Death Drive, I was hoping for a bit more variety in the games themselves. The environments in each game are dreary, boring and repetitive as well. In the case of the second game, Travis and Badman need to venture into a number of different houses in order to find a serial killer. Each house has a different layout, but the furniture, walls and floors look identical in every house. The variety is just not enough to remain interesting throughout the game.
That goes for the enemies in the game as well. Every game is filled with several bugs that need to be exterminated, and there are a wide variety of enemies to fight. The variety of enemies isn’t helped when most of the enemies look nearly identical. Even on a large screen television, some of the enemies, particularly in the second game are so small that it’s hard to know what you’re dealing with. When some enemies require only one hit to kill, while others have shields and need a bit of strategy to dispatch, it becomes difficult to plan a method of attack. At least the mid-bosses and bosses stand-out and interact with Travis and Badman with witty one-liners and well-written quips.
Thankfully the game isn’t all doom and gloom. As mentioned earlier, many Suda51 games are written very well and in entertaining fashion. Travis Strikes Again is no different. For the most part, the game is a window into the gaming world in general. The Death Drive itself parodies the Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis to North America). Each game that gets booted up plays a VHS quality opening video that sings “Death Drive” in a similar fashion to the “Seeeegaaaa” opening in the Sonic the Hedgehog games.
Suda51’s love of Indie games shines through when Travis and Bad Man have opportunities to order shirts online, including titles such as Pato Box, The Messenger and Hotline Miami. There are a lot of cool T-Shirt designs in the game, and plenty that I wish were real so that I could order one too!
There are also many fourth-wall nods (including one to Deadpool himself), and some jabs at famed Indie publisher Devolver Digital. The cutscenes between each game is handled through a visual novel with an Apple II filter. This gets commented on as well, and after the first of these cutscenes takes about six or seven minutes to read through, Travis is told that the second cutscene needs to be shorter so that they can gain an additional five points on their Metascore.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is certainly an oddball that I enjoyed. Suda51’s penchant for Western culture, mixed in with toilet humour and one-liners, makes for an enjoyable time. The game itself is very “samey” throughout the whole adventure, but looking past that and discovering a game that is very well-written, self-aware and funny makes it just beyond the cusp of recommendation.
+ Great use of self-awareness
+ Bosses and Mid-Boss dialogue is entertaining
+ Well-written parodies on the gaming world
- Very boring environments
- Lack of variety in the standard enemies
- Almost no variety in gameplay