I’ve been waiting on the return of Travis Touchdown for years now. The last game to star the titular assassin, No More Heroes 2, released in 2010 to a generally more positive and less mixed reaction than Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is now receiving from critics. Still, this Switch game will scratch all of the right itches for fans of the universe before ultimately leave them longing for a true No More Heroes 3.
Now, that’s not to say that Travis Strikes Again is a perfect spin-off. The game features waves of generic enemies that fail to add much variety to the way I went about completing a level. Furthermore, the trademark personality of the game’s anti-hero is prevented from shining through in some sections because the bulk of the dialogue is delivered through text bubbles. It’s a real shame, truthfully.
Still, the title manages to deliver an experience unlike anything else on the market thanks to the distinctive mind of developer Goichi “Suda51” Suda.
The main appeal of the No More Heroes series has always been the stylistic approach to combat coupled with the warped philosophies of every character involved. Tonally it’s unlike any other game on the market, and that’s what makes the return of the series so welcomed. The personality established in the original pair of games makes the transition over to Travis Strikes Again effectively, and that’s applaudable given the smaller budget for this project.
More importantly, this Nintendo Switch exclusive embraces the uniqueness of its situation by providing you with the opportunity to experience so many different genres of games. These variants are portrayed within Travis Strikes Again as six different titles being played on a mythical game console known as the Death Drive Mark II. At the very least this helps the change in camera angles make sense narratively, and it actually keeps players on their toes throughout.
You see, Travis and Badman are working together to resurrect the latter’s daughter, Bad Girl, whom the former murdered in the first No More Heroes game. That’s where the Death Drive comes into play, as completing all six legendary games is said to grant the victor a wish. It’s an interesting path to follow for fans that recall slaying the now deceased femme fatale, and it keeps the rationale behind the co-op mechanics sound from a story-telling perspective.
Setting aside the stylized gameplay, the studio behind the project (Grasshopper Manufacture) has added an RPG mechanic of sorts that allowed me to level up one of the two playable characters (Badman and Travis Touchdown, respectively). Since experience is shared between the two, it’s possible to go through the entire game and only level up one of the heroes – which is exactly what I did.
Additionally, up to four Skill Chips can be equipped at any given time, and more can be found laying around the various environments as Travis and Badman trek through them.
Two-player co-op is also available for anyone that has a friend, significant other, or family member handy to jump in for a bit. This mode is a clear highlight on a console such as the Nintendo Switch which is designed with multiplayer at the forefront. Better yet, this makes the action a lot more palatable when the game decides to throw rounds of tedious baddies at you.
When you’re not thrown face-first into the action, you’ll find yourself hanging out at Travis’s trailer. This is where the collectible elements of TSA come into play, allowing you to spend coins gathered within each level on t-shirts. Some of these are original to this game, but the majority of them feature real-world indie titles. Undertale, Mulaka, and many more are present and accounted for in shirt form, and they make for a much more relatable sense of intrigue from Travis.
This aside, the narrative is ultimately what will draw in players or push them away. Suda51 is notorious for his love of the absurd, pop culture, and wrestling alike. This means that there are plenty of references to find throughout, with an overarching theme of the game being incredibly self-aware of the mindset of the individual playing. Being self-referential is a trademark of the series, and there’s plenty to sink your teeth into to keep you engaged.
That is if you’re really paying attention to what’s being said.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is a wonderful return to a universe that seemed like it may never return. More than anything, it’s clear that No More Heroes 3 is the best opportunity to flesh out what Grasshopper and Suda51 started. This is a great offering to kickstart an initial reclamation of consumer interest necessary for a full-blown sequel.
More importantly, Travis Strikes Again is a wonderful game for those that have an affinity for something truly dark, twisted, and maybe even a little offensive.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes arrives exclusively for the Nintendo Switch on January 18, 2019. Okay, Cool was provided with a copy of the game for review purposes.
You can find Riley on Twitter at @TheRileyLittle if you want to chat about No More Heroes, Smash Bros. Ultimate, or… well, pretty much anything. He’s a very approachable guy, we swear.