The No More Heroes series from Suda 51 is a fun blend of 4th wall breaking humor and action that has garnered a cult following since its beginning. Its main hero, Travis Touchdown, not only sports a crazy attitude and style, but an undying love of video games and otaku culture that many resonate with. But it’s been a while since we’ve last seen the powerful otaku assassin, who has been in solitude since his outing in the previous game. Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is a non-sequel that is set nearly 7 years after the events of No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle and supposedly will connect to a new game in the franchise. But this new outing for Travis Touchdown is not what fans would expect and definitely takes a very different approach than its predecessors.
Travis Strikes Again nearly drops everything about the gameplay previously established in the first two No More Heroes games and instead experiments with a lot of different things. The entirety of the game has Travis and his rival Bad Man (father of one of Travis’ older enemies from the first game) getting sucked into a video game console called the Death Drive Mark-II. The two of them traverse through a number of game titles, each with varying gameplay styles and gimmicks that still have some elements of the wacky and mature humor from the No More Heroes series. It’s a very off-the-cuff approach for the story, which is also very random and exaggerated like the previous games, but one that serves only to re-introduce to Travis, rather than continue the No More Heroes saga.
There are seven different Death Drive games that you can dive into and complete, each with hack n’ slash characteristics mixed with other gameplay elements. But they aren’t all that great to complete, with a few exceptions here and there. Some of the games you dive into from the Death Drive feel like half-baked ideas that never fully become realized despite the potential fun that could be had with them. The big issue is that the game’s pacing and consistency can often be all over the place, with some stages becoming overly repetitive and overstaying their welcome all too soon.
Enemies are recycled pallet swaps in each area, which can and will become a drag halfway through the experience. Fighting groups of them gets annoying when you’re constantly getting hit from attacks that can either be tough to see or simply break through your own attacks. Most of the time the overhead camera view of the action can be stifling when you have trouble seeing enemies attacking you or pinpointing your position and other things around you on the stage.
As you play and continuously kill enemies that block your path, you gain experience to level up either Travis or Bad Man, which increases their health and attack power. This doesn’t always feel obvious however, especially when your attacks don’t always look like they grow stronger later in the game. When leveling up, the game requires you to boost Travis and Bad Man separately instead of sharing experience. This can be tedious when you want to switch control to the opposite character, only to find out you need to start from scratch all over again.
The game can be played with a partner via co-op locally on the Nintendo Switch, but little else other than some special moves with Travis and Bad Man working together make it any different. You’re honestly better off playing alone if you want to catch all of the details and fan service scattered throughout the game. Travis and Bad Man also gain new abilities and attacks by picking up Chips that appear from time to time in each stage. Chips can give you different kinds of attacks that affect the area around you or targeted enemies, which can be powerful.
The biggest disappointment for fans of No More Heroes will come from the below par writing and lack of voice over for most of the game. While the dialogue is somewhat witty and breaks the fourth wall often with its jokes, it’s definitely not as good as the previous games in both tone and humor.
There are some fun nods and jokes that harken back to previous games, as well as other Suda 51 projects, but they often feel a little too forced and not too funny. The lack of voiceover only adds to this because we lose out on a lot of the charm and attitude that Travis and other characters exude in the No More Heroes games.
There is some dialogue that happens in a few select points of the game, especially towards the end when there’s a big easter egg and fan service, but the majority of the experience has you listening to goofy sounds during written dialogue. There’s a side visual novel inspired series of cutscenes you can access from the main hub, which directly help you access other games for the Death Drive, but their charm quickly diminishes with how prolonged they are. But are the dubbed sections of dialogue good when they finally happen? Yes they are, but you have to get through a lot of the game in order to see them.
One of the biggest things with Travis Strikes Again is the collaboration with various indie studios and their games. Unfortunately this limited to special t-shirts that Travis and Bad Man can wear from the game’s hub. There are a few goofy moments that do a bit more with this scattered throughout the game, but if you aren’t paying attention or progress too far you’ll miss out on them. Some indie games directly inspire the way a few stages play out, but again it’s very subtle and limited to what it could have been otherwise. A few other big indie titles that get a nod in Travis Strikes Again also don’t get much else beyond the t-shirts, which is a shame since the game prides itself on the indie collaboration.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is a side adventure that isn’t anything fans would expect. It’s not a true sequel that will do much for the franchise, despite being the connecting bridge to what could be a new game for Travis Touchdown. If you come into this expecting to see more of what you loved about No More Heroes 1 and 2, then you’re going to be absolutely disappointed. This isn’t Travis Touchdown’s next chapter, only a short story of what he’s been up to all this time. Is it still worth playing through for both fans and non-fans alike? Only if you like the randomness and can overlook the various issues that pop up. If not, then you’ll be better off waiting for Suda 51 to finally give us No More Heroes 3 to play on Nintendo Switch.
This review was based on a digital review code of Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes for the Nintendo Switch, provided by Grasshopper Manufacture.