It has been over ten years since the first No More Heroes game released, taking players into the strange and murderous land of Santa Destroy from the perspective of the strange and murderous Travis Touchdown. While there has been a sequel to the game, the first title in the series kind of ended an era for both Travis and developer Grasshopper Manufacture. It was the last game that saw Goichi Suda, better known by his penname of Suda51, in the director’s chair and nothing from the studio since has felt quite the same way since.
A decade later, Suda is stepping back up to direct a game again in the form of Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes and, after hands-on time with new levels, we can report that it definitely feels like Suda51’s style is back in full force again.
The latest demo for Travis Strikes Again shows new levels for the first time since the game was revealed in an August 2017 Nintendo Direct. Grasshopper has indicated that they want every level in the game to feel different even though the basic framework remains the same. Unlike the previous No More Heroes games with a traditional 3D action game camera, Travis Strikes Again takes a top-down perspective for the majority of its gameplay. To that end, Grasshopper wanted to make each level still feel unique in theme, tone, and mechanics.
The first new level was titled Life is Destroy, which puts Travis into a seemingly cozy suburban neighborhood. The comfortable feelings do not last long, however, as Travis is made aware that a serial killer called the Doppelganger has been active in the suburb. To win the game, Travis must solve the murders, unmask the Doppelganger, and move on to the next work. As Travis travels between houses, a giant glowing skull follows him, causing an instant kill if he touches it. If there is an explanation for the skull, I didn’t get a chance to see it, but I’m hoping it has no explanation.
After investigating a murder scene, Travis is attacked by a monstrous humanoid sheep. The mid-boss charges at you repeatedly and is basically unaffected by anything you do, serving as a pretty strong tutorial for learning how to use your skills. By holding the left bumper and combining it with a face button, Travis can skills that the player has earned and put in slots. These skills are found around the game world in the form of Skill Chips and can drastically alter how well you proceed through fights.
One skill was a time bomb that can be shot out to stick to enemies. By using this on the monster sheep, I could take advantage of his calmer moments to stick a bomb to him and then run away when he got more aggressive, giving me time to let the skill cooldown. Skills also become important when playing in co-op, as synergy between the two players in their skillsets mattered a great deal. Travis had a skill that called in an airstrike, but took a few seconds to fully charge and was interruptible during that time. Badman, Travis’ unwilling partner in the game world, had equipped a skill that slowed enemies to a crawl, making communication between the two important on which skills to use when.
The second level was titled Golden Dragon GP, named after a VR game within the game world itself. Travis is convinced to put a VR headset on and enter a Tron-like world of wireframes, orange beams of light, and death racing. In the races, players must max out to the top speed of their current gear and then shift gears by navigating a path to the next gear. Sometimes they’ll be in a normal order, sometimes they’ll occur in random orders or be branches off in strange directions. The first few races are implausibly easy, but the first boss leaves you in his dust.
Travis is then persuaded to search for better parts, which provides the next action sequence. I had been playing single-player up until this point, but adding a co-op partner is quick and easy and can be done at any time, whether you’re wandering around the game world or fighting a boss. Badman joined Travis to help him tear through a few dozen enemies as the two searched a Japanese-looking mansion for a Golden Dragon GP part.
As Travis and Badman strike enemies, they lose power in their weapons, just like in the original No More Heroes games. In the Wii titles, Travis had to shake the controller up and down to recharge. That functionality is retained here, by holding in the left analog stick and shaking the controller, Travis regains beam saber functionality in pips. This can be done with any of the game’s supported controllers, like the joycons, dual-joycons, Pro controller, or handheld mode. Thankfully, aside from the single-joycon option, all other controllers let you just press in the left analog stick and then oscillate the right analog up and down to charge. It’s quite a bit more consistent, especially in the heat of battle.
While I wish I could have played more about Travis Strikes Again, a lot of my initial concerns about it have fallen to the wayside. The dialogue is undeniably Suda and not the emulation of it that felt flat in previous Grasshopper games. No one would, or should, confuse Travis Strikes Again with earlier No More Heroes games, but it seems to have that feeling of abstract punk that I have been missing, even if the titular character is wearing an Unreal Engine logo on his t-shirt.
You can check out video we took from this demo in a brand new New Gameplay Today right here.