Title: Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Release Date: January 18, 2019
Reviewed On: Switch
For me, No More Heroes made the fourth wall breaking commentary “cool.” Before you comic book nerds start pushing your glasses back up your noses saying, “What about Deadpool!” Let’s just agree that we’re excited to see Travis Touchdown shake his energy saber again in his latest adventure, Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes.
In this Nintendo Switch exclusive, players are taken through a smorgasbord of retro game fever with sounds, visuals and references being front and center. As an added bonus, it’s backed up with a story that’s ridiculous, yet, at the same time, kind of humbling. With all of these elements, you easily have a title that’s worthy for a mainline entry in this series, even though it isn’t.
The story picks up with Badman attempting to take his revenge on Travis following the events of No More Heroes 2. Upon entering his trailer, Badman and Travis are sucked into a video game console called the Death Drive Mk 2. Inside, they are transported to various games spanning genres and decades. Upon learning that completing every game for the Death Drive will grant the winner a wish, Travis and Badman team up to defeat the bosses of each game in order to complete them and receive their wish.
During the journey to complete every game made for the Death Drive Mk 2, Travis learns of its origin and creators making for a surprisingly interesting story. Additionally, every boss battle is met with a reflection of mortality. This is what makes Travis Strike Again more than the simple hack n slash that it makes fun of itself for being. Like always, Suda51 doesn’t skimp on the self-awareness that No More Heroes is known for.
Being a game about being in a video game, Travis Strike Again is packed with references to other games, knocking on common tropes and even pokes fun at itself for not getting to the action that “The players are waiting for.” There was even a scene which had the characters wondering if an enemy was going to transform into a giant monster but that ended up being dismissed because the game didn’t “support the specs.” Moments like this is why Travis Strikes Again had me holding my sides in laughter in between all the retro punk action.
The combat in Travis Strikes Again has changed but only in aesthetics. Previous games featured a 3D camera and more featured combat mechanics while this time around, the camera is pulled back and the combat basics are simplified to two commands, an endless light swiping from Travis’ light blade and a heavy two combo strikes. This change greatly benefits the different game worlds that Travis and Badman visit. Every game world moves the camera according to the genre that it tries to emulate. For adventures, the camera does a close third-person view while for puzzle or arcade type games have the camera rises all the way up to top-down or isometric view.
The modifiable abilities called chips can also be as varied as the flashy presentation. Ranging from powerful blasts that require a long charge time to quick telepathic tosses, the combat can really be tailored to a player’s experience. Mixing and matching the four alotted slots for your chips loadouts had me throwing out a slow-mo radius around Travis to get a breather and tend to my health bar or I could flip that around by using the slow-mo to charge up a satellite beam that can easily wipe out an entire group. Although, no matter the set up that I used to get out of a jam, the enemies in Travis Strikes Again can really give you a run for your money.
The game often requires the player to memorize enemy attacks all the way down to their timing, effects, and grouping of fellow enemies. Failure to do so can have you leaving battles with only a sliver of your health, and this can be said about any of the enemies types in the game, From the intense boss fights down to grunts that can be killed in one hit, any enemy can ruin your day if you’re not careful. This is what really dictates Travis Strikes Again as a fair game instead of a hard one. While I died plenty of times, I never really felt as though I was cheated. The only thing I learned from being ganged up by smaller enemies stunning me with jabs until a brute slamming me into a game over screen was that I needed to utilize my skills better and not let it happen again.
Along with all the lessons, there was also the option of playing nicely with a couch co-op partner. While there was no friendly damage, it was very easy to have a special attack knock a player to the floor, leaving them open to enemy attacks. Your mileage may vary on whether these situations end in laughter or a real-life fight to the death but I would say my experience was very positive.
But as much as No More Heroes fans come for the fighting, they stay because of director Suda51’s inane and badass presentation. Behind every joke about game localization costs or being impatient behind a wall for text dialogue, is a soundtrack that fits the scene, whether it is nostalgic retro bit crushed beats or modern heavy metal guitars or techno hip-hop. I feel that No More Heroes games never fail to harmoniously bring many catchy soundtracks and Travis Strikes Again is no exception.
The care of paying homage goes back to old 70s era text adventures when the game wanted to break up the action with Travis Strikes Again sections to collect the Death Balls for the Death Drive Mk 2. The green LCD style visuals was a delight all on its own without mentioning the ridiculous plots and characters. If these sections were a game all on their own, I would play them over and over again.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes perfectly molds everything familiar about the original games and shapes it into a something more focused and linear for its combat, but that doesn’t mean that director Suda51 slapped a No More Heroes subtitle on the box and called it a day.
As a game positioned as a side story for the main franchise entries, players should expect something smaller in scale if only whet the appetite. As I mentioned before, Travis Strikes Again earns its place in the series as a must play game for both fans and Switch owners. If you want to be deemed a badass, playing this game through will definitely make you one.
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