Suda51 Strikes Again: No More Middlemen
Kalvin Martinez / Sep 5th, 2017 No Comments
Prior to PAX West, Nintendo showcased its selection of Nindies coming to Switch for the rest of the year and 2018. The biggest was an official announcement trailer for the Nintendo Switch exclusive, Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes.
This was exciting news for many reasons. It marks another big exclusive for the Nintendo Switch from a visionary creator, it is another entry in the bombastic No More Heroes series, and it signals a shift for Grasshopper Manufacture and Goichi “SUDA51” Suda.
Travis Strikes Back
No More Heroes released almost a decade ago for the Nintendo Wii. It was a major get for the system that lacked proof of its gimmick beyond sports mini-games.
No More Heroes utilized the Wiimote in its nascent stages to create compelling action gameplay. Not only did it help prove that the Wiimote was more than a gimmick, the game had an undeniable style and verve.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes takes place seven years after the first game. Now living in a trailer in the remote American South, Travis lives a quiet life where he spends most of his time playing video games. Video games are important aspects of both the game and Travis’ personality.
Life isn’t going to be quiet for long as Badman tracks Travis down. Angling to take his revenge on Travis for the murder of his daughter, Badgirl, there is hell to pay when the two men meet again as seen in the trailer.
Before they can finish their bloody brawl, the two warriors are sucked inside the phantom game console, the “Death Drive MK-II.” Doctor Juvenile developed the system following the lead of her mentor.
If either man wants to get out, they need to beat all six of the Death Drive MK-II’s games. Not only will they be able to escape, but they will have all their wishes granted if they can beat all of games. Who knows what wishes Travis Touchdown has rolling around in his head, but maybe we’ll find out if he can best all six games.
Not only has it been nearly a decade since No More Heroes, it has been 10 years since Suda51 has directed a video game. Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes marks the return of both Travis Touchdown and Suda51 to the director role.
During PAX West, I was lucky enough to interview Suda51 about his new game. Naturally, I had a lot of questions to ask him about the game.
While the trailer and subsequent press release gave some information it raised a lot of questions: What is the role of the indie collaborations? How are those six games going to relate to the No More Heroes style of action? What exactly is the Death Drive MK-II? Where does he hope innovation will come into the game in terms of the Switch, and why is it important to be independent?
During my interview, Suda51 answered many of these questions and more like where he and his team draw influences from, what role the urban legend game Polybius plays in the creation of Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, and what wrestling match made a huge impression on him.
Playing with One Hand Behind Your Back
One major question about the game is where it fits in the No More Heroes series. While it takes place seven years after the first game, Suda51 doesn’t see it as a traditional sequel. It is the start of something new.
“The reason there is no number in the title, for example No More Heroes 3 or something, and the reason No More Heroes comes second in the title is because while it is part of the No More Heroes series, this time, [we] decided to make it a whole new adventure for Travis. Possibly the start of a spin-off series type thing. While it is basically the same series and same type of game, on the other hand it is also kind of a different game, so it is kind of incomparable in some ways,” Suda51 told us through a translator.
Suda51’s goal with Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is to go back to his roots. He took a lot of inspiration for this game from the indie games scene and his visits to PAX.
Instead of working with a large team like on other games, the team this time around is much smaller, around 15 people. That is half the size of the teams for the first two games. The aim with Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes isn’t to outdo the previous games.
“Again instead of trying to do something bigger or better before that [we] couldn’t do before, [we’re] trying to do something a lot more smaller and more simple. a lot more indie-ish. Something [I] wasn’t able to do up until now,” Suda51 said.
By going indie, Suda51 isn’t shackled down creatively. Grasshopper Manufacture is acting as its own publisher. With his other games, he had to communicate ideas to multiple people before implementing them. Now, he has no middleman. He and his team are free to explore the ideas as they come up.
“There is a much more direct line between [me] and the people actually in the field. So if [I] think ‘okay if I want to try this,’ [I] can just tell them directly, ‘Okay we’re going to try this.’ [I don’t] have any stepping all over [my] opinion and guidance.”
When asked what the role of the indie collaborations play in the game, Suda51 said they reflect Travis’ personality. As a hardcore gamer, he is really into indie games like Hotline Miami. The indie collaborations will act as different shirts Travis can wear in the game.
One of their goals at PAX West was to find as many partners as they could. It is a way to show facets of Travis’ personality, but also a way to capture the indie spirit they’re going for and to highlight indie developers.
“One of the main reasons for coming to PAX this time actually was to try to find as many partners as possible to do these kind of collaborations with,” Suda51 said. “Just over the past two days alone, we got about 10 different games that have been decided we’re going to put their shirts in the game…”
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes comes at a pivotal point in the Switch’s life, much like the original game. While Suda51 hasn’t quite thought out what role the dock and handheld aspects will have, he does have plans for the Joy-Cons. His main goal for the game is that players can play it with one hand.
“One thing that [we’re] doing is making sure the game is playable with one controller, one hand. There are a few reasons for that. One or two things we can’t really talk about yet, actually. There definitely are going to be some special ways to play that can only really be done with the Switch…” Suda51 said.
Urban Legends and the Death Drive MK-II
When speaking on the Deatk Drive MK-II and its role in the game, Suda51 revealed details about what inspired it and some story details. When developing the game, Suda51 and his team are trying to figure out the mythology behind Death Drive MK-II.
The phantom console in the game is a phantom game console no one thinks exists in the game, much like where it draws its inspiration from, the urban legend of Polybius.
Before the Death Drive MK-II, there was an arcade game called the Death Drive. John Winter created the Death Drive arcade game and mentored Doctor Juvenile. In the game, there is a big mystery behind the Death Drive because the people who play it disappeared much like the arcade game itself. The Death Drive was also inspired by Polybius.
Doctor Juvenile developed the Death Drive MK-II as a way to continue her mentors work, but also as a home console help draw a through line with the history of games. The ability to go inside the console and play the six games for it allows Suda51 to show the history of video games. It is a way to show how those older games, the roots, connect to games now.
Goichi “Suda51” Suda is a thoughtful creator who has a chaotic approach to making games. While influences and interests get sucked into the games he and his team create, there is thoughtfulness to the chaos.
One thing that struck me during out interview is how he absorbed questions and didn’t have canned responses. There was no PR spin or a line he’s fed a bunch of people before me. He even admitted to telling me some things about the game he hasn’t told anyone else publicly.
It was obvious No More Heroes is a series dear to him as he spoke passionately about the reasons behind many of the new elements for Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. More than that, it is obvious that without someone saying no to him when creating this game, we’ll get the purest expression of what a Suda51 game is.
tags: Goichi "Suda51" Suda , interview , No More Heroes , SUDA 51 , Suda51 Interview , Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes