Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes Review: Suda51 Collection
Kalvin Martinez / Jan 25th, 2019 No Comments
Suda51 is a video game auteur who elicits a gamut of responses. Whether those responses are good or bad depends on the person, but one thing you can never say about his games are they don’t merit a visceral reaction. No More Heroes is one of the more enduring series he has created.
When the pseudo-sequel Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes was announced, there were a lot of questions — some of ours were answered by Suda51 himself.
After playing the game, it is hard to say that we didn’t have a whole slew of new questions. However, that’s okay because it is one of the thrills of playing through Travis Strikes Again. It plays a lot like a normal No More Heroes game, but with a ton of fun twists.
Gotta Catch ‘Em All
Travis Touchdown left the assassin game behind him. He went out as the top assassin in the world, leaving the chaos of Santa Destroy for a trailer somewhere in Texas. Life was peaceful and he had plenty of time to rekindle the flames for his first love: video games — that is, he had time.
Travis’ past catches up with him when Bad Man finds out where he is living. Bad Man wants vengeance for the murder of his daughter, Bad Girl. However, before either could claim victory in battle, they are both sucked into the Death Drive Mk II, an experimental game console that was never released to the public and only had six games made for it.
The Death Drive Mk II is something of an urban legend. People say that anyone who collected and beat all six Death Balls would have their wish granted.
When Travis and Bad Man realize they’ve been transported into the Death Drive Mk II, they decide to team up to collect and beat all six Death Balls to bring back Bad Girl.
The No More Heroes series is characterized by outrageous characters and an over-the-top sense of humor. Travis Strikes Again is no different except it has a larger meta story involving the Death Drive Mk II. Yet it doesn’t lose what makes the series compelling: Travis and the intriguing killers around him.
Every Death Ball game is set up similar to a traditional No More Heroes assassination. Travis (or Bad Man) must cut through some mobs and a mid-boss before finally squaring off against the big bad. Rather than the narrative being Travis upping his rankings in the UAA, he is ridding the game of bugs to face off against the protagonists of the video game, who have become twisted versions of themselves.
As Travis (or Bad Man) gets closer to the end of the games, he learns more about what has caused such grave reflections. These narratives help give each Death Ball their own sense of place, as well as give Travis (or Bad Man) motivation for the fight. Each battle ends with a poignant scene where the defeated protagonist comes to grips with losing definitively.
Outside of the individual stories contained within the Death Balls, there is a larger narrative surrounding the true nature of the Death Drive Mk II and Travis’ quest to track down all six Death Balls.
As the two men complete Death Balls, they begin receiving faxes from the mysterious K, who details the truth about Dr. Juvenile and the Death Drive Mk II. Then, there is the text-based visual novel style story of Travis Strikes Back that details the epic quest Travis embarks on to track down the Death Balls.
All of this helps to create an intricate story full of humor, allusions, and breaking the fourth wall.
The Smell of Blood
It is said anyone who collects and beats all six Death Balls will have their wish granted. While this is the task Travis and Bad Man set out upon, it is going to be a hell of a lot tougher than they realized. Each Death Ball has its own genre and style that it is modeled after.
Electric Tiger II is a classic action game, Golden Dragon GP is a racing game, and there all types of genres in-between. Despite having their own genres and themes, every game contains hack-n-slash elements common to the No More Heroes series.
Each game pits Travis and Bad Man against the protagonist and the bugs infesting the game. They will have to work their way through each level, taking on progressively tougher bugs, until it climaxes in a glorious showdown between Travis (or Bad Man) and the protagonist. These boss battles feel every bit like the assassination battles in prior games, but they have a more retro feel thanks to the streamlined combat and perspective.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes features a more classic feel both in presentation and mechanics. The moveset for Travis and Bad Man is relatively simple. Combat consists of light and heavy attacks, which can be strung together to help get through most situations.
Jump attacks can be utilized to help break through tougher enemies and deliver more damage, while ultimate attacks build up for dealing damage to enemies while avoiding it yourself. There are three levels of charge you can build up to deliver a wildly devastating blow. Building charge occurs by unleashing each successive level of ultimate. While the ultimate attack occurs with an initial strike, its true potential isn’t unlocked until you cock the side of the Switch in handheld mode or shake the right Joy-Con.
Even though the hack-n-slash combat has been more streamlined, it makes up for it in depth with its skillset system. Both Bad Man and Travis can equip up to four skills at a time. Skills can be found throughout each Death Ball and can be unlocked by defeating the bosses. They include buffs, ancillary turrets or bombs, powerful offensive moves, and fields that provide support, like slowing down enemies or healing. A smart skill loadout can make the difference between making it to the next save point or ramen spot ad having to waste a continue or start over.
Despite the different look and setup, this is still a No More Heroes game. As such, you’re going to need to make sure your weapon has enough charge. After using Bad Man’s bat or Travis’ beam sword long enough, it will run out of juice. When that happens, your attacks are significantly weaker. Figuring out how to maintain your charge, especially in protracted battles, is key to making sure you can survive.
Regardless of how different the combat is from the previous games, Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is no less challenging. It is easy to get overwhelmed if you’re not careful. That’s where dodging becomes key. If you’re not skillfully dodging attacks, you’ll find yourself quickly losing help and unable to build ultimate charges. This is a major problem in sequences where you face a series of difficult bugs or, more importantly, when dueling a boss.
The boss fights are the highlight of the game. It is where the thrill of battle becomes extremely amplified. Not only do bosses do more damage with a more expansive moveset, but their strategies change as you whittle down their health bars. These multi-part battles mean you have to be consistently on your toes. Using your skills at the right time, timing dodges and waiting for the right openings to punish your opponent are necessary for victory.
While the running theme of hack-n-slash is present for every game, Travis Strikes Again does a good job of providing variety in its presentation of each Death Ball. In many ways, the different Death Balls act as love letters to the history of gaming, from its arcade roots to the wildly complex, visually stunning games of today. It also allows for a lot of fun, creativity and surprises.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is peak Suda51. While it isn’t a proper No More Heroes sequel, it allows for a lot of cool ideas that wouldn’t fit in a full fledge sequel. In many ways, Travis Strikes Again feels like a classic console collection from a system no one ever played.
At its core, however, it has all the hack-n-slash action fans love about No More Heroes and all the verve we’ve come to love from Suda51.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.
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tags: Grasshopper Manufacture , review , Suda51 , Travis Strikes Again Review , Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes , Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes Review