Archives by Day

July 2019

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Release Date: Jan. 18, 2019


Switch Review - 'Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Jan. 21, 2019 @ 6:30 a.m. PST

Seven years have passed since the events of No More Heroes, and The Bad is determined to exact his revenge on Travis Touchdown.

Buy Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes

No More Heroes was one of those odd cult hits that came at the right time. A rare third-party exclusive for the Nintendo Wii, it was absurd, violent and excessive. Its style brought director Suda 51 to people's attention. One sequel followed, and the franchise seemed to fade into the sunset. Here we are, a little over a decade since the original game's release, and Nintendo's latest system is getting the latest entry in the series. Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes isn't quite the sequel that fans have been hoping for, and unfortunately, it's not a great game on its own merits, either.

Travis Strikes Again opens up years after the ending of No More Heroes 2. Travis Touchdown has mostly retired from the assassin life. He spends his days playing video games, having just gotten his hands on an illegal console, the Death Drive Mark II. Unfortunately for Travis his video game session is interrupted by the attack of Badman, father of one of Travis' many, many, many victims. Events ensue, and the duo is sucked into the Death Drive Mark II and forced to play a deadly video game. They also discover that collecting all of the cartridges and clearing them will grant a wish. Travis is mostly motivated by his interest in meeting and beating his video game heroes.

Travis Strikes Again suffers from the sense that it's trying very hard to have a personality rather than actually having one. The game is awash with references and inside jokes, many of which are absurdly obscure. Travis's skill chips are the names of Gundams from the anime of the same name. As bizarre and incoherent as the game is, it lacks something that the other No More Heroes titles had. The jokes feel forced, and the references feel mindless. The style, which made No More Heroes so distinctive, is absent here. There are some times when it shines through, and those moments are the best part of the game, but they're few and far between.

A major part of the issue is that it feels like Travis Strikes Again isn't really sure what it wants to be. It has tons of video game jokes and nostalgic references, but very few hit the mark. It almost feels like it's trying to lean on the "indie" cred of the game but without actually feeling like an indie title. You can buy T-shirts featuring indie titles like Undertale, but they feel out of place. I enjoyed some of the nostalgia trips, but others felt included for the sake of inclusion.

That means that all you're left with is the game, which isn't special. The bulk of the gameplay is spent in an isometric overhead view, which features a simplified version of the beat-'em-up gameplay from prior No More Heroes titles. You can use a quick attack while running around and a slower power attack that locks you into place, and you can also jump and dodge. You'll occasionally power up a super move, which smashes a bunch of enemies and gains power when you use it without taking damage. There isn't much more to the combat than that. You can pop in a second player to add some extra button-mashing, but once you learn the basics, you won't get much more from it.

The more interesting system in the game is the skill chip system, which allows you to equip cooldown-based abilities to grant Travis special attacks or abilities. Some of these are powerful weapons that can inflict heavy damage or stun enemies. Others are utility-based, like healing or a dash. It's fun to customize your character and figure out the combination of skills that lets you obliterate the hordes of mindless enemies. Unfortunately, once you find a few winning skills, you probably won't swap much, and the game doesn't do enough to encourage flexibility. I enjoyed finding new skills to see what ability sets I could create.

The game isn't actively bad, but it also isn't very fun most of the time. The isometric view clearly feels like it's trying to hearken back to indie games but without anything that actually gives it personality. It's basically on par with a mid-tier mobile game in terms of gameplay investment. The game makes jokes about its lack of a budget, but those only serve as a diversion from the fact that in another No More Heroes title, there would've been an absurd boss fight instead of another mindless button-mashing skirmish. The boss battles are the highlight of the game, but they're not special, either.

No More Heroes leaned on the idea of tedium as a part of the game. The first game had you swap between doing menial jobs to earn money for the absurd boss fights, and that felt like a part of the game, even if it wasn't fun. If Travis Strikes Again is attempting the same thing, the lack of style means that the tedium outweighs the absurdity. The snippets of Suda 51 style that you encounter spend far too much time in the genuinely boring gameplay, and the reward lacks the excitement of NMH's boss battles.

Visually, Travis Strikes Again isn't impressive. The environments are largely boring and interchangeable, and I couldn't tell apart half of the enemies in the game. The animations are nice enough, and the game flows smoothly, but the most interesting moments are the cut scenes and occasional foray into different graphical styles. The soundtrack is reasonably enjoyable, but nothing stands out too much. It usually fades into the background, which is about all one can expect.

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes feels less like a passion project and more like an obligation to return to an old hit. It has some of the same style and punk feeling of the Wii original — but much less of it. Instead, it feels spread out far too thin, and the moments of tedium tend to outweigh the absurdity that made the previous game so enjoyable. There's some fun to be had here, and fans will probably be glad to get a chance to see Travis one more time, but it's certainly not the No More Heroes sequel they were waiting for. However, there are some hints that Travis Strikes Again is just a prelude to something more.

Score: 6.0/10

More articles about Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes
blog comments powered by Disqus