Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes on Nintendo Switch
Travis Strikes Again isn’t the No More Heroes games that fans were hoping Suda51 would bring to the Nintendo Switch. Though it’s dripping in all the style and quirky humor that fans have come to know and love from the esteemed director, it’s not the fully-fledged open world sequel to follow in the same vein as its predecessors.
That being said, if you’re a fan of the series, or just after some good ol’ hack-and-slash fun, Travis Strikes Again is a pretty great and veritable feast of action.
Travis Strikes Again tells the story of Travis Touchdown now that he’s left the Assassin Rankings. Instead of slicing through fellow killers, he whittles away his time, playing games on the Death Drive Mk II console, a console with games where if you die in the game, you die in real life.
Problem is, Travis’ past opponent, Bad Girl’s father, Bad Man, shows up to get revenge for his deceased daughter. At least, that’s how the game’s story begins.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for Bad Man to fall by the wayside as a meaningful character in the narrative, and simply become an avatar for a player two, should you want to take on the game in co-op. He doesn’t say anything, he’s only brought up in the story a handful of times, and even then, his significance in the grander narrative is minor.
There are only six Death Balls —the game’s name for the Death Drive’s games— and it’s up to you to follow the story of how Travis obtains these, and then play through them to uncover the console’s dark secrets.
The bulk of Travis Strikes Again’s story is told as a visual novel called Travis Strikes Back. As you might expect, this is often hilariously tongue-in-cheek, poking fun at itself, game development and the industry in general, and sometimes even other games, too.
I don’t want to spoil any of the “what the hell” moments that’ll have you laughing out loud, but just be sure to pay attention to what’s actually being said, rather than rushing through it so you can play through the next section of actual gameplay.
However, the meat of Travis Strikes Again’s gameplay comes in the form of the aforementioned Death Balls. Each one maintains the focus on hack-and-slash action, albeit from different points of view. Some have a sole top-down point of view, while others opt for a more 3D third-person feel instead.
These aren’t just levels in a game, though. These are the Death Balls, each one essentially being its own game… within the game. As such, they all have a slightly different feel.
One is a hack-and-slash cross puzzle game that sees you rotating segments of a neighborhood to connect roads together so you can reach a murder house where you’ll kill a bunch of enemies.
Another sees you taking part in races… before killing a bunch of enemies, while the third, titled Coffee and Doughnuts has you navigating platforming sections before, you guessed it, killing a bunch of enemies.
Some of these are more enjoyable than others. Coffee and Doughnuts, for example, felt like a drag for me, with platforming sections that required a level of accuracy that Travis Strikes Again’s controls sometimes can’t quite deliver.
Similarly, Travis Strikes Again tends to reuse the same selection of enemy types over and over again. With each Death Ball essentially being a different type of game, I’d have liked to have seen a bit more variation in the ways I had to defeat enemies.
Most of what you come across can simply be sliced down with a spamming of basic attacks, or torn to shreds with one of Travis’ skill moves.
To help Travis overcome the plethora of enemies in each game world, you’re able to equip Skill Chips. These are essentially special moves that can be assigned to L + one of the face buttons. Some of these restore health, while others will see him rotating frantically like a spinning top, dealing huge damage to any enemy he touches.
Mixing and matching Skill Chips which you’ll obtain throughout the story adds to the game’s replayability, and allows you to fine-tune your character to your play style. Combining these together to eliminate countless enemies in one fell swoop is satisfying, and a particular highlight in the heart-pumping moment-to-moment action.
Even your Beam Katana needs recharging, requiring you to press down the left analog stick and shake your controller vigorously to power it back up.
Doing this in the middle of a swarm of enemies is often a bad idea, which forces you to seek out space. It’s a minor, but welcome, addition to the gameplay that requires you to think a little more strategically about each fight, rather than simply going in gung ho.
And if you’re playing in co-op, Travis and Bad Man both have moves that, when performed together, can unleash devastating attacks. It’s just a little incentive to play the game in co-op, but one we appreciated nonetheless.
Fight your way through these roughly 90-minute-long levels, though, and you’re in for a treat. The highlight of each of the Death Balls within Travis Strikes Again has to be the boss battles.
Well-written, humorous dialogue precedes true tests of your skills. These never feel unfair, with boss moves telegraphed by specific animations, and a solution to each one possible if you just think about it.
Not to mention, this is when things truly get chaotic, with some of the latter bosses delivering screen-filling attacks and sending in waves of minor enemies to make matters worse.
All of this is brought to life by a cel-shaded visual style that really helps the retro feel of the game. Plus, the game’s soundtrack is sublime, with bass-heavy tracks fueling your fights through waves of enemies, and lazy guitar melodies calming you back down once you return to the safety of Travis’ trailer in the real world.
The culmination of Travis Strikes Again’s style and swagger in its visuals, writing, and soundtrack, with its fast-paced hack-and-slash gameplay gave me serious Hotline Miami vibes. Considering that’s one of the most stylish and compelling series (seriously, go play it) in video games, that’s certainly no bad thing.
Alas, clearing Travis Strikes Again’s visual novel sections and Death Balls doesn’t take all that long.
I’d cleared the stages and wrapped up the story in just over 10 hours, and while there are collectibles to go back and collect, Death Ball rankings to improve, a new ‘Spicy’ difficulty to play through, a lost Jeane to go and find in each game, and even little cheat codes to try out, I’m not itching to go back and do it all over again.
The game isn’t without its fair share of technical issues and bugs, either. A number of times I went to jump, only for the game to have Travis stuck in midair, seemingly unable to get down from on top of an enemy, or he’d get stuck in a moving platform for a good minute before eventually wriggling himself free.
Similarly, there were a fair few instances of frame rate dip upon entering new areas within the game, which is kind of surprising considering its cel-shaded visuals can occasionally look blurry and don’t feel as though they’re exactly pushing the Switch’s graphical limitations.
Oh, and some localization issues appear to have slipped through the net, with the occasional missing word breaking the flow of a sentence, though this isn’t at all a deal-breaker.
I thoroughly enjoyed my somewhat brief time in Travis Strikes Again, even if I couldn’t shake the feeling of a general lack of polish. Be it in terms of the localization errors, or cel-shaded visuals that just didn’t look quite right at times.
Perhaps the latter was a design choice, to lean into the ‘retro games’ vibe that Travis Strikes Again is so deftly poking fun at. It likely won’t bother some players, but it didn’t sit right with me.
With collectibles, tougher difficulties, co-op functionality, and S Ranks to be obtained on each game, there’s more than enough reason to return to each of the Death Balls, should you feel obliged.
Travis Strikes Again may not be the ‘true’ sequel to the No More Heroes series that fans were hoping for, but it’s still great fun for its short runtime and delivers the same stylish action and crude humor that the series is known for.
I’m not inclined to play back through it right away, but it’ll be staying downloaded on my Switch for those lengthy flights and commutes where I want to do nothing more than slash through countless enemies in style.
Score: 4/5 – Great
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