Sometimes sequels go in a new and unexpected direction and it works out! Grand Theft Auto III was a bit of a departure, for instance, and we’ve got a pretty good idea of how that worked out. On the other hand, not every sequel is a winner, as we see with something like Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival, a purchase-based party game that’s all about buying more Nintendo merchandise. Speaking of Nintendo, they’ve done it again with Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, a lackluster take on Suda 51’s bizarre hack-and-slasher that has plenty of soul but not a lot of substance.
Years after the events of No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle, lightsaber (sorry, beam katana) wielding assassin Travis Touchdown has secluded himself in a trailer far from civilization. As always, though, his killings have caught up with him, this time in the form of Bad Man, the father of deceased No More Heroes antagonist Bad Girl. Before he can exact his revenge on Travis, the two are unexpectedly sucked into Travis’ cursed game console, the Death Drive Mk. II; you might recall that from previous Suda joint Let It Die. The two of them will have to work together to escape the depths of the demonic device, as well as finding more games to play through in the process.
That probably sounds all well and good, and admittedly it’s not the worst concept in the world. Suda can definitely do something with that, right? The issue, then, is that the game itself doesn’t really offer too much. Travis Strikes Again is a top-down brawler with two attack buttons, a special move that charges over time, a dodge roll and a few customizable abilities that run on cooldowns. That’s…well, that’s pretty much it. You mash the attack buttons, throw out specials as they come up, dodge attacks to the best of your ability and repeat, taking out generic baddies by the dozen. Every so often you’ll fight a boss, which tend to be far more interesting than the levels that separate them, but there’s a nice, big chunk of dull button-mashing until you get there. You’ll eat ramen to heal, collect coins to buy goodies between levels, talk to goofy NPCs and gain experience points, but it’s all just window dressing, really.
Between levels you’ll play through visual novel-esque descriptions of Travis and Bad Man’s adventures in the real world, which are classic Suda but not especially great in terms of Being a Video Game. Also you can do all this with someone else if you’re into cooperative play; as we all know, pretty much every game is fun with another person, so you can’t really go wrong with co-op. The problem, of course, is that you’d have to talk someone into playing what amounts to Slightly Less Interactive Gauntlet with you. That might be a tall order.
All that said, Travis Strikes Again largely nails the gonzo No More Heroes aesthetic, so there’s not much to complain about there. Like with Let It Die, you’ve got plenty of interesting side content and bonus fluff to check out as well, like extended faux-reviews of each of the “games” that you collect for the Death Drive. Perhaps the best part of the game, in fact, is the presence of a vast collection of shirts to collect based on various indie games. You better believe I jumped on the Furi shirt as soon as possible…certainly not because it matches a shirt I actually own. No sir. Wouldn’t wear video game clothes. Not me.
Look, I’m as much of a Suda 51 fanboy as you’re ever going to meet. I actually enjoyed this game. It’s Suda as hell. In terms of raw, undiluted Suda it’s a pretty solid game. There’s even references to Shadows of the Damned. What’s not to love? Well…what’s not to love is pretty much everything about Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes outside of the flavor. Flavor alone won’t carry a game, after all. Just take a look at Amiibo Festival. Unless you’re the hardest of hardcore fans, you can safely skip this one.