Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes Review

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes Review

Relentless absurdity and hyper-stylized action were the basic principles of the No More Heroes series. It never mattered to make sense and instead embraced its ridiculousness with courageous self-awareness. The slimmed-down hack-n-slash spinoff, Travis Strikes Again, hits many of the same notes, however not as hard and with mixed success. The fight is hectic but well behaved towards the end. This is our Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes Review.

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes Review: About

  • Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows
  • Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
  • Publisher: Grasshopper Manufacture, Marvelous Inc.
  • Release Date: January 18, 2019
  • Genre: Action-Adventure

Official Trailer

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes Review: Gameplay

Seven years after the No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, Travis Touchdown has removed itself from the world of murder. The main character of the gaming series, who is too cool for school, now spends his days playing games in a trailer nestled in the Texas backcountry. Former enemy Bad Girl’s father, aptly named Bad Man, urges him to get revenge. Still, he and Travis are drawn into an alternate dimension within Travis’s possessed Death Drive Mk II video game console.

They eventually team up to discover the true nature of the ghost console and its games, giving you the cooperative premise where you can play as Travis or Bad Man in the six Death Drive games that serve as missions. Travis Strikes Again mainly plays like a top-down hack-n-slash action game where you take on hordes of enemies, also known as ‘bugs,’ that look like they come from a digitized hellscape.

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes Review

Still equipped with its familiar beam katana, Travis can now equip four unique abilities assigned to the face buttons, that can be activated when you hold down the left bumper and perform a cooldown. As you gain more of these skills, called chips, fights begin to open up and become more varied; searching what works for you and stringing together attacks with preferred equipment is satisfying, especially when dealing with tougher enemies that need more than just pushing buttons to defeat.

A personal favorite combination is a lightning strike to immobilize an enemy, followed by a sticky bomb, then a force push to throw them into a crowd before the bomb goes off. Each of these skills is also quite effective only because they deal more damage and create gaps. Along with massive attacks that give a nice, hefty feel and attacks that build up to bring out a tiger in Travis, you can’t help but get excited when powerful enemies like a Sheepman come into battle.

There’s plenty to play with in terms of combat skills, but basic level layouts that move you from one battle arena to another are thin. The landscape changes and stronger enemies with different movesets appear, but the formula eventually stagnates. Aside from the end of the first mission, “Electric Thunder Tiger II,” and a late mission that we won’t spoil, environments tend to be visually bare without much flair to suit the over-the-top action.

The “Coffee and Donuts” mission shifts to a side-scrolling view for a straightforward murder mystery theme sprinkled with Twin Peaks references. Still, the battle is limited in this perspective, and rudimentary platforming action doesn’t make up for it. Missions are occasionally aborted with a mini-game or a puzzle, but this is not enough to avoid the repeat that continues through the simplistic level design.

The “Life Is Destroy” mission that pushes you with spinning pieces of a suburb on the grid to make a path forward adds a sweet puzzle element but is hindered by an enemy chasing you and instant death upon contact causes. A drag racing mini-game in “Golden Dragon GP” brings a new twist, although it is short-lived. Throughout the game, attempts to break the pace of core combat are half-baked implementations of fun ideas.

Combat gets spicy when the “Serious Moonlight” chapter rolls around (at the time of writing this review, we’re not free to disclose its content), but even then, the battle arena formula is starting to stay too long. And the final mission turns into a series of nasty mazes and Gauntlet-Esque battles in empty rooms. In boss fights, it is fun to recognize simple attack patterns and strike when the time is right. But then again, they don’t quite challenge you in exciting ways or make the impact you’d expect from a No More Heroes game.

Fortunately, the option for local cooperative play is streamlined, and a second player can join at any time. Playing in co-op takes the exciting aspects of combat to the next level. It makes the duller moments a little more exciting as you coordinate with your partner to develop skills and take down enemies efficiently. The already intuitive control scheme also effortlessly translates into a single Joy-Con. Travis and Bad Man don’t differ much in combat options, although there are a few chips that are unique to each character, and although you have to decide who can use which shared fries in the early game, there is plenty to go around in later missions.

Progress is neatly set out with each mission ending in a boss battle, followed by a narrative series on how Travis acquires the next game. He encounters a cast of quirky characters and bizarre situations in a screen-style monochrome visual novel, and it’s surprisingly intriguing. Creative visual representations of characters and places in the green-black color palette are elevated by catchy MIDI-tuned music (including the original No More Heroes theme) and fun dialogue.

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes Review

It’s not without a bad joke or two, or a joke that doesn’t land. Still, the exceptional performance of a seemingly secondary element goes a long way in tying together the overarching plot, however uneven it may seem. The overtly crude but not witty humor has been toned down this time, and it’s for the better. Curses of blasphemy and toilet humor remain intact, along with tantalizing jabs and references to game culture and the frequent breaking of the fourth wall; even commenting on the struggle to be a game developer finds its way into the dialogue.

Travis’s brash attitude usually works because every other character keeps him in check, including his spunky cat Jeane – who talks and has an anime-inspired portrait in the chapters of the story – and the bosses of the game Travis meets that he expresses indicates respect for. However, it is rarely spoken because even in the short cutscenes of the game, there are limited voice actors. As expected, the game is packed with references, purposefully hammered, to drive home the overall absurdity of No More Heroes.

It sometimes works, like the chips named after Gundam (Strike Freedom, F91, and Atlas, just to name a few) and a story chapter that uses Suda’s own The 25th Ward: The Silver Case as a narrative device. There’s even a Jeff Minter stand-in character who is crucial to the plot of finding the original Death Drive developer. A late-game reveal turns out to be the most daring of them all, especially for those who love a particular Suda51 game from the past.

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes Review: Conclusion

Once you go through the references and callback requests, you have a competent action game with some great ideas that are only halfway through. Slashing through waves of distorted bugs and hardened brutes has its moments, highlighted by a seamless cooperative system that makes it a breeze to jump into the action, and the minimalist story presentation will take you on the journey. However, Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes doesn’t deliver its potential and relies too much on repetitive encounters. This is not the return of No More Heroes you had hoped for, but at least it shows signs of a series that still has life in it.

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