Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 18.01.2019

Review for Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes on Nintendo Switch

No More Heroes has been on a silent, unspoken hiatus of sorts for the past nine years. Following Desperate Struggle's release, Travis Touchdown's story came to a satisfying enough resolution, where a third entry wasn't exactly necessary. At the same time, Grasshopper Manufacturer CEO, and frequent director Suda51 never let up on the idea that a 'No More Heroes 3' would someday take shape. Travis Strikes Again may not be the third entry fans were led to believe would inevitably exist, but it does act as a manifestation of Suda51's claims that Travis' story was far from over. Setting itself years after the last entry, Travis Strikes Again serves as a chance for No More Heroes to reinvent itself. Whether it needed reinventing at all is another matter entirely.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Travis Strikes Again straying off the beaten path established by its predecessors and carving out its own identity within the series. More of a spin-off than a sequel, this is highly aware that it is not No More Heroes 3, weaponizing its status as a side-game as a means of frequent humour and self-deprecation. This isn't a matter of Grasshopper somehow being unable to continue the series with a mainline entry either. There is a very clear sense that this was a project Suda51 wanted to genuinely work on, with his fingerprints proudly displayed over every facet of the title's designs. No More Heroes 3 might come sooner, rather than later, but now is not the time.

On a conceptual level, Travis' latest outing is as solid as ever. The assassin motif is still in play, revenge remains one of the narrative's core themes as firmly established by Desperate Struggle, and gameplay is more or less par for course just with an overhead view now in play. Travis' third adventure may not be the actual third adventure Suda51 promised, but it is executed very much in the spirit of the franchise. Unfortunately, while the initial presentation and overall aesthetic seems to indicate "business as usual" for the series, the finer details that made No More Heroes so special have been lost in the near decade long gap between entries. Where the series' visual identity has survived, the quality of writing seemingly passed away years ago. There are moments that evoke Suda51's charming scripts of yore, but, more often than not, the script falls painfully flat.

Screenshot for Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes on Nintendo Switch

Perhaps it's due to a distinct lack of voice acting and cinematography, but cutscenes are consistently one of the worst parts of the overall experience. Characters who once had life are now reduced to speech bubbles filled with dry, often borderline incomprehensible, dialogue. Where Robin Atkin Downes would have once brought Travis' flamboyantly over the top personality to life, most scenes just serve to illustrate how wooden Travis' dialogue can be without the right delivery. For a character whose main defining quality is his showmanship, Suda51's script simply fails to capture the essence of the character as the previous two entries in the series did. It's disappointing that Downes doesn't voice Travis more often in the main game, but script itself should still have been strong enough to carry the story. Even without voice acting, both No More Heroes and Desperate Struggle are highly quotable thanks to their bizarre approaches to philosophy and consistent, fast paced banter.

Aside from the general dip in writing quality, the cast is worse than ever. Bosses are devoid of personality. No More Heroes 2 struggled with ensuring all of its bosses were as memorable as the first title's, but they were still, for the most part, all likable and engaging. Nathan Copeland, Alice Twilight, and Margaret Moonlight were all overly dramatic characters who managed to form a bond with Travis despite their eccentricities. In their few minutes of screentime, they died as understandable characters who would be remembered fondly thanks to their dynamics with Travis. Bosses like Brian Buster Jr. and Doppelganger are certainly interesting on a conceptual level, but there is a distinct lack of chemistry between them and Travis. The build-up to each boss simply isn't as strong as it used to be, and meeting each boss is handled through poorly written, static cut-scenes that ultimately say very little in regards to Travis, the world around him, and the cycle of revenge embodied by Travis' temporary ally, Bad Man.

If nothing else, non-crucial dialogue does tend to be surprisingly strong. Travis' ramen blog is easily the highlight of the script, showing that Suda51 hasn't lost his touch entirely. There is a profound humour to Travis elegantly reviewing ramen only to attribute negative scores to each bowl due to a lack of beer. Travis' ramen blog captures the essence of the character in a way the main script consistently fails to. For what it's worth, the brief moments Downes does get to voice Travis do stand out as the narrative peaks of the story, but they're too far and few between to really salvage the plot - a shame considering how strong the first two stories were. Not helping matters is the shoddy level design. In terms of combat, Travis Strikes Again really is just more of the same, albeit tweaked to accommodate the overhead view. Along with his light and heavy attacks, Travis can now roll outside of locking onto enemies and can jump like a Shinobi. There's a heavier emphasis on avoiding damage than ever before, fitting considering one-on-one duels can't exactly happen in the new format.

Screenshot for Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes on Nintendo Switch

Skill Chips act as a means of customizing Travis and Bad Man (the secondary playable character), ensuring that combat is more than just mindlessly whacking light and heavy attacks with the occasional recharge. Each skill has its own cooldown period and unique ability that can simply damage enemies, lock them in place, or even heal Travis. There's even a leveling system to bring the RPG elements front and centre. While the gameplay itself is fine enough, the aforementioned weak level design does neuter the experience. Very little is done to actually accommodate the combat. Stages effectively boil down into Travis needing to complete the same repetitive actions ad nauseum. 'Coffee & Doughnuts' features an initially interesting premise where Travis must explore a mansion to find the eponymous snack and drink, but said action is repeated multiple times, each interpretation less exciting than the last.

With such a heavy emphasis on stage gimmicks, each stage ends up with an identity that ultimately hurts replayability. Why bother suffering through 'Life is Destroy' a second time when more than half the stage will be spent flicking away at the same puzzle eight times while interspersed with very brief bursts of combat? Even then, the action isn't enough to save the experience. What the original No More Heroes lacks in enemy design, it made up for in spectacle and set pieces. There's nothing inherently interesting about Travis slicing down the same grunts over and over again, but it's infinitely more endearing when he can decapitate said grunts into a miasma of blood and gore. There's something endearing about Travis slicing his way through a baseball league of players all while swinging baseballs back at pitchers with his beam katana.

Screenshot for Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes on Nintendo Switch

Travis Strikes Again's set pieces are perhaps more creative on a surface level - each stage taking place in a different video game- but said premise actually makes Travis' adventure less interesting. What was once absurdity born out of normalcy is now absurdity for absurdity's sake. Travis fighting a magician to the death in a theatre is so ridiculous, yet so morbidly grounded in reality, that it takes on a far more farcical quality. That said, weak set pieces aside, it really is the tedium that hurts the overall experience. It's perfectly fine that Travis Strikes Again doesn't want to abide by the same rules as its predecessors. Conceptually, it makes for a good chance to analyse different gaming trends. Unfortunately, there's little in the way of genuine commentary until the very end. By that point, it feels as though five hours have been wasted to reach something even remotely interesting.

To the story's credit, a visual novel styled mini-game titled 'Travis Strikes Back' does attempt to flesh out the series' world with the same candour as previous entries, and quality wise it is more in line with the ramen blog than the main script, but Travis Strikes Back isn't nearly as enjoyable as it seems to think it is. Mercifully, most of the entries go by rather fast, allowing each joke to land on its own beat before moving onto the next, but it nonetheless clamours for an age where No More Heroes was well regarded for its writing. Had Travis Strikes Again opted for more traditional level design while ironing out the script, it more than likely would have turned out a worthy successor to Desperate Struggle, bridging a nine year gap between the series' latest entry and the prospective No More Heroes 3. Cooperative play is fun enough in its own right and combat can be exciting when played on higher difficulties in some of the stronger stages (the first and last stand out in particular,) but Travis Touchdown's "triumphant" return is anything but.

Screenshot for Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Repetitive, dry, and inexplicably uninteresting, Travis Strikes Again is a massive misstep for a series with an otherwise solid track record. It's not so much the near complete abandonment of what made No More Heroes so appealing that plagues the hack n' slash, but the all-around drop in quality from the original duology. Dialogue is stiff, lacking in the same character that made Travis Touchdown so unpleasantly likable; the once colourful world of Santa Destroy is tossed aside in favour of multiple virtual realities, none of which manage to capture the same wonderful seediness of the fictional Californian town; and boss fights, once the staple of the franchise, come and go all too soon with none of the expected impact. Suda51 has always been an acquired taste, but Travis Strikes Again will be hard to stomach for even the most invested of fans.

Developer

Grasshopper Manufacture

Publisher

Marvelous

Genre

Brawler

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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