Goichi Suda, better known as Suda51 to his fans, has a history of creating over-the-top action games with absurd characters. He never takes himself too seriously, and in interviews almost always has a beaming smile on his face excitedly talking about whatever he’s working on.
“Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes,” coming to Nintendo Switch in early 2019, is a return home for Suda. The first two titles in the franchises began their life on the Wii. The star of the series, Travis Touchdown, lucks into a “beam katana” at an auction and accidentally finds himself a member of an assassin group, where it’s kill or be killed.
Time has passed since the end of “No More Heroes 2,” and Travis has opted for a life of seclusion. Unfortunately, his past haunts him. Assassin’s have family too, after all, and Bad Girl has a father bent on revenge.
Badman hunts Travis down, the two fight, and are sucked into a possessed game console. Travis and Badman are forced to team up to fight through a number of different games, each with tongue-in-cheek humor and a blatant disregard for the fourth wall.
As Travis enters the Death Drive Mark II console, he materializes like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator (naked and crouching). Suda jokes that it was a surprisingly hard effect to pull off for the gag without revealing actual nudity.
“We worked really hard to get the camera just right so it almost shows his ass crack, but it doesn’t,” Suda says with a smile.
Despite the life-and-death nature of being sucked into a piece of electronics, Travis maintains a strong sense of fashion and style. Grasshopper Manufacture, Suda51’s studio, teamed up with a number of independent developers to include their games in “Travis Strikes Again” as unlockable t-shirts. There are dozens, including “Hyper Light Drifter” (also coming to Switch), a long list of Devolver Digital games (like “Hotline Miami” and “Enter the Gungeon”), and an Unreal Engine tee.
“It’s a cooperation with indies,” Suda explains. “The money you pick up in-game will be used to unlock the different t-shirts. Devolver Digital is allowing us to put 18 of their games on the t-shirts.”
While there are a number of different fictional games for Travis and Badman to explore cooperatively, each features similar gameplay. The first game players will tackle, “Electric Thunder Tiger II,” is a top-down action game. There are also a side-scroller, action puzzle game, shooter, and a racing game, but all of them feature beat-em-up gameplay, just in different perspectives and settings.
Even the HUD is crafted with a humorous bent. Information is presented in large vertical bars on the sides of the screen, recreating the effect of an arcade cabinet in 4:3 fullscreen. Instead of traditional health meters, Travis and Badman are pictured as paper dolls that empty as players take damage. The HUD’s graphical presentation looks ripped from an Apple IIe monitor, complete with sickly green glow.
Suda dances right up to the line of decency, playing fast and loose with foul language. Recharging the battery on your beam katana is handled by shaking the controller while clicking in the thumbstick. On-screen, it appears that Travis is having a little too much fun with his phallic friend.
Even saving the game features a bit a lewd humor. Storing your progress happens in a port-a-potty, with one of the characters dropping trow and downloading data into the receptacle. Thankfully, the censor bars obscure everything overtly inappropriate. Nintendo seems to be relaxed about content in the Switch era.
“Travis Strikes Again” is designed for couch co-op, with players coordinating special moves (including a healing field and an area-of-attack lockdown). Both players can team up to unleash a devastating ultimate when their meters are fully charged.
The action is peppered with irreverent dialog, a Suda51 trademark. The final boss in “Electric Thunder Tiger II” recognizes Travis is an outsider, quips about video game tropes (like having multiple forms), and even gives players a 15-second head start because he takes pity on them for being so underpowered.
In typical Suda51 style, even “Travis Strikes Again’s” release date is a punchline. It seems Suda is doing Nintendo a favor with the January 18, 2019, release date.
“The number one reason is that Smash Bros. is in December,” Suda quips. “We would feel really bad if Smash didn’t sell, because this game came out.”