Goichi Suda is an auteur in gaming. His work is like no other, a singular vision. Suda’s work remains to be some of the most profound work in gaming that excels the media in an artform, from the post-modern on-rail shooter ‘Killer 7’ or ‘No More Heroes’ being a deconstruction of violence and power fantasy in media. However, in recent years Suda’s work hasn’t been as impactful. As fun as ‘Lollypop Chainsaw’ or ‘Shadows of the Damned’ are, they just seemed bland. ‘Killer is Dead’ felt like it was trying to be complex, but then you arrive at the Gigolo Missions and then there’s ‘Let It Die’, a rogue-lite dungeon crawler. All these games had incredible style, but they lack the substance.
I’ll always have time for a Suda game, but of recent years you do feel that this once unique artist has now succumbed to answers of the business men.
Luckily, I got some hand on time with ‘No More Heroes: Travis Strikes Again’, the mighty return of the geeky extension of us gamers, Travis. Not considered as a sequel but as a new adventure; Travis Strikes Again sees Travis sucked into a videogame console with Badman -father of Bad Girl from the first NMH- who was trying get revenge on Travis.
The game is marketed as homage to the Independent Video Game scene with Travis wearing various T-shirts of different indie games; Suda has said that 15 games will somewhat be represented within the title. From information that has previously been made available, Suda wanted fans to know that Travis is a lover of independent games and he wanted to express that within this title.
The demo I played at EGX, which took me several attempts to play due to the game having one stand, didn’t really delve into the story too much as it mainly featured fourth wall breaking stuff explaining it’s a demo at EGX. It was all amusing but for purposes of this preview… Not very helpful. Though, I’d expect that type of thing in the finished product.
Style is the recognizable cell-shaded look from previous NMH titles. The enemy designs are that crazy Grasshopper design that’s so invented and rarely seen today, especially the boss encounter Electro Triple Star. Destroying enemies’ blasts into tiny multicoloured pixels and it’s all very pretty albeit non-violent; are we seeing a more toned-down NMH game?
As Travis Strikes Again is set within a videogame; the use of glitches become a part of the aesthetic. The battle walls are glitches, some enemies appear to be glitchy and friendly characters appear in the environment as a glitch. Hopefully we will see this videogame aesthetic used further than just glitches.
TSA is an isometric hack and slash that can be played cooperatively. The battle mechanics didn’t seem to be that deep, it was a case of slashing enemies with a light or heavy attack. As in previous NMH game, the sabers battery is something you need to keep an eye on and regularly recharge. You also have a evade button to dodge enemy attacks, this only became useful during the boss fight as the standard enemies didn’t seem to put up much of a fight. The gameplay really seemed quite simplistic, which seems ideal for the Switch, though I played it with a single joy-con and having to shake it to recharge the battery… it doesn’t seem that viable for portable use unless there is a table involved.
It really was paint by numbers, run down the path and you get gated as enemies spawn you kill them, run down the path, and rinse and repeat. Luckily, the boss encounter made up for it. With his electric attack covering lots of ground and with normal enemies spawning around you, the game started to be more exciting.
This was one of the games I was most looking forward to playing but I walked away from it, a little disappointed. Yes, I am going to purchase this game in the hopes that the final product has an ace up its sleeve. Although, if this is how the game is throughout, it will be repetitive. The fighting mechanics are not deep enough to engage you, the levels are obviously very linear; really the only thing NMH has going for it is the art style and concept. I imagine the rest of the art direction will be extremely good nevertheless, if the concept of the video game aesthetic and setting isn’t fully flushed out, we could be seeing Suda’s worse game to date. I love that Suda is paying homage to smaller companies, and that in itself is very punk and very Grassshopper. But for that idea to succeed, the initial game has to be good otherwise it just doesn’t work.
I really want this game to work, but I feel its style over substance.
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Grasshopper return with fan favourite Travis; but is this his last strike?