There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the return of Travis Touchdown, star of the No More Heroes series. Original director Goichi Suda, aka “Suda 51,” is back at the helm after years of stepping away from game design, and the earlier No More Heroes remain memorably quirky. Best of all, the pitch for Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, coming to Nintendo Switch later this year, sounds great: Travis fights his way through seven various game genres, his adventure filled with jokey pastiche after pastiche.
Too bad that we have yet to really see any of that kind of content, with Grasshopper Manufacture instead choosing to demo a far less interesting portion of the game during a Nintendo event at Game Developers Conference. I tried out one of the game’s short co-op levels with Suda standing by, watching intently. Charming as his eagerness to see how people reacted to his latest game was, my co-op partner and I came away unenthused, even disappointed.
The story goes that, after Travis Touchdown killed his daughter in the previous game, the assassin Badman is out to get revenge. This somehow results in a series of battles through different familiar indie game genres. We were promised that there would be a racing game in there, levels based on Shovel Knight and other indie game crossovers. But what we got to play was ... not any of that. The part we got to try was just some simple, top-down action; Travis and Badman, who becomes Travis’ teammate in co-op, slashed their way through enemies as they ran down a linear path to the level’s end.
The trademark No More Heroes humor is there, at least; I can never complain about saving my game on a toilet. And the writing was enjoyably self-referential, hinting at the game’s next event appearance (it’ll be playable at PAX East). But as the video of the co-op gameplay demo above will show you, there isn’t much else there beyond slashing away at myriad, bland enemies. It didn’t feel like the exciting return of an imaginative, cult-hit series. At the end of our demo, we came away feeling like Travis Strikes Again was just ... a stylish, perhaps forgettable action game. And that’s disappointing when compared to where and how this series began.
Maybe the other levels will shake the gameplay up enough to make it harder to compare to the earlier No More Heroes games. Maybe this hodge-podge of indie game homages will turn out to be an interesting project, a crossover between Grasshopper Manufacture’s wacky franchise and some underrated games.
It’s strange that the team chose not to show that part off to us, but instead something way less novel and exciting. But from what we can tell thus far, to anyone expecting Travis Touchdown’s return to be another dose of No More Heroes: Don’t get your hopes up.