It’s been eight years since Travis Touchdown graced us with his presence. He’s been busy gaming in his trailer, separated from the world of assassins he once ruled over. However, you don’t kill that many people without making a few enemies, and that’s why Badman is coming to call. He’s angry over Travis assassinating his daughter Charlotte back in the first No More Heroes. He also seeks the power of the Death Drive MK II, a legendary game console that can grant wishes to anyone who beats its games. One fight later and both Travis and Badman fall into the TV and find themselves fighting their way through gaming history. This isn’t just any sequel. This is Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. And it’s a worthy and a slightly hobbled sequel.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes review – Last action hero
Unlike the original two games in the series, Travis Strikes Again is a top-down brawler. Most of the time. Since Travis is traversing through a host of different games, there are several shifts of both genre and perspective to contend with. You spend the majority of your time in combat arenas slashing foes with your beam katana, and that basic action translates well to the new style. You have a light and heavy attack as well as a host of interchangeable abilities you find in the world. These range from co-op healing moves to a sticky bomb and an orbital laser. They certainly keep the variety up, but you’ll probably find a set of four you like and stick with it.
When you’re not hacking and/or slashing, you’re not going to have much fun. Travis Strikes Again makes a valiant effort to break up the genre’s infamous monotony, but it probably shouldn’t have. The diversions range from simply boring (racing segments) to downright painful (donut platforming). Even the serviceable ones feel poorly executed with sloppy controls and tons of filler. It all serves to bring the entire experience down, something that even the game can’t help but comment on itself. In the end, all they do is stretch out the already overlong levels to their breaking point.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes review – Total recall
Speaking of, every level in Travis Strikes Back is about an hour too long. This is a sizable experience, but the gameplay just does not keep up the pace. The beat ’em up combat is enjoyable, but there’s just a whole lot of it and it’s all the same. Whenever you feel like you’ve reached a natural endpoint, you generally run into a giant sheep, the mid-boss that’s in every stage. After you conquer that hill, the level adds on more complexity to whatever gimmick it has, but you’re already ready to abandon ship.
One stage has a Pac-Man-esque maze game you play between combat arenas. This fits with the overall theme and it’s initially not so bad. However, the eight separate mazes keep getting more difficult, adding in shifting tiles and a ghostly head that kills you in one hit. Of course, since this game is “old school,” there’s also a lives system to worry about, which only serves to waste your time. As I reached the homestretch, the whole thing shifted from a fun novelty into a chore and I became desperate to get past it.
Each stage ends with a boss encounter, and these are just fine. The characters you face off against are the highlight, as they all have interesting designs and reasons for fighting you. Also, since Travis knows he’s in a video game, he’ll spout off references with a devil may care attitude. Beating each boss lets you nab a version of their power to equip à la Mega Man, which is a nice touch. Still, there’s never anything too nuts here unless you crank up the difficulty yourself.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes review – Escape plan
A bombastic beat ’em up series that originated on the Wii, No More Heroes has always been about flash. While Travis Strike Again is smaller in scope, it certainly retains all the style of its predecessors. Character designs are loud and overblown, the dialogue is hammy, and the fourth wall is paper thin. Travis hasn’t lost a step, and seeing what unpredictable nonsense happens next is the primary driving factor moving you forward.
As fun as the dialogue can be on occasion, Travis’ particular on the nose style is best in small doses. It’s unfortunate then that Travis Strikes Again decides to put a long ’80s adventure game story before each level. I’m not opposed to the story in these sections, and the authentic presentation is pretty. However, only die-hard fans of the franchise will get into it. Plus, it pulls a Matt Hazard once again and outright states that they’re being indulgent and that players just want the action scenes. At least the developers are aware of their own issues.
Before Travis Strikes Again launched, there was much pomp and circumstance surrounding its indie game crossovers. While it’s true that you can customize Travis’ shirt with a variety of indie game logos, that’s the extent of it with two exceptions. One is a surprise that is basically the best part of the game, so I won’t spoil it. The second is the Hotline Miami level, which amounts to a series of glorified cameos. No matter what game you’re working through, the enemies are the same, so it’s just yet another level. It’s a neat idea that doesn’t fully come to fruition unless you’re a die-hard Suda 51 fan.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes review – End of days
Not much has changed for No More Heroes since 2011. The action is still fast and furious, and the game is still coasting on its overbearing sense of style. There are plenty of amazing mindbending moments in Travis Strikes Again, but you have to work for them. If you’re willing to play a decent brawler that’s regularly interrupted by junky D-grade platforming to get to the madness, you’ll get a lot out of it. If you’re looking for a gameplay tour-de-force instead of a weird trip, you should probably look elsewhere.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher.