Interview: Suda51 on cats, toilets and desserts in Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes
Travis is back. After an eight year hiatus, the Otaku Assassin Travis Touchdown returns on Nintendo Switch in Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. The game retains the unique punk style of the No More Heroes series while exploring a new top-down, arcade inspired hack and slash that asks players to deal with a large number of skull-faced foes using a variety of skills that go beyond simple beam katana slashes in either single player or co-op.
Also, there’s more than ten types of ramen. It’s an important item.
We caught up with the director of Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, and creator of the No More Heroes series, Goichi ‘Suda51’ Suda at EGX Rezzed to ask him all the crucial questions about the return of Travis Touchdown…
Nintendo UK: Travis Strikes Again. No More Heroes. You seem to like using three words for things so, for the uninitiated, how would you describe Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes in just three words?
Suda51: That’s difficult! Hmm… Ok… Travis, Switch, game.
NUK: Lovely! So, seven years have passed since the end of No More Heroes 2 in the story of Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, what has Travis been up to in that time?
S51: So in the opening you’ll see that he’s living in a trailer now, he’s sort of gotten tired from fighting and is taking a break from his main job. That’s actually one of the mysteries that’ll be uncovered as you go along, so I hope everyone is excited for that.
NUK: Did Travis take Jeanne, his cat, to live with him? If so, how’s her weight?
S51: Good question! So if you go back to the very first trailer for the game you’ll see that Jeanne is actually sitting on top of Travis’ trailer. She weighs about 40kg now. Travis is just so nice to her, he feeds her too much. She’s still in good health though.
NUK: Have you enjoyed reuniting yourself with Travis? Has anything surprised you in returning to direct a new Travis Touchdown game after ten years?
S51: Probably just getting the feeling that Travis is now beloved worldwide by fans, that was a big experience for me. Last year, in January, when the game was first announced, and then when the first trailer was released later on, the response was so huge that it was a great feeling for me.
NUK: Right, Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes… First of all, who is Badman, and why is Travis working alongside him when you play in co-op multiplayer?
S51: So the first thing you should know about Badman is that he’s Badgirl’s father, and at the start of the game he’s come to kill Travis for revenge because Travis killed Badgirl back in the first No More Heroes game. But in the end they wind up becoming sort of stuck working together because of the Death Drive Mark 2, this videogame console that Travis has in his trailer. Basically, there is an urban legend that says when you gather the six Death Balls (which are in the six games you can play in Travis Strikes Again) you’ll be able to make a wish come true. So in order to see if that’s true or not they decide to embark on this quest together.
NUK: How exactly did Travis wind up in possession of the Death Drive Mark 2, the videogame console that he ends up inside with Badman? The trailer makes it sound like Travis has the only system?
S51: It’s actually a prototype, the console itself never went on general sale. Basically, there’s a game shop Travis always goes to and he happened to see it there one day, and he somehow talked the owner into selling it to him – perhaps because he’s a gamer himself. Maybe, in a way, it’s only Travis who was able to actually acquire the Death Drive Mark 2… That’s a very sharp question, by the way, and you’ll find out more details on the game shop, and how Travis got the console, in the Adventure Mode part of Travis Strikes Again.
NUK: Given that Travis Strikes Again is set inside a videogame console, and Travis is ultimately fighting through games with characters created by Dr. Juvenile, can No More Heroes fans expect to see any classic faces turn up? A song from Dr. Peace, for example, or perhaps some enchanting words from Badman’s daughter, Badgirl?
S51: Nothing’s set in stone yet but I would love to, if possible, bring back lots of the old faces. The only problem is that there are many characters who Travis killed, so in order to bring them back properly there’s several things that would need to be ironed out. That said, I am including ideas like this in my brainstorming when thinking about what to add to the game. I’m even considering adopting Dragon Ball logic in the No More Heroes series – or Marvel or DC – they all make it so easy to bring back dead characters!
NUK: The gameplay of Travis Strikes Again is that of a frantic hack and slash viewed, largely, from an aerial camera. Was this shift in gameplay style a challenge to achieve while maintaining the unique No More Heroes vibe?
S51: It was a very difficult challenge, yes. One of the reasons is that with No More Heroes 1 and 2, they set the style in a sort of way for the No More Heroes series – there are a lot of things you can’t really change going forward with a numbered sequel. So with this game, which is not a numbered sequel, we also have a much smaller staff, it’s actually an indie sized team, indie sized budget, so we decided to experiment and take it in a completely different direction, gameplay-wise.
NUK: How much did your own experiences with Nintendo Switch inform the design of Travis Strikes Again? Was single Joy-Con an important consideration, for instance?
S51: When we started developing, at the very beginning, we only had a team of four people. One of the people on that team was the main programmer for the entire No More Heroes series, Toru Hironaka – he’s actually worked on 60/70% of the boss fights in the entire series, so a very important team member. He brought up the idea to me saying ‘I’d like to make this game multiplayer co-op’, and I could tell that he’d thought a lot about the controller, the way it works and that. Since he has so much esteem amongst the staff I decided it would be good to take his idea and put that into play.
NUK: With the co-op multiplayer being such a fun way to play, and noting that Travis and Badman have four unique skills each in the demo here at EGX Rezzed, are these skills purposefully designed to work together to let players take down enemies stylishly? In the demo we were able to use Badman’s slow-mo field with Travis’ bomb to clear lots of enemies at once, or trap enemies with Travis’ wall to control a fight more effectively.
S51: Yes, it’s very important that skills can work together. There’s a few skills that combine nicely in this demo, but in the final game there will be a wide variety of moves to learn and choose from.
NUK: Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is inspired by lots of retro games, so will we see Travis fighting through a variety of retro genres?
S51: So basically that gameplay style you’ve seen will continue throughout the game, but there might be some small variations that happen. There’s one area that’s side-scrolling, for instance. There’s also going to be a section with a racing game, called Gold Dragon GP, that we’re working on right now. That would still be action, but it’s going to have some racing elements to it.
NUK: Crucial question… will Travis be visiting the toilet at all in Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes?
S51: Absolutely. Many times.
NUK: Speaking of Travis Touchdown, he’s clearly a fan of desserts as we hear him shout Strawberry Cheesecake in the original No More Heroes, but what’s his favourite dessert?
S51: Chocolate Banana Sundae.
NUK: A question for you now, Suda-san – What’s your favourite Nintendo Switch game so far?
S51: It’s probably the same as everyone else’s answer, but I really love The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I’ve played it so much that I even collected all of the Korok seeds, it took hundreds of hours!
NUK: And finally, what games do you think Travis would call his favourites on Nintendo Switch?
NUK: Good picks! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us!
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes will be released in 2018 for Nintendo Switch.