Imagine a video game composed of different playable experiences, all gathered within the same cartridge. That is Travis Strikes Again, and for the curious, it is not a sequel to No More Heroes, but an experimental spin-off with the ability to attract especially fans of the extravagant Suda 51.
During one of the sections that contain Travis Strikes Again, the protagonist himself, losing his life and being overwhelmed by the gameplay of the title, comes to exclaim that “this game sucks.” It was there where I understood that the creators do not take themselves seriously, and in fact, I think they are aware that the video game itself is not necessarily good, due to the great monotony in its approach.
I have seen many frustrations that I thought were forgotten. Absurd load times, conversations that do not end, need to save every five steps, screens that sometimes only change color to give you to understand that you pass a level, a concept of difficulty difficult to tolerate today … There are many conventions classic of the videogame world that recover in Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, a title that should not be understood as a sequel to No More Heroes, but as a spin-off based on experimentation.
It is not surprising in Suda 51. The Japanese creative stands out for going out of the conventional, with often absurd approaches, which nevertheless have a faithful wave of followers. It will not be hard for them to understand what all this is about: a succession of experiences with a lightsaber in hand and that suppose, more than a competent videogame, a compendium of freak with all the references to pop culture that you can imagine. That, and nothing else is this exclusive release for Nintendo Switch: an author’s video game in which Goichi Suda has done what he has wished, literally. And I must admit that regardless of the regular result obtained, that has its merit, today more than ever.
A tribute to the culture of the video game
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is a tribute to the classics of the 80s and 90s until reaching the era of 32 bits. As such, everything is presented in 4: 3 format, imitating the tube televisions of the time, as well as loading screens and all kinds of conventions from the world of videogames. The scheme is that of a very traditional hack ‘n slash, which is combined with a series of playable concepts corresponding to genres such as conversational adventure, puzzles, driving, and considerable etcetera.
More than a good videogame, the new Suda 51 in Grasshopper Manufacture aims to be an exercise in realism multiplied compared to what we saw in No More Heroes. For more information, we have an argument. Travis is absorbed by a legendary console: the Death Drive Mk II. It works with the well-known ones like Death Balls (in reference to the series Dragon Ball), which we must recover in each one of the six available cartridges to be able to fulfill a desire.
It is a tribute to the classics of the 80s and 90s, until reaching the era of 32 bits.
This is the approach for us to take the beam katana of Travis and we are against the bugs (programming errors)that populate the environment of the game. An absolutely surrealist, very in line with that taste of Goichi Suda to mix dreams with reality (the creative himself has recognized his inspiration in Kafka). This is how we get an adventure that starts at the same time we sit in the trailer of Travis to put a new cartridge of the Death Drive Mk II, which we get as we play.
Travis Strikes Again offers a lot of winks and breaks the fourth wall on a few occasions in a brutal way. However, behind that facade, which will delight fans of Suda 51 and its style, there is not much more. As a tribute, it’s crazy. As a video game, it is very discreet. Too. And that his approach hack ‘n slash is not bad, with combos and skills that we unlock as we move forward in a campaign that lasts around 8-10 hours.
The biggest problem I detect is that the variety is scarce, and the playable approaches are outdated. Sometimes I’ve wondered if everything was intentional, but then I thought it was inconsequential: even if it was, it’s a mediocre video game. Your playable scheme is to blame. It can be summed up in wielding the sword against right and left, level after level, with few variations and starring variants with puzzles, exploration or driving that are repeated and simpletons. It’s like the joke that, a thousand times told, ends up making fun.
If in spite of everything you are interested in the proposal, I would say that you try to play it cooperatively, since it supports two players in the same console, making the experience a bit more bearable. It is less complicated and the bosses (maybe the most interesting part of the game) will get along better. It will also help you collect collectibles and money more quickly, something that allows you to buy shirts that correspond to some of the most recent indie hits, such as The Messenger, Undertale or Hollow Knight.
As an exercise in nostalgia for how video games were made in the past is a great experiment since the audiovisual section of classic games is emulated. The conversational adventure is based on monochrome vector graphics, while other parts resort to the use of a zenith plane similar to the first GTA, or too low-resolution textures and computer-generated intros from the time of the first PlayStation.
As an exercise in nostalgia for how videogames were made in the past, it is a great experiment.
I must admit it, it has its charm, and in particular, a detail caught my attention. In Travis’s trailer, you can browse through a specialized magazine with reports about the videogames you are going to play. In some, the scores were not especially good; of acceptable games, but not very prominent. Practically the same as in this analysis. And that has given me to think … In the end, this categorize things with a number is the simplest, but it is convenient that the reader asks himself what he is looking for, because if what he wants to find is Suda 51, This is probably one of his most daring and personal bets, even though as a game it can be improved.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is a tribute to the world of videogames, while an explosion of geeks references to pop culture that its unmistakable creator likes: Suda 51. The work of Grasshopper Manufacture stands out more for breaking the fourth wall and speak to the players directly that by proposing a varied and interesting playable experience. That is why as a tribute exercise is outstanding, but as a game is repetitive, and in many cases even mediocre. In any case, if you like the works of Goichi Suda, this is one of his strangest and most personal works … and that also has to be valued.
- Videogame of the author, with the unmistakable creative aura of Suda 51
- A good repertoire of winks to the video game industry
- The cooperative for two players adds interest to the proposal
- The simple and monotonous gaming experience
- It is missing more dedication in the audiovisual section