PAX East 2018: Travis Strikes Again, With a Possible Sudaverse?

When we had first heard that the Nintendo Switch would be getting a new No More Heroes game, my interest was piqued, to say the least. But even after getting our first trailer, our first gameplay footage, and now having been able to finally play the first entry in the series in over eight years, one part always stood out quite a bit, to the point where I was questioning why no one else ever seemed to be talking about it. See, the plot for Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes involves Travis Touchdown and rival assassin Badman being transported into a mysterious, experimental game console and having to defeat the bosses from various games inside of it. And the name of this console? The Death Drive MK-II.

If that name sounds familiar, that’s because the Death Drive 128 is the console used by Uncle Death in Suda’s previous title, Let It Die, that allowed people to play the titular game. That couldn’t have just been a coincidence, right? Was this a deliberate Easter egg, or something even greater? Well, along with colleague James Cunningham, we tried out the game’s co-op mode and then sat down for an interview with Suda 51 (which we will post in full later, don’t worry), and it turns out that the answer leans towards the latter, as he confirmed. No More Heroes and Let It Die do indeed take place in the same universe, and these are tales involving the console’s development across the years.

Now of course, two games isn’t exactly a whole “Sudaverse” at the moment, but Suda also mentioned developing other games involving the Death Drive in the future, eventually giving us more to work with. But whatever games we get, it seems like they would greatly work as standalone titles or as part of a sort of anthology, as Travis Strikes Again clearly shows. After being told by Death (not fully confirmed as Uncle Death yet, though) to clear out the bugs in each of the games, we set out in an old-school top-down action game, clearing out rooms of humanoid glitches as they came along.

Despite the shift in perspective, the gameplay felt like classic No More Heroes, down to having to wag the Switch’s controller around if your beam katana’s batteries run out. Clearing out hordes of enemies with slashes and special attacks still felt as smooth as butter, and the graphics were as stylish and colorful as always. Co-op play also felt quite fun, properly channeling the spirit of classic arcade games likeĀ Smash TV, even if the camera didn’t zoom out as much as needed during a couple of moments. Grasshopper Manufacture’s trademark insanity also shone through in the game’s sense of humor, with NPCs littered about ready to tell you twisted versions of their grandpa’s last words, and a sudden ramen stand appearing that lets Travis and Badman chow down for health.

If it sounds a bit basic, though, that’s because not only was this part of the game’s first level, but it also represented the first fictional game, Electric Thunder Tiger II, which is a more straightforward action game. As different genres are explored throughout the plot, the levels and bosses will indeed get quirkier. But even then, the first boss – the game’s hero – notably broke the fourth wall to remind us that this was a PAX East demo, and that even after defeating their first form and getting the second form that wasn’t shown at GDC (which involved a series of large death beams, distracting minions, and breakable satellite dishes, which was all still nicely challenging), they told us that they couldn’t show more because they had to keep the line moving for everyone at the show (which didn’t stop the guy in front of us from staying late and eating up the first ten minutes of our appointment, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE). It’s unknown whether similar wall breakage will be in the final product, but it’s a nice example of the game’s twisted tone.

While Suda 51 is planning on an eventual No More Heroes 3 and other games exploring the Death Drive’s incarnations (among other things), Travis Strikes Again still seems like a highly impressive side game from Grasshopper that expands the game’s world even further and successfully shows how the franchise can still work in different ways, all while staying faithful to Suda’s trademark style. Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is due out for the Switch later this year, and dialogue from the demo suggests that more will be shown of it at Paris Games Week, so stay tuned for more information then.