There’s a very good chance you’ve heard of the wonderfully ridiculous Lollypop Chainsaw. You might have also heard of the equally controversial Killer is Dead. There’s a slim chance you’re a regular player of free-to-play roguelike Let it Die on the PS4, but next to no chance you’ve ever played Flower, Sun, and Rain. Goichi Suda, or Suda 51, is often hailed as the Quentin Tarantino of games, an artisan of incredibly niche, out there titles that are as essential as they are unknown by the masses. No More Heroes is Grasshopper Manufacture at its best; gleefully ridiculous, tastefully violent and horrifically self-aware.
The series follows Travis Touchdown, a loveable douchebag with a penchant for pro-wrestling, video games and anime girls- he’s the biggest weeb going. Having fumbled his way into the United Assassins Association after winning a beam katana through an online auction, then killing the assassin ranked eleventh, the promise of a single night with UAA Agent and organiser Sylvia Christel drives him to the top of the ranks. It’s convoluted, it’s unwaveringly strange and it’s proud to be so. The colourful cast of assassins themselves are what drive the series, insane character concoctions that serve as toothsome and memorable boss fights. At one point you battle an afro-sporting samurai schoolgirl, soon after you do battle with an obese, elderly woman and her giant giga-laser right before you duel a deranged, bat-wielding, alcoholic Barbie girl who pummels a conveyor belt of gimp-suited men in your direction- and that’s just the first game.
No More Heroes is a stylish, literally bleeding-cool homage to a wealth of popular cult classics. From Kill Bill to Ghostbusters to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, No More Heroes peppers these references throughout its gritty yet jocular world, tongue-in-cheek parodies of pop culture adorning every moment. Even the opening itself serves to parody anime, with over the top fight sequences, poor lip syncing and worse English voice acting. No part of the series takes itself seriously, dick jokes interwoven into the battle system itself, having to jerk a wiimote to charge up Travis’ beam katana with a happy, phallic battery icon present in the sequel, all the while panting as he does so. Whilst the bosses were always a delight, combat itself remained relatively bland, with clunky motion controls affording high and low stances based on how the wiimote was tilted. Extra beam katanas were added in the sequel diversifying playstyle, but everything non-boss still felt like lacklustre padding. The series is far from an immaculate conception, but it’s this rough around the edges feel that adds a lot of charm to an inventive duo of titles.
Lovingly niche for a reason, No More Heroes sadly isn’t palatable to the mainstream, yet richly deserves a larger fan base than it already has for its sheer ingenuity. Whilst it’s a crying shame not enough gamers got to hang with Travis, the impending 2019 release of Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes could remedy that, should gamers be willing for a taste of Touchdown. A spin-off to test the waters, if this release goes well we could finally have a third title in the series, maybe even some revamped ports continuing the current Switch library trend. But why should you bother with the Switch title? Well other than a house blend of Suda51 insanity, it’s set to contain a fresh faced batch of killers, seven in fact (a throwback to Killer7?) that’ll offer the chance to see what made the series so special. Combat is now an entirely different beast, weak and heavy attacks with interchangeable specials replace wiimote waggling, crafting a truly addictive, aptly arcade experience with drop-in Co-op support. A whole host of Indie titles spanning Shovel Knight, Hatoful Boyfriend, Hotline Miami and many more will also make cameo appearances in Travis’ wardrobe as tshirts, being a proud gamer and all.
It might be a smaller game than the main titles, but the inclusion of an adventure mode and new story alongside the whole package should unite old fans with newcomers to the series. The spin-off might not exactly sit well with long term fans eager for more of the action they loved, but I’m just grateful we get to see Travis return at all. Madcap designs that demand attention, truly challenging, enjoyable boss fights and a script that obliterates the fourth-wall, another helping of No More Heroes, no matter what form it takes is sure to be more than worthwhile.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes launches exclusively on Nintendo Switch 18/01/2019