Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture | Publisher: XSeed/Mavelous Release Date: October 17, 2019, | Genre: Action-RPG | Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro
Grasshopper Manufacture is a small Japanese game developer that started in 1998. They’ve had an eclectic library of games from the horror mystery of Michigan: Highway from Hell, the enigmatic Killer 7 and even some licensed games from the Samurai Champloo and Evangelion series. Grasshopper’s face has always been Goichi Suda who goes by the alias Suda51, and like many Japanese game developers, he is a personality. The games also have that punk mentality and it is no different with Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes.
Travis Strikes Again
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes Complete Edition is the enhanced edition of the game of the same name that came out for the Nintendo Switch at the beginning of 2019. In a change for the series (which always loves switching it up), it’s a coop hack and slash game. It includes two story DLCs that were DLC for the Nintendo Switch version. They include characters such as Bad Girl and Shinobu Jones from No More Heroes 2. You also get additional levels for Badman as well.
The game is set seven years after No More Heroes 2 and has Travis Touchdown alone in a trailer and now 37 years old playing video games. He is assaulted by Badman an ex Baseball player who is asked by The Smith Syndicate (From Killer 7 which happens to be one of my favorite Suda 51 games) who claim they can revive her daughter. When Badman assaults Travis in his trailer they wake up inside The Phantom Video Game console. The game is called Death Drive MK2 which is a cute homage to the original name for the Sega Genesis and the Sega Master System Mark 2 console.
The basics of the game-play will have you hack and slash your way through bugs and lampoon a lot of the modern ills of the game industry such as microtransactions and buggy releases. Controls are smooth and the basic attacks you have are light attacks that can be done by pressing square, heavy which is done by pressing triangle, and a jumping attack that you can use by pressing X in conjunction with the attack buttons. You also have access to basic combos by tapping square or triangle.
The beam saber does deplete like other No More Heroes games and has to be charged by pushing down L3 and then shaking the controller. Lastly, you get access to skills such as slowing down movement speed by pressing the L1 and the button you mapped the skill to. These load-outs can be saved in the pause menu.
The skills all have names that are a reference to mechs like one called ∀ which comes from Turn-A Gundam and Atlas which is a BattleMech name from MechWarrior. As usual, the longer you progressed through the game, the more skills you earn by beating bosses and finding hidden skills in the levels.
The game does start out pretty easy and does have a good ramping up in terms of difficulty level sans for a cheap last boss if you don’t have enough lives. All the Bosses do test your ability to recognize patterns and dodge accordingly. The main game took me about 12 hours to beat. It will take you an hour to beach each of the DLCs.
You start in a hub world which is your trailer that is divided by a shop to buy shirts of famous indie games such as Hotline Miami and Hollow Knight, review ramen, save, and use The Phantom ‘Death Drive’ video console to go into the games various worlds. The game can also be played cooperatively with 2 players. Unfortunately, this is limited to couch co-op with online co-op missing.
You then linearly progress through dungeons and reach mid-bosses. Finally, you beat the boss which then warps you back to reality. Little by little the plot is slowly told through character dialogue, faxes, and a text adventure summary that came straight from an Apple IIC even coming down to the fluorescent green glow of the monitors I remember having in Middle School.
Speaking of which the presentation does show its budget with little voice work from Robin Atkin Downes who plays Travis Touchdown. Most of the story is told through text, but he does yell a one-liner or two from time to time. There is some voiceover during the CG introduction though with Killer 7’s Dan Smith voiced by Michael Gough and Badman who is from Killer is Dead (who is the second playable character) played by Steve Blum.
This is forgiven with the excellent localization and has so many in-jokes/references makes it feel like this NMH title is the culmination of Grasshopper’s past with cameos from The Silver Case and even a whole level dedicated to Shadows of the Damned. It also has some surprising cameos from some familiar indie games you may have played. The script is also funny and defintly aware it’s a video game. The plot taking inspiration from such movies as ExistenZ by David Cronenberg.
The art style is in line with Killer 7/Killer is Dead even having the enemies turn into droplets of liquid but instead of blood like in Killer 7, they turn to a fluid consisting of red, blue and green like the phosphors of a CRT television. It also incorporates a nice little homage to Bill and Ted’s Excellent adventure when being transported in the game world. Each level has a distinct camera style from a vector-based game to some sort of test map using Unreal Engine 4 default models. This will help you to not feel the visual fatigue of other hack and slash games.
Performance-wise you get a smooth 60 FPS without any slowdown and a 1080P display resolution as per usual with ports from a lower spec system. You also get fast loading times and I didn’t encounter any major bugs in the game.
In conclusion, Travis Strikes Again will satisfy players waiting for the announced No More Heroes 3, but if you are not into hack and slash then the repetition may not be for you. The game is also oozing with style and gives you enough content once the initial adventure is over. A solid appetizer.